Category Archives: Reviews

Whispering Through Water Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the “Whispering Through Water” Book Tour for author Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler. Rebecca is a children and young adult author and “Whispering Through Water” is a lovely coming -of-age , young adult story: although this isn’t a genre I normally read, I really enjoyed the story and I think the novel would appeal to young adults and those who like a uncomplicated romantic novel with family dynamics and 1990s nostalgia involved 😊

BOOK SUMMARY

The coming-of-age story follows Gwyn Madison, the summer after her high school graduation, as she grapples with her fast-approaching future. She’ll have to face more than she bargained for with her Aunt Delia, the family matriarch, who holds the purse strings and the final word.  In the meantime, Gwyn stumbles upon a tightly held family secret. Could a mysterious letter provide Gwyn the leverage she desires? Will it only bring more family division? Or, maybe, the past was never meant to stay buried after all. Whispering Through Water navigates family dynamics, young love, and female autonomy with a little 1990s nostalgia.

Publisher: Monarch Educational Services, L.L.C

ISBN-10: 1957656052

ISBN-13: 978-1957656052

ASIN: ‎B0BCCW8T54

Print length: 265 pages

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

MY INTERVIEW

I caught up with author Rebecca to find out more about her, her book and her wardrobe! Hi Rebecca!

Hello! I am Rebecca. I was raised in West Point, Virginia, a small town in the Tidewater region of Virginia. My town is a peninsula of 6.6 square miles! Currently, I live in Durham, NC. I have worked 20+ years in education in various roles, including teaching high school English and psychology. Along the way I earned a degree in Professional Counseling, and now I work in school-based mental health. My husband is a physics instructor. We have two kids and two very spoiled Siamese cats. I am also a registered yoga teacher, and I have taught yoga for 11 years. In addition to writing, I also love baking and gardening.

“Whispering Through Water” is your young adult/teen coming-of-age story featuring family dynamics, young love, a mystery, and a touch of 1990s nostalgia. Who or what inspired you to start your writing career? 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school. I remember writing my “life plan” as an assignment in 8th grade health class. I wrote that I would get a college degree and write a book before age 30 (only one of those happened according to my 8th grade timeline. haha). Books have always been an important part of my life; they are a source of connection and knowledge. I want to be able to share that connection with my readers. 

I loved the love story between Gwyn and Isaac.…. in fact I found all the characters believable, including Sal from the pizza joint; Trisha and her sister, Aunt Delia were like chalk and cheese (although I did get frustrated with the way Aunt Delia acted towards her niece and frustrated with Trisha and Uncle Beckett for not being a bit more supportive); the exuberant but likeable Brenda Quigley ; and Gwyn’s best friends Denise & Danny. Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

I love that you felt all of those feelings toward the characters! Yes, we have people in our lives that we wish were more supportive, but just aren’t. In families we do fall into roles, like we are on automatic pilot, and it helps to have some new additions in our lives to shake up the dynamic. Because of Isaac and his family, Gwyn sees a new way to relate and is able to take initiative to relate differently in her own family. You cannot control someone else’s behavior, but you can control how you react toward the behavior. If you take the initiative to change yourself, you change the world.

Gwyn was the easiest to write, probably because she is most like me. Gwyn was probably a bit bolder than I was in high school. I do love Sal Jr. He was a character of my own invention, and just makes me smile!

Aunt Delia was probably the most challenging to write. I completed the second draft in 2013, and shelved it for a while. When I re-read my draft in 2021, Delia did not read as the sympathetic character I intended her to be. I wanted readers to feel sympathy for Delia at the end. I rewrote the relationships in her backstory, so she could become who I envisioned in my mind.  I have encountered people similar to Delia. I am curious as to what lies beneath the tough exterior. Bitterness grows over time. 

There is no singular person that influenced a character. They are more a hodgepodge of people I’ve met over the years. Mrs. Jenkins and Brenda are an amalgamation of some of my favorite teachers. There’s a little of my college roommate in Denise, and a little of my cousin in Danny (though neither have actually met each other in real life!)

What attracted you to writing a young adult/teenage novel? What is it about this genre that appeals to you? 

Adolescence is a pivotal time in a person’s life. Our experiences in adolescence certainly impacts our relationships and behavior patterns as adults. My husband likes to say, “The irony of life is that the 40-year-old must live with the decisions the 18-year-old made.” (Of course the 18 and 40 year-olds refer to the same person!) I know so many adults who love to read YA, and I believe one reason is that it helps them process what they might have experienced as a young person.

