Category Archives: Guest Posts

Author Guest Post – Good Vs Evil – A Story as Old as Time by Kerensa Jennings

I was approached to see if I would be able to read and review Seas Of Snow by Kerensa Jennings. Because I am  being good (and for once in my life sensible!) and trying to make a dent in my ever-toppling ‘to review’ pile, I very sadly had to say no. I was pretty gutted about this as Kerensa’s debut novel sounds stunning and is definitely on my TBR list.  I am very excited, however, to be able to bring you a fantastic guest post by Kerensa on Good vs Evil, which I know you will enjoy reading as much as I did. So instead of waffling on I will place you in Kerensa’s good hands…

Good versus Evil – a Story as Old as Time
“There was once a poor man, who was a woodman, who went every day to cut wood in the forest…

And the two children were so very fond of each other, that they were never happy but when they were together….

In the afternoon of the third day they came to a strange little hut, made of bread, with a roof of cake, and windows of barley-sugar…

Hansel had torn off a large piece of cake from the roof, when the door opened, and a little old lady fairy came gliding out….

But the fairy was a spiteful one, and had made her pretty sweetmeat house to entrap little children…”


Hansel and Gretel. Two little children, pottering off together into the woods. The picture of innocence.

We are all familiar with the story. A classic tale of good versus evil. Innocence triumphing over adversity. And some horrific incidents involving a wicked witch; a dreadful mother who brutally casts the children in her care to a fate in the woods; and a weak father who helplessly colludes.

A story as old as time.

We all love stories. We can lose ourselves in them. Escape, run away. Use them as a source of solace and comfort. Empathise with the characters, feel their joy, endure their pain. Stories give us permission to live an alternate reality, fly away into our imaginations. Stories give us permission to experience what psychologists call ‘transference’ – where we project our emotions and life stories onto others. It is easier for a child to hate a step-mother in a story than to admit in his or her heart of hearts they hate their own.

The extracts above come from a precious 1839 edition I have of the Grimm brothers’ collection of ‘Popular Stories’. I have always been fascinated by fairy tales and have a collection of beautiful books from around the world. Fairy tales help us make sense of life, one step removed. And everyone always lives happily ever after.

The original collections the Grimm brothers amassed were collected as oral stories then written up. These were adapted several times even in the brothers’ own lifetime, and these days the Disneyfied stories we tell our children are scarcely recognizable from their early incarnations. The original tales were imbued with darkness, sex, incest. Not the type of thing you would choose as a bedtime story for your little one.

When I was at university, my thesis was titled ‘Persecution and Revenge of the Innocents’. I took five of the stories  –  including Hänsel und Grethel –  (from the third publication of the Grimms’ collection) and conducted a psychoanalytical analysis of the tales, exploring themes of innocence, corruption, good and evil.

I examined archetypes in the Grimm’s stories. In fairy tale land, there is a logic which works something like this – if a character is beautiful and light, then they are innocent and good. If a character is ugly and dark, then they are corrupt and evil. Even the Disneyfication of fairy tales notwithstanding, we are all familiar with the idea…

In SEAS OF SNOW, I have attempted to create a profound dichotomy between good and evil. We see the world through the eyes of little Gracie, a picture of innocence, kindness, sweetness and loveliness; and then also through the perspective of her uncle Joe – a character whose darkness seeps through every pore.

Gracie and her best friend Billy often go to play in the woods, using playtime and stories to invent worlds and games in fairy tale kingdoms with dragons and princesses. Friendship and love bind the past and the present as the story dances through time. And the horror unfolds with uncle Joe turning his violent attentions to little Gracie.

I so wanted to write something so that victims and their families could have ‘permission’ to stop feeling they are at fault, or to blame. The truth is in today’s troubled times as much as ever – so much goes on behind closed doors. People on the outside are often perplexed that someone stayed in a domestic abuse situation; or can’t fathom why no-one took action to help. SEAS OF SNOW seeks to offer a way for people who are suffering to see they are not alone.

I wrote the novel as a process of catharsis for myself. I had lead the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, working closely with the police. This was a terrible case where a school caretaker brutally murdered two little girls, stealing their futures and robbing their families and friends of their loved ones.

The caretaker, Ian Huntley, was interviewed by the press and the media in the days after the girls went missing. He outwardly betrayed the appearance of someone who was a caring member of the community. All the while, as he lied and lied, he knew exactly what he had done. Hiding in plain sight. Working on this case for many months affected me profoundly.

So in creating Joe, I wanted to explore whether evil is born or made. Examine that age old debate of nature versus nurture. Bring to life an antagonist who people would fall in love with because of his outward appearance and charisma. Then make him evil to the core so our revulsion at him and what he is capable of makes us feel duped and horrified. I wanted that emotional disjuncture. That sense of not being able to trust our own eyes.

My fascination for fairy tales has influenced my writing throughout my life. People who read SEAS OF SNOW will recognise some of that thinking I suspect. Trust. Betrayal. Consequences.