I do love the flexibility of the genre. In YA, characters can experience the coming-of-age anywhere, from realistic fiction, to a dystopian universe, to lands with fairies. And the characters can have fun!

As a teenager, books were very important to me. I grew up in a small town, and I never felt like I quite fit in. As C.S. Lewis’ character in the Shadowlands said, “We read to know we’re not alone”. Through my writing, I hope readers can find connection. 

Illustration by Terri Moore @mooreillustrating

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

Such a good question. Partially because I’m curious about my Scandinavian ancestry, I would love to learn more about Sweden and Norway. If someone wants to fund a trip, give me a call! 🙂

Growing up, did you always want to be a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

Since childhood, the one true thing I always knew about myself was that I wanted to be a writer. As a kid my other career aspirations weren’t as realistic (one of the humans on Sesame Street, a spy, etc). I think many creatives find themselves doing lots of other careers in hopes one day they will be able to support their creative pursuits. 

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

I am a pro-actual book. I will read a Kindle on a plane, and when carrying a bulk of books isn’t practical. Being on a screen too long gives me a feeling of being trapped. I like the freedom of being able to carry an actual book. Let’s face it, kindles are no fun reading in the sun.

Is Whispering Through Water available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, Whispering Through Water may be purchased from a variety of booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and I like to plug independent bookstores. Find your local indie bookstore on indibound.com.

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

I love jeans, and I’m so glad that high-waisted jeans have come back in style. (I will still wear them when inevitably the low-waisted returns). I am a tall girl, and low-waisted just doesn’t work on me! I also love a fun boho shirt and jewelry.

I live in North Carolina, and unfortunately, at least five months out of the year it’s too hot to wear jeans. I’ve never liked shorts, so in the summer, I’m usually in a cotton dress.

My favorite shoes I own are a pair of beige and red Dr. Martens I bought in a consignment store, probably 15 years ago. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love ThreadUp (I blame my former co-worker, Jessica, for this addiction!). I have always loved consignment stores. They encourage me to try brands I wouldn’t always try, and make pricier brands more accessible. Being more eco-friendly is a big perk too!

I love ThreadUp in particular because of the ease of searchability. You can add so many filters to find just what you want. 

I also am a gardener, and I buy the majority of my seeds and bulbs from Eden Brothers. They are a North Carolina company and will ship anywhere! www.edenbrothers.com

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

I have Rothy’s flats, and I would love The Chelsea high top boot.

Boots or Shoes?

Both! Depends on the hemline.

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

Instagram: @rebeccawwheeler_author

Twitter: @RWW_author

Website: www.rebeccawwheeler.com

BOOK TOUR DATES

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler; illustration by Terri Moore @mooreillustrating . Thanks also to Rebecca for a review copy of “Whispering Through Water”

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Nirvana Brewery

It may be “dry” January but there is no need to forgo that pint of beer, lager or stout because the brewers at Nirvana Brewery believe that outstanding beer doesn’t need alcohol, that award winning flavour isn’t tied to ABV and that drinking with friends doesn’t have to mean a slow start the next day as you try to clear your thumping headache and feeling of nausea. Nirvana Brewery is Britain’s only dedicated low/no alcohol brewery – their beers are also low calorie, vegan , and have women at the helm! As I sup my chilled glass of the flagship lager, Bavarian Helles Lager, let me welcome onto the blog Becky Kean who runs this gem of a brewery … Hi Becky!

Hi! I’m Becky, the founder of Nirvana Brewery. We’re the UK’s only dedicated no-alcohol brewery, based in East London.

What inspired the launch of Nirvana Brewery in 2016?

We set out to brew really great alcohol-free beer when my dad gave up drinking. But I suppose the true inspiration began with our love of beer. As a family we loved sharing a beer together and enjoyed sampling beers from different craft breweries. When one of the family was no longer drinking it didn’t seem fair that they should be left out

I am really impressed that your brewery is Britain’s only dedicated low/no alcohol brewery.  And that the beers are low calorie and vegan ! I definitely like your flagship lager, Bavarian Helles Lager.  Which of your current drinks is your favourite?

Thanks! Our lager is our most popular beer and absolutely one of my all time favourites, but to be honest my beer of choice changes all the time. At the moment I’m really enjoying drinking the stout; the chocolatey, roasted flavours go down really well in the winter months.

Which drinks would you say are best sellers amongst your customers?