When I was putting my thoughts together on how to craft my story structure in the novel, I began casting around for inspiration of time and place. I knew I wanted to transplant the original genesis of my thinking into another time and place.

I had bought the book “Mémoires d’Enfance”  while I was living in Paris, largely because I was entranced by the photograph on the front cover. I discovered it was by a truly great American photo journalist called W Eugene Smith.

This is what he said about photography: “A photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought.”

This is exactly what happened to me when I saw the little boy and the little girl in the woodland clearing. A sort of early twentieth century Hansel and Gretel. I found myself imagining who could have taken the photograph, who the children were, what their back-stories might be. Where did they live, what were their lives like? What were they called?

Suddenly, the names “Gracie” and “Billie” startled themselves into my mind. Whatever the truth of their identities, I “knew” that was what this sweet little twosome were called. And in time, these grew into “my” Gracie and Billie. During the development edit, my editor Scott Pack not unreasonably pointed out that the normal spelling of the boy’s name is Billy. So Billie became Billy. Early readers of my first drafts might have fond memories of Billie as he was, but it felt fitting to give him his proper boy name.

With the photograph came the inspiration for placing the story in the 1950s. From there it was a hop and a skip to deciding North Shields in Tyneside for the location as this was where my Nanny had grown up. I’d been there for a special and rather formative holiday with her in my early teens.

SEAS OF SNOW is bleak psychological thriller. Uncle Joe appears unexpectedly in Gracie’s life when she’s just five years old. And changes everything. SEAS OF SNOW is a story of trust and betrayal, of the worst kind.

Drawing on the power of storytelling in fairy tales, it’s about good versus evil.

A story as old as time.

A huge thank you to Kerensa for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece. I loved reading this!

Seas Of Snow – The Blurb

1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?

How brilliant does Seas Of Snow sound? Published on 16 March 2017 you can purchase a copy via the following links –

UK: Amazon Link

US: Amazon Link

Author Guest Post – Behind the Scenes in the Reading Group with Della Parker

I’m very excited to be joined by The Reading Group author Della Parker today. She is taking us behind the scenes of her series of novellas and talking about the importance of and how she created the settings. Without further ado I will hand you over to Della…

Settings

Settings are incredibly important for fiction. They are where our characters live and they are where we are going to take our readers. So for me, it’s important to choose a setting I know well.

The setting for my latest series of novellas, The Reading Group, was a seaside town in Devon called Little Sanderton. The nearest big town to Little Sanderton is Exeter which is 21 miles away and is mentioned frequently throughout the Reading Group.

I should confess here that Little Sanderton doesn’t actually exist but if you were to look up Branscombe, which is in Devon, you’ll have an idea of where I had in mind. When Jojo and Kate go walking to talk about the breakdown of Kate’s marriage in the February, novella they are walking on Branscombe Beach.

Serena’s house where the Reading Group meet each month, is set on a clifftop close by. So is Anne Marie’s father’s house.

The beauty of choosing an imaginary setting is that you can’t mistakenly libel anyone or upset anyone, but you can go and look at actual houses and base your fictitious ones upon them. I tend to use the outsides of real houses and make up what’s on the inside. (So far, no one has actually let me in to have a look around their house, but you never know!)

I also tend to set my stories in places I love. I have some very fond memories of holidaying in Branscombe, which is not a million miles away from where I live. I have walked along several sections of the coast path and spent many a happy day in the local seaside towns and villages, not to mention restaurants. (All in the name of research, obviously!)

Setting a series of novellas in this area was a delight. It meant I could go back there in my mind. Skip back to this idyllic place and take my readers with me. Not a bad way to earn a living, is it!

 

Thank you Della for this lovely guest post. The first instalments of The Reading Group by Della Parker are out now.  Each month concentrates on a different character and has elements of the classic literary fiction they are reading that month as part of their reading group. You can read my reviews of December, January and February and find out more about the characters HERE and my review of April HERE.

 

Author Guest Post – An Aspie Son’s Relationship with his Ill Father by Dan Jones

I am delighted to be joined by Dan Jones today who has written a moving piece about his relationship with his father when he was terminally ill and the impact Dan’s Aspergers had on that relationship.

About Dan Jones and Look Into My Eyes: Aspergers, Hypnosis and Me

Dan Jones is author of Look Into My Eyes, described as ‘an autobiography through the lens of Asperger’s Syndrome’ which takes the reader through from early childhood to adulthood, explaining challenges experienced at different ages and how he was as someone with Asperger’s at different ages, and strengths of having Asperger’s, what Dan has found helpful at the different points in his life, and what hasn’t been helpful, and tips, ideas and advice relating to different issues through the life stages. There is also an extensive chapter of tips and strategies for parents/carers, teachers, friends, employers, and those with autism spectrum disorder, and a chapter written by Dan’s wife about her experiences being in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s, what the positives are, what challenges there are, and what she does to cope and support him.

Dan (Born 1978, Chichester, West Sussex, England) is an Aspie (person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism) who has over 20 years training and experience in hypnosis, meditation, and the healing arts, including Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, Human Givens Approach, Solution Focused Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing. He has also worked for over 15 years with children, teens and parents. He started in children’s homes in 2000, then helped to set up a therapeutic children’s home, before moving into working with parents of children who were either young offenders, or committing anti-social behaviour and at risk of entering the youth justice system if they didn’t turn their behaviour around. Dan then managed a team of Family Intervention Project staff, as well as continuing family work himself, and worked as part of the Troubled Families programme.

I will now hand over to Dan…

An Aspie Son’s Relationship With His Terminally Ill Father

I sat down with my dad. He was propped up by pillows in his bed, looking like skin and bone, and in constant excruciating pain, yet he was smiling and had tears in his eyes as we watched a video of my wedding which had taken place a few weeks earlier.

Dad was dying of Oesophageal cancer. He had been too ill to make it to my wedding, so once I had put the wedding video together I took it round to show him. He told me how proud he was of me and how happy my wife and I looked together.

Every few days during the end of his life I visited my dad to help care for him. He lived alone. He had a couple of good friends who were helping, and my brother and myself. Between us we were looking after dad every day.

As well as looking after my father I was also holding down a full-time job working with challenging families, making time for my wife, and teaching a hypnotherapy diploma and other courses. I didn’t take any time off from all of this whilst looking after him, or after he had passed away. I wasn’t trying to ‘push through’ the grief, or anything. I didn’t feel any grief.

Having Asperger’s had some positive and negative influences on my relationship and ability to care for my dad at this time. I didn’t feel anything emotionally from seeing him suffer. When I saw him he would be screaming and crying in pain, often curled up and contorted with a facial expression of someone who has just been stabbed in the back with a hot poker with his eyes rolling back and mouth wide and strained. When I saw him like this I just sat there calmly waiting for him to tell me what he would like me to do. I couldn’t make his pain go away. I had offered to see what I could do with hypnosis, but he never took me up on the offer, so I never overtly used it with him. I did use a breathing technique with him while I was just sat there waiting to be told what he would like me to do. I would start breathing the same as him and gradually transition into breathing in a calmer, more relaxed way, as a way of trying to help him become calmer and more relaxed. He often said he would start to feel calmer while I was sat there.

Despite saying he found my presence could help him feel calmer he told me I was useless at knowing how to care for him. He complained at me about how I would just sit there when he is in agony rather than comforting him – he had never once during his times of being in agony asked me to comfort him, although once he did just hold my hand as he lay there in pain, squeezing my hand and occasionally looking up at me and smiling. He complained that I didn’t just go and get on with things like making him food, or a coffee, or sorting out cleaning. I would wait until I was instructed to do so.

Despite my dad complaining at me about these things I never changed, I wanted to be different and do these things which he had said I was failing at doing, but whenever I was with him, I behaved the same as I had always behaved. This was a negative side-effect of my having Asperger’s. I couldn’t shake my inbuilt responses, not even for my own dying father, regardless of how much I wanted to. Every time I would find myself responding the same way I had always responded and seemed powerless to change who I am.

When I found out that dad was first ill he wasn’t the one who told me. One of dad’s friends told me as he felt I should know. Dad didn’t want to upset my brother or myself. I kept trying to visit him and he kept refusing to let me. He was worried that seeing him would upset us. I told him I would be fine, and eventually he let me visit. Not once over all of the time that I saw my dad during the last few months of his life did I feel anything other than calmness. This ability to be emotionally detached was one of my Asperger’s strengths. I was able to get things done and to carry on with my ‘normal’ life without being emotionally impacted by the fact that my dad was dying.

Another Asperger’s trait of mine is bluntness. My dad was also a very blunt person, and he liked things exactly as he wanted them. As an ex-chef he definitely liked his food and drink to be made exactly as he expected it to be made. When people looking after him would bring him food or drink and he wasn’t happy with it he would be very blunt with them about how they needed to take it away and change it, and in some cases would expect them to virtually remake the meal, or the drink. If it was a small change, like adding a little more coffee, or sugar to his drink, or adding some more salt to his food I would do it, but if he demanded more than this, like remaking the meal I would refuse and point out that food is just there for energy and nutrients, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, it is up to him whether he eats it or not, but I’m not making him any more.

On the day that dad passed away he had died about an hour before I arrived at the hospice he was in. My brother was present with him at this time. Before I arrived my brother had already let me know dad had died. On arrival I was asked whether I wanted to go straight in and see my dad. I told them I didn’t, he is dead. My brother is alive and the person who probably needs to see me most. When I saw my dad lying dead in the hospice bed it wasn’t upsetting, I thought about how peaceful he looked now, how he wasn’t in any pain anymore, he didn’t have to fight anymore.

The next day I was back working teaching a hypnotherapy diploma like nothing had happened. I went back into work and life carried on. People around me told me I should be upset and grieving, but to me I seem to logically accept things and move on.