Well as I said our lager is definitely the best selling beer in the range. Lager is generally the most popular style of beer in general, but from a brewing perspective its one of the hardest beers to get right, especially when brewing alcohol-free. The fact that we’ve managed to brew a 0.3% lager that tastes just like a full strength beer, whilst also having the same clean taste and complex flavours of a craft lager I think is why people really love it. That being said our Classic IPA and Hoppy Pale Ale are a close second! They are really refreshing, modern hoppy ales that have all those delicious fruity and tropical hop flavours that most beer lovers look for in a craft beer.

Is it difficult to put together suitable “recipes” for your craft beers that live up to your ethos?  Where do you get your flavour inspirations from?

It is super difficult to brew beers under 0.5% alcohol, let alone keeping them within our remit of healthy, natural and vegan. But we’ve spent quite a few years tweaking and developing our methods and recipes and now I’d say we have that bit down pretty well. So creating new recipes is fairly straight forward and a lot of fun! Our last project was brewed with the help of our social media followers who put forward their suggestions of their ‘Heaven’ flavour and their ‘Hell’ flavour. Our brewer picked her favourites from the responses and we’ve now got a Heavenly Orange and Thyme Sour, vs our Hell-ish Jalapeño lager!

Traditionally beer contains quite a bit of alcohol and calories; so how have you managed to brew craft beer without the deadly calories and alcohol … do you follow a different process than other breweries?

Good question! For the most part our process looks exactly the same as you would see in any other craft brewery. The difference in our brewing is all in the fermentation; we have to control the fermentability of the beer by using different temperatures, yeast strains and less fermentable sugars. We do use less malt which is the base of the alcohol-forming sugars, hence why there are fewer calories in our beers. Ultimately there is less sugar for the yeast to ferment, which results in fewer calories.

As you are based in the UK, are your beers available to purchase worldwide?

Yes we have a growing export business which we are very excited about. Our beers are sold throughout Asia and the Middle East as well as in Canada, and as far as Australia!

What do you enjoy most about running a brewery? 

I love working in the drinks industry, its a really fun industry to work in. You get to be out there in the city, meeting with pubs and restaurant owners and see the interesting things happening in hospitality. But I also enjoy the physical nature of producing something tangible from fresh ingredients, and something that I can physically open and enjoy at the end (or middle!) of the day. Most of all though I love working with our amazing Nirvana team. We are close-knit team and I think we have a really nice culture here.

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

Well, as a brewery owner I would look totally out of place in anything too formal! So mostly I’m found in jeans and trainers, and sporting my branded Nirvana T-shirt and hoody. In my spare time it’s not too different, perhaps with a nice shirt instead of a hoody!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I suppose my favourite place to shop would have to be farm shops or foodie markets. I take so much delight in discovering interesting and different food and drink producers, I’m always looking for something new to try! When it comes to clothes shopping preference, I would have to say sites like Vinted as I’m trying to declutter and stop filling my wardrobe with ‘new’ stuff!

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

My weakness is probably trainers. I can never have enough! I wear them all the time so each new pair seems to be worn out within 6 months. I also seem to need a different pair of trainers for work, running, gym etc. so I can never have enough. At the moment the next item on the wish list would probably be a new pair of running trainers for when the sunny weather starts again (I already have my winter running shoes sorted).  😉

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes because they are more flexible and versatile!

For Pinning Later

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

Yes, you can check us out on any of the channels below:

nirvanabrewery.com

facebook.com/nirvanabeerco

instagram.com/nirvanabeerco

twitter.com/nirvanabeerco

Also find us on Ocado or Amazon!

Thank you for chatting to us today Becky. I love the Bavarian Lager – very refreshing and it tastes of lager!!! 😊 I haven’t yet sampled the Pale Ale or Stout but I will do so.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nirvana Brewery ( apart from Pinterest photo – by Linda Hobden)

DISCLAIMER ALERT:

My thanks goes to Nirvana Brewery for the mixed case of beer for me to review for the purpose of this post however all opinions expressed are 100% mine

Share This!
Pin It

Rebirth Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the Rebirth book tour! Rebirth, by author Kate Brenton, is an interesting book full of inspiring stories from people who dared to follow their dreams and born from the original Rebirth podcast.

BOOK SUMMARY

When life is calling, often we need only the space and the support to remember our way. Sometimes we lean into our expansion, and sometimes we bolt from our greatness. The biggest shock is that big change happens in small choices. In Rebirth you will find real-life stories of people who made courageous leaps, inspiring you to make your own. It’s time to step out of line and back into the spiral of life—that’s where the alchemy is. This book fits right into the side pocket of your bag + your life to inspire you as you read others’ stories of how they listened and learned to make embodied changes in their own lives.

Publisher: Inspirebytes Omni Media

ISBN-10: 1953445261

ISBN-13: 978-1953445261

ASIN: B0B3V3JQT7

Print length: 278 pages

MY INTERVIEW

Hello Kate and welcome onto the blog….

Hello, I’m Kate. I am (now) an author, a teacher, a mama and holistic mentor.

What inspired the launch of the “Rebirth” – the  podcast and book?

The podcast started as a postpartum creativity project. I quickly fell in love with talking to amazing women about how they leaned in to their intuition at a difficult time and succeeded on their own terms. The podcast was tagged, “women saving lives by living their own.” During this time, not-so-coincidentally a colleague reached out to tell me she was starting a publishing company and wanted to sign me as a writer. I signed a contract and six months into deep writers block (which I mentioned to no one), I had my publisher on the podcast. She called the next day suggesting the podcast be the basis for the book and everything fell into place. 


Your book follows the inspirational journeys of people who were not afraid to follow a dream. Is there any famous person, alive or dead, you would love to interview for your podcast/book, if you had had the chance?  

Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer. I know it might not be what you expected, but I am not much into celebrities, but I am enamored with dogs. I remember ten years ago watching him dog train on TV and seeing that he was really reading energy and teaching people how to manage their energy through changing their behavior for their dog. I was so inspired by him, perhaps because of a cross-point of interests—consciousness and dogs. I later came across an interview with him, where he said a quote that has served me. I hadn’t followed him personally, so I didn’t know he had fallen on hard times (divorce and his show collapsed a bit, which led him to consider some difficult solutions). Anyway he said: It’s easy when you are succeeding, you really learn through your failures. I think talking with him would be fascinating.

What or who inspired you to become a writer and holistic mentor? 

I was born in love with books. I always had a book with me,  and I was scribbling since my first Peanuts journal, with Lucy on the front cover, with a lock. So writing has been an innate gift I have held and developed personally and professionally.  I also taught English for over 15 years in public and private sectors. 

My holistic mentorship came to be when I was living in Hawaii and apprenticed with an Hawaiian elder, Kumu Alva James Andrews. Through him, I learned holistic healing work,  and that the essence of all change is seeded in one’s mindset. So I work with clients and groups sharing the legacy of his wisdom to empower and uplift. 

“Rebirth” also has infused in it your personal experiences – did you find recollecting your experiences harder or easier to write down than to express them “on air” on a podcast?

So much harder. In fact, it wasn’t until the first draft of the manuscript was written that my publisher and beta readers all said I was missing from the book. It was much easier for me to put the spotlight on the strength of others. It wasn’t until I was structurally pushed to insert myself into the book, that I sat and a good deal of unraveling of story and perspective arose. I was surprised personally, and yet, that is what writing does. It asks us to broaden and alchemize our perspective. Thanks for asking; this was definitely my growth edge of the book.

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

Believing in themselves. It sounds cliche, but if we are taught to identify and trust our inner voice it would not be so hard. But in this world we easily fall out of ourselves and into others—because we need community, or I really don’t have that all worked out, why do we all fall out of alignment—but what I DO know is that when we come back into alignment with ourselves (and our soul or Spirit will call us back, again and again, from whispers to yells) it gets easier to hear what is calling us forward. Now, that doesn’t make it easy to do all the time, but I think having a purpose grants us courage and clarity. Often we don’t know or believe we are worthy of what is calling, so it is hard to listen and leap. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your holistic work and the changes you made to follow your new path?

This is a much longer story which I will tell one day, but I’ll give you the highlights. I was (happily) an English teacher in Pennsylvania when I went to Hawaii the first time on a friend’s retreat half as an attendee, and half to help. So I saw a lot.  I was astounded. I had never seen life lived the way I did in Maui. Four months later, I arranged to be in Kauai for the whole summer. I taught and summered that way for two more years, until the pull to move got really strong. I quit my job and moved to Kauai. I thought I had work lined up (accepted an offer), a whole calamity of things dissolved, and after 9 months of living there, I surrendered and thought to move and get my teaching job back. I had given it my best, and nothing worked. I gave myself 3 months to do whatever I wanted to close this chapter. Within a month of that decision I was called into a training for Hawaiian lomilomi massage and began my apprenticeship with my Kumu (teacher) Alva Andrews, and I was offered a part time position at the community college. My whole life changed. I lived there for seven years, teaching and being taught. I left Hawaii when my teacher passed, to travel and teach for one year, intending to go back…but life had other plans. I have stayed connected and supportive of my Hawaiian o’hana (family) and those that I still work with. I continue sharing my holistic mentorship and healing work, while also working with mission-led authors to get their work out in the world in a cohort called Sit & Write. It is all the same really. I work with people’s stories.