After dad died I kept some old documents of dad’s. Whilst sitting down with my wife a week later going through the documents my wife read a note dad had written about me when I was about 3 years old. She told me she had just found this note and it described me as I am now, but it was written almost 35 years earlier. She read it out to me and I found I could relate to nearly all of it. It was a note suggesting he felt something was wrong with me and I needed to see a doctor. No-one else at the time seemed to see a problem, and from reading more notes and letters it seems dad wasn’t taken seriously about his observations.


Seeing these observations and realising it wasn’t just me feeling I have been the way I am for my whole life, but I now also had a parent who recognised my differences that helped me to decide to seek an adult diagnosis or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Unfortunately with dad dead I never had the chance to talk to him about how I was different, for him to elaborate on his observations of me as a young child, or to tell him I am still the same now, but the notes were like a final gift from dad showing that although he came across as blunt, and distant, and people often found him difficult, and he kept himself to himself, rarely mixing with other people, and didn’t seem to say much, he was very observant and caring and wanted what was best for his children, and I did end up seeing a specialist, and was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s).

Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis And Me by Dan Jones is out now and can be purchased via the following link:

http://apn.to/prod/1542551196

The book is also available from other retailers as an ebook and paperback (retail paperback edition ISBN: 978-1326917340)

Connect With Dan

Website: www.alt-solutions.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/danjoneshypnosis
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authordanjones
YouTube: www.youtube.com/dan19878

A huge thank you Dan for visiting Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today and for taking the time to write a great guest post. Wishing you every success with your book.

Blog Tour – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Guest Post*

Hurrah it’s my turn on the Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski blog tour. Due to having a ridiculously busy month I couldn’t get Six Stories read in time which I’m pretty gutted about. Instead I have a fab guest post by Matt on ‘Tying Up The Threads’ Before I hand you over to Matt here’s what Six Stories about…

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Sounds good, right? The reviews for Six Stories have been great and this is one I will be trying to push up my TBR pile. Anyway, I will hand over to Matt…

Tying Up The Threads by Matt Wesolowski

I once went to a writing event and heard an author talk about how she planned and kept track of her plot lines. A great whiteboard in her writing room, spider-legs of red pen, like the web of some criminal investigation. That’s such a good idea, I thought to myself, I should really get rid of my shelves of skulls and odd trinkets, get a whiteboard, do this writing thing properly. Why do I do things so backwards?

I never got round to it, I’m afraid.

The amount of times I have tried to plan, to keep track of a plot, to make fastidious notes about characters and locations, all to no avail. These notes end up between tea-stained scraps of A4 that cower, unobserved beside my keyboard or else piled beneath books about monsters.

I just can’t do it. Every other aspect of my life is bound by logistics. All but my writing.

I often feel like that scene in the office where David Brent is being reprimanded and asked why he never writes anything down.
“It’s all up here.” Brent says, tapping his temple.
“It’s not though, is it David?”
I feel like I’m David Brent, ridiculous ideas pirouetting through my mind, never settling into a semblance of order.

What I tend to do when writing is start with an idea, an image then spool out a load of different threads in a story and hope for the best. Yes, that’s as technical as I get, I’m afraid.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s very rare that I know what’s going to happen at the end before I start a book, usually I just start and hope that somehow the end ties itself up on its own.

Which 99% of the time it does. I shelved a manuscript 50,000 words in because there just seemed no way anything would resolve. Maybe I’ll go back to it. Most probably, I wont.
I’ve tried to plan, I’ve tried to flesh out characters before I start, even draw maps of my imagined locations but they’ve all killed the story stone dead.

When I was writing Six Stories, I actually had no idea who killed Tom Jeffries or why, when I began. I just knew he was dead and the circumstances of his death. This was the quickest novel I ever wrote (1st draft was completed in about 4 or 5 months) and I didn’t research, I didn’t plan, I just wrote. The reasons for his death would come in their own time. If I kept writing, surely they’d come…

Believe it or not, I actually didn’t know how or why Tom Jeffries died until I was half way through episode five! It was panic stations for a while, wondering if this novel would end up on the unfinished, never-to-be-looked-at-again part of my hard drive.

I wasn’t going to let this happen for the second time in a row so I just waited until the solution hit me, which it eventually did (probably in the shower, I usually get over a knotty plot-point in the shower).

So there you have it; I have no strategy for plotting, no formula for writing, my characters emerged as pale things, skeletal; they took their forms as I wrote them, as did the plot.

For me, this is the most exciting thing about writing, that not-knowing until you are hit with a revelatory moment where, somewhere in some dark place at the bottom of your subconscious mind, those threads that you spooled out somehow knit themselves together.

Because who wants to have the ending spoiled?

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

A massive thank you to Matt for the bloody brilliant guest post and to Karen at Orenda for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Be sure to check out the other hosts on the Six Stories blog tour…

Blog Tour – Secret and Fries at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox *Author Guest post*

Secrets and Fries Cover

I’m pleased to be hosting the final day of the Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner blog tour with a bloomin’ brilliant guest post by author Helen Cox.  Rather than waffling on I will tell you about the book and hand you over to Helen…

The Blurb

The smart second novel in the Starlight Diner series.