For Pinning Later

Growing up, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Books, being outside and dogs. That was the younger years. Then I almost caved to being a business major in college, but my mother, bless her, told me only go study what I loved, and   I picked English  as my major, then later my masters in education. At my core, my whole life, throughout numerous industries, I am a teacher. I didn’t have a career aspiration, but I have always had the intention of being curious, and wanting to unpack what the world is doing.

Is your book, Rebirth, available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It is! Let me know how you enjoy it. 

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

Absolute bookworm. Obsessed with actual books and bookstores. I normally have 1 – 3 going at a time. In my stack right now is: The Alphabet versus the Goddess, by Leonard Shlain;  Prayers of Honoring, by Pixie LIghthorse, and Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. I like to have a well written fiction and a philosophical text going at the same time.

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

Winter me is jeans and wool cowl necks with brown leather boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Madwell.com for clothes, thriftbooks.com for books and I love everything ever made here: https://www.aromabliss.com

Boots or Shoes?

I love this question. My first choice is alway Chaco flip flops. If I could wear flip flops all year long I would, I love to be as close to the Earth as possible.  But oddly enough, I go from flip flops to boots. I love good boots and have all kinds of styles.

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

www.katebrenton.com

https://katebrenton.substack.com/p/making-versus-having

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rebirth-real-life-stories-of-letting-go-and-letting/id1451833998?i=1000589257607

https://www.instagram.com/katembrenton/?hl=en

Twitter: @katebrenton

BOOK TOUR DATES

Lovely to chat with you Kate and I enjoyed reading the variety of stories featured in your book -all are definitely inspiring. I’m glad I share your love of bookstores!!! Thank you so much for the copy of Rebirth for reviewing purposes too.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Kate Brenton

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Poet Clare O’Brien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clare with her wolfhound, Hamish

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

For Pinning Later


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

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

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareOBrien

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

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

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

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

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

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


Linda x

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

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

Share This!
Pin It

Chasing Tarzan Book Tour

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

CHASING TARZAN – BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

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

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 2022)

ISBN-10: 1947966618

ISBN-13: 978-1947966611

ASIN: ‎B0B6GFLXWC

Print length: 278 pages

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

MEET THE AUTHOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Is “Chasing Tarzan” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

For Pinning Later

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

Website: https://catforster.com/

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

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DizzCatk

BOOK TOUR DATES

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

Linda x

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

Share This!
Pin It

Review: Paint By Numbers UK Kit

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

DISCLAIMER

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

The Kit

THE BRAND

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

At the start….

PACKAGING AND DELIVERY

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

THE PRODUCT

Original photo

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

My finished painting

MY CONCLUSION

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

For Pinning Later. Halfway through…

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

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

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

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

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden.



Share This!
Pin It

A Shadow Of Love Book Tour

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

THE STORY

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

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

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

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684339402

ISBN-13: 978-1684339402

ASIN: ‎B09NXMRHV2

Print length: 163 pages

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

MEET THE AUTHOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

Website: www.AmysHippieHut.com

On Instagram and Twitter I can be found at AmysHippieHut

BOOK TOUR DATES

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

Linda x

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

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

Share This!
Pin It

The House On Linden Way Book Tour

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

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

MY INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

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

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

For Pinning Later

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

Website: http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emarianaranjo

BOOK TOUR DATES

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

Linda x

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

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Cliff Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What attracted you to the role of Toastmaster?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

For Pinning Later

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

Sidehustleandflow.net

Blackspringpressgroup.com

Facebook.com/cliffbeachmusic

Twitter.com/cliffbeachmusic

Instagram.com/cliffbeachmusic

https://Cliffbeachmusic.com

https://Californiasoulmusic.com

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

Linda x

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

Book cover credit: Image Stricken

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

Share This!
Pin It

The Maids Of Biddenden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Property of Wellcome Institute in London, used with permission.

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

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

 Did you have any favourite characters?

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

© Paul Webster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biddenden Cakes. Photo by Paul Webster

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

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

For Pinning Later

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

Website:​​www.gdharper.com

Instagram: ​​@gdharperauthor

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

Linda x

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

Share This!
Pin It