‘Fresh, original and addictive’ PHILLIPA ASHLEY

What brings Bonnie Brooks to the Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?

As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.

Bonnie only has one person she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner.  There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers.  But where has Esther gone?

Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle.  Jimmy offers to help her.  Can she trust him?

When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Molony, she dares to hope that her luck has changed.  Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?

Not Another Happy Ending!

Fellow author Helen Fields accused me of being an optimist after reading the Starlight Diner books, and I suppose I can’t deny it any longer. I do like to think the best in people and I do like to dish out realistic but happy endings to my characters.
Why? Well, I’ll confess, I’m not prone to writing about the most wholesome of people. Most of my characters haven’t made the best choices. One or two of them have an attitude problem that needs some ironing out. But to me, the slightly dubious nature of some of the guys and gals that populate the Starlight Diner series only makes it more important that the stories end with a door opening for them, rather than having yet another one slammed in their face.
Redemption is after all a powerful idea. We all trip. Fall. Make mistakes. Say the wrong thing. Most of us have done things we wish we could undo. It’s part of being human, learning to live with the things we get wrong and find a way forward once the dust has settled. The past might not be perfect and it can never be erased, but that doesn’t mean that the future has to be bleak.
I think hope is so very important to us all. That, and the ability to believe in goodness. That it is in us and that if we’ve temporarily lost touch with it as an ideal, we can find our way back to it.
Every author is on their own little mission of some nature. Many of us are on several missions at the same time. One of my personal writing aims is to write something that inspires the reader to believe that happiness is within reach, for all of us.
When things don’t go our way it can be difficult to hold onto faith in ourselves and the direction we’re heading. The characters in the Starlight Diner books encounter a number of twists and turns over the course of the book but ultimately every step they take is in a direction that will lead them to where they’re meant to be. Which, in fact, means they’re where they’re meant to be all along. Even if they don’t much like it (and, spoiler alert, they don’t).
I believe the above is true of all of us. In the long term, I choose to believe that even the most difficult of steps we take is a step closer to where we will be at our most content and if a trifling little conviction like that puts me squarely in the optimist bracket… well. So be it.
Guilty as charged.

A huge thank you to Helen for the fab guest post and to Helena at Avon Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Secrets and Fries Blog tour[2395]

Author Guest Post – Ann Girdharry on Discovering Ten New Authors Of Colour

I’m delighted to be joined by author of Good Girl Bad Girl Ann Girdharry today.  Ann has started a regular feature in the Huffington Post in which she reviews a book by a new author of colour.  One of my favourite books is White Teeth by Zadie Smith, but I have to admit that I have not read many books by authors of colour, mainly because they just don’t seem to be out there, and yet they must be!  Ann is highlighting and spotlighting some of these authors in her new feature and  I will hand over to Ann to tell you more about this…

10newauthorsofcolour

Discover Ten New Authors of Colour
Hi Abbie and thanks so much for supporting this series. Why did I decide to dig around to find Ten New Authors of Colour? Well, here are a few of my reasons –
1.I’m an avid reader
Yes, I’m foremost a writer, but I’m also an avid reader and beta reader. I’ve spent many years critiquing work for other authors and, in that time, I’ve come across some fantastic talent – from, as yet, unpublished authors. I’ve read wonderful prose and brilliant story ideas that would blow your socks off.
Quite a lot of these stories don’t get onto our bookshelves. Or, if they do, they’re not backed by the mega-bucks that go into promoting the big, ‘best sellers’, so people don’t get to know about them.
Writing this series is a way to push forward some books that I think are really good and bring them to the attention of readers.
2. Authors of colour are under represented on our book shelves
Go into any bookshop and the vast majority of titles on the shelves will be written by white authors and be full of white characters.
Now, one reader said to me ‘I don’t care about the colour of the author, I only care about good books’.
I understand that, but I think it’s grim there isn’t much more choice available.
Another reader told me she was shocked to realise she’d never read a book with a non-white main character (and that now she realised this, she’d like to).
It’s not always easy to find recommendations. I hope this series is a place to start.
3. Curiosity and tolerance
In my own reading, I like to discover new stories where the writer is coming from a different culture, or a different world view, or has experiences and history different to my own. This ‘flavour’ always comes across in the writing, even if the story isn’t explicitly about race or culture or identity.
It’s my personal belief that finding out about people who we see as ‘other’ is a great foundation for fostering tolerance. It expands our understanding and can make us quietly ask ourselves questions.

4. Where to get good recommendations?
There are some ‘recommended’ reading lists around for those readers wanting to find quality books by authors of colour. I looked at a good one produced by Book Riot (you can find it HERE.
The Book Riot list contains some great iconic writers of colour but out of the twenty recommendations, only five were published since 2010. One book dated from the 1950s and another from the 1960s. Now, I know there are good books way more recent than that…
Hence, this series!
I’ll to be featuring a mix of quality, traditionally published and independently published books – each with something unique to offer.
For each author, I’ll be including a book review and a snap-shot author interview.
You can catch #1 here – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ann-girdharry/discover-ten-new-authors-_b_12191630.html
and #2 here –http://anngirdharry.weebly.com/blog.
#3 is due end of November and I’ll give you a hint that she’s twice been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award. Watch this space and Happy Reading!
Ann Girdharry website http://www.girdharry.com
Ann Girdharry blog http://anngirdharry.weebly.com/blog

Thank you Ann for the great post.  Keep your eyes out for her feature on her blog and the Huffington Post.

10newauthorsofcolour2

Author Guest Post -The Hidden Side of Domestic Abuse by Jennifer Gilmour

block the road Image[408607]

As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the month opened on the blog with my review of Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour (you can read my review HERE), I thought it fitting to end the month on a guest post by Jennifer. 

Domestic abuse was an issue I dealt with on a day-to-day basis in my last job and I don’t think there is enough understanding on how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship.  The risks to women (I’m not sure if it is the same for men) increase once they leave the relationship and with the cuts to services it is often hard to find support.  The onus is often on the victim to leave rather than the perpertrator.   Domestic abuse is never a black and white issue.  I will hand over to Jennifer to talk more about this…

Jennifer Gilmour[2305843009214227217]

The Hidden Side of Domestic Abuse

Born in the North East, I am a young, married mum with three children. I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again. I hope that in reading my debut novel, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

I thought I would take the opportunity to talk a bit more about the aspects of coercive control which is almost the hidden side of domestic abuse. To give you an idea of what coercive control can include here are a few aspects: un-reasonable and non-negotiable demands, threats, negative consequences, intimidation, stalking and surveillance, cruelty, restriction of daily activities, isolating from family and friends, financial control and exploytation, extreme jealousy, possessiveness, ridiculous accusations of cheating, punishment for breaking rules, being treat or the children treat as an object, ignoring needs opinions and feelings. All aspects of power and control and if you haven’t seen the deluth model then this is will certainly open your eyes even further- http://www.theduluthmodel.org/index.htm

I remember one aspect of my own personal experience of abuse which completely changed me as a person and that was the sleep deprivation. My abuser used to wake me up at different times of the night or not allow me to go to bed when I
wanted. It sounds like this wouldn’t be a big deal right? But in actual affect if you apply this to months and years then I became seriously unwell and it was perfect for my abuser because I was often not thinking right and confused- great for making mistakes, wrong choices and not seeing what was really going on. It meant also that everything was high emotions and even if it was forced into this it meant that it felt like the end of the world on any snappy response or argument fuelled with unfair remarks and demands.

Believe it or not now after this I see the importance of sleep and other healthy aspects like being hydrated. I can now see why I felt so ill and having the emotional prison sentence on top there was no wonder it was high pressured all the time, walking on eggshells. It leads me on to say that because of this I truly appreciate life, I appreciate that I can have sleep, I appreciate that I am allowed a voice, ad identity and to be happy. However it does leave scars and even though I have my sanctuary now… there are times I need to reminded to not ask permission, to not feel unconfident, to not question my judgements and choices on every day tasks.

My novel was important to write because I found that after the relationship finally ended people didn’t understand me and in actual fact I felt like I was justifying myself as a person. I cannot explain how hard it was to go through that and be questioned when I was realising that I was a victim. The book focuses on the emotional abuse and that of coercive control and shows just how it takes a hold on someone… it tried to reflect the pressures and strains you are under and hence why its 100 reasons to leave and a 1000 reasons to stay.

The UK government are starting to see that this needs addressing and the new UK law for coercive control came out late 2015. The problem? Its so new that the training needs to be there and its so hard to prove…. everyone needs educating on this because when its 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men who are victims of domestic abuse it cannot be ignored. I personally felt like services let me down after I came out of my abusive relationship and in fact I am still paying for it financially and other ways now.

So how does my book help? Because its a fictional novel people are reading this book not to be educated but ultimately people are saying they have been educated from it and even looking at it further. It could help readers recognise their family and friendship circle and see who is being abused and who may need help. It can be passed to people who may not see that they are being abused.

Whether you have heard of coercive control/emotional abuse or not… this is a book you want to read. It is written by myself, a survivor, and it reflects personal experiences of my own and other women’s. Abbie has written a review and alongside this here are what others thought about my novel: ”This book I was not able to put down” “A hugely important book!” “A very gripping and interesting read” “Thank you Jennifer for highlighting this issue and hopefully inspiring women to break free from emotional abuse”
“A fictional account of an every day unacceptable issue”

Website: www.isolationjunction.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/isolationjunctionbook

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JenLGilmour

Amazon Author Profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Gilmour/e/B01LZDKOC7/ ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1476440427&sr=1-1

Paperback: http://tinyurl.com/honkrok

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/jo8rtpn

A huge thank you to Jennifer for taking the time to highlight some of the issues around domestic abuse.

Isolation Junction[408608]

Blog Tour – Jacques by Tanya Ravenswater *Author Guest Post and Review*

Jacques

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Jacques, the beautiful novel by Tanya Ravenswater, I am sharing my review and am excited to have the lady herself here talking about the five things she can’t write without.  So, I will hand you over to Tanya…

Tanya Ravenswater[156483]

Five Things I Can’t Write Without

My Laptop
When I first started writing, I used to always make notes and write first drafts on paper (in black gel pens), then type them up and continue to revise on the computer. I now tend to write most of the time directly onto my laptop. I find that the act of sitting in front of it can put me into a more focused frame of mind and even when I’m not feeling so inspired, I can usually write something which might be the seed for something else. The ease of deleting gives permission to freely experiment and also appeals to my obsessive attachment to a tidy page! When writing on paper, I honestly don’t like the visual ‘clutter’ of a lot of scoring out. Call it writing hygiene, housekeeping, whatever. Or perhaps it’s got something to do with the fact that I had my hand smacked on my first ever school day for day-dreaming and enjoying drawing in my Writing Book? I genuinely thought my teacher would be proud of my lovely work, but she wasn’t. Still, we live and learn, sometimes by growing our own shells and neuroses.

Quietness and Space
While I enjoy listening to music and it can put me in a creative mood, when actually writing I need a quiet background. Ideally, I prefer to be alone, though working at home with family around, I’ve got used to getting into the zone and blinkering myself from everything else going on in the circus arena. Even if the ring-master sometimes has to call me in.

Table and Chair
I’ve recently started working in a shed down the garden, which I love. It’s a quiet place apart, with minimal distractions, a simple desk, power-point, high-backed office type chair and a simple white table for spreading out books and papers. Otherwise I move to wherever’s quiet in the house, often to the kitchen table by the window. Sometimes, more at weekends, I’ll write in bed as soon as I wake up or last thing. I do think the relaxing feel of staying under the duvet in such a personal space can help loosen up ideas. The odd cigar and bottle of champagne works wonders as well. Churchill, Twain and Proust, among others, apparently did the same.

Windows
I want plenty of natural light and a view – somewhere to look and take regular screen breaks. I think I could make myself write in a room without a window, but I’d always be much happier with one.

Food and Drink
I write better these days with plenty of Yorkshire Tea and Colombian coffee. Home-made iced coffees more recently. My husband’s a Yorkshire man, iced coffee is my agent’s favourite drink, so there could be a rationale there? If totally absorbed, particularly at first draft stage, I can go for a long time without thinking about food, but during redrafting and editing I tend to graze a lot. Chocolate, bread and salted peanuts are often on my mind, though I try to go for celery, apples and oranges instead. And iced green grapes can do the trick. Even if it hasn’t been a productive writing session, there’s still something to feel good and virtuous about!

About Jacques

‘It’s only when we matter, when we are seen and truly loved, that we know what it means to fully live.’

This is the story of Jacques Lafitte, a young French boy who is orphaned and torn away from everything he knows.  Forced to move to England to live with his guardian – the proud and distant Oliver Clark – Jacques finds himself alone in a strange country, and a strange world.

As years go by, Jacques becomes part of the Clark family and learns to love life again.

But then his feelings for Rebecca – Oliver’s daughter – become stronger.

And this development has the power to bring them together or tear the whole family apart…

For fans of Boyhood, Jacques is a moving and unique coming-of-age story about one boy’s struggle to find his place in the world.

My Review

‘…sometimes in a confined space, within limitations of the present, we can have everything.’

Jacques is a beautiful coming of age novel in which loss, grief and love intertwine to make an enthralling read and it’s beauty comes from it’s depth and simplicity.

Jacques’ world is turned upside down when his parents die and he has to move from France to England to be cared for by his legal guardian. I was not surprised to learn that Tanya worked in bereavement support as she captures the feelings of grief and loss perfectly and writes about them with empathy and acute sensitivity.

The prose is gorgeous – poetically philosophical – and I found myself re-reading paragraphs just to take in the words again. Tanya is a very talented writer and she evoked such emotion within me while I was reading Jacques. Despite this, the book has a peaceful feel about it and is a book you want to read slowly in order to take it in and appreciate it.

‘Some experiences bring us awareness we can’t ignore. They become touchstones, deeply embedded in the valleys of our psyche. Whether we want to or not, we can’t help measuring everything else in our subsequent life against them. Such knowledge has the potential to lead us to despair, as well as to the path of authenticity.’

Jacques is a wonderful character, he is sensitive, intelligent and emotionally intuitive. You cannot help but adore him and feel every nuance of his thoughts and feelings. Anna also stood out for me, initially a character that is difficult to warm to, Tanya demonstrates through her how experiences can affect a person’s character. As the story progressed, I began to feel a great affection for her. In contrast, Jacques’ guardian, Oliver, is a self-centred, arrogant man who has little empathy for those around him and seeks to gain sympathy from others to justify his own bad behaviour. I loved the different character’s within Jacques who Tanya has brought to life wonderfully.

Jacques is a remarkably uplifting book, despite the themes of loss and grief it never comes across as melancholy. Jacques’ views on life and his resilience in the face of adversity make you think and contemplate those things you maybe take for granted.

An intelligent, thought-provoking, moving, beautifully written book I cannot recommend Jacques highly enough. You need to add it to your to be read list!

Thank you to Tanya Ravenwater and Carmen at Bonnier Zaffre for the copy in exchange for my thoughts.

About Tanya Ravenswater

Tanya Ravenswater was born in County Down, Northern Ireland.  she graduated in modern languages from St Andrews University.  She has worked as a nurse, in bereavement support and counselling education.  With a love of words since childhood, inspired by nature and fascinated by the diversity of our inner worlds and relationships, Tanya writes fiction and poetry for adults and children.  She has published a collection of short stories for women, and has also been short-listed and published in the Cheshire Prize anthologies.  Her children’s poem, Badger, was the winner of the 2015-15 Prize for Literature.

Connect with Tanya via Twitter at @starlingbird

A huge thank you to Tanya for taking part with a great post and to Carmen at Bonnier Zaffre for including Bloomin’ Brilliant Books on the blog tour.  Catch Tanya’s other guest posts on the rest of the Jacques blog tour…

Jacques Blog Tour Banner[189332]

 

Saving Sophie Blog Tour – *Guest Post by Author Sam Carrington

Saving Sophie Banner

Welcome to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books’s stop on the Blog Tour for Sam Carrington’s Saving Sophie.  I am delighted to have Sam as a guest, talking about the three books that have had an impact on her life.  So without further ado, I will hand over to Sam. 

Author picture-Sam Carrington [159307]

 

Three Books That Have Had An Impact On My Life

Being a writer, you can only hope that your novel will have some kind of effect on the reader. Whether it’s as simple as bringing some entertainment and enjoyment, or whether it leaves a lasting impression, it’s wonderful to think that your words; your story, has touched someone in some way.
Books can affect us in many different ways. Sometimes a book might have a minor impact: a small effect on an area of our lives, perhaps teaching us something about a previously unknown subject. Or sometimes a book will have a major effect: change the way we actually think or feel about something, or encourage us to take an unknown path. The three books I’ve chosen as ones that have impacted on my life, have been for different reasons. I thought I’d share them with you.

Sam Carrington Post 3
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton is a coming of age novel set in America and depicts boys from rival gangs: the Greasers and the Socs. It’s ultimately about friendships, loyalty, class conflict and family ties. I first read it when I was twelve. This story will always hold a special place for me; because of it, a lifelong friendship formed. I’d just started at secondary school and another pupil, Jo Frazer, was also reading it. It’s through talking about the themes in the book that our friendship was firmly forged. To this day, some thirty-two years later, we still quote lines from the book – and we frequently tell each other to ‘stay gold, Ponyboy’!

Sam Carrington Post 2
Into the Darkest Corner, by Elizabeth Haynes, is a fabulous psychological thriller with believable, well-drawn characters. It tackles the topic of domestic abuse, and with deftly crafted prose takes you right into the scary, creepy actions of Lee as he exerts his power, control and obsession over his girlfriend, Catherine. It’s the ease of how the character of Lee is able to come across to her friends as a loving partner and quite ‘a catch’ one moment – then quickly change his behaviour when he’s alone with Catherine the next, that really shocked me. Personally there were things that resonated with me and after reading it I made a few life-changing decisions myself! So, this book stayed with me long after I’d read the last page, and has remained one of my all-time top reads.

Sam Carrington Post 1
My third pick is Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell. When I finished this novel I knew I was going to love Dr Kay Scarpetta for a long time and would be buying book after book in the series! This was possibly the first time where I’d read a book with a strong female lead, and it was this novel that propelled me into my obsession with forensics and the crime genre, (where, give or take a few books from other genres, I’ve stayed for twelve or so years). After reading Postmortem, my dream job became that of a medical examiner – undertaking post mortems and piecing together evidence to bring the killer to justice. Obviously I have not realised this particular dream!
But perhaps this novel had a part to play in how I came to my current writing career… And having sold more than 100 million books, Patricia Cornwell is certainly an author to aspire to!

About Saving Sophie

Saving Sophie

A teenage girl is missing.  Is your daughter involved, or is she next? 

Your daughter is in danger but can you trust her?  When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers,  no one is smiling the morning after.  But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state. 

Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home.  Then the body of a young woman is found. 

Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on.  But Karen has her own her demons to fight.  She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.  As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie. 

A huge thank you to Sam for being a guest on the blog and writing a fantastic post.  You can read my review for Saving Sophie here.  Published on ebook on 12 August, it can be purchased from Amazon. Be sure to catch the rest of the Blog Tour!

 

 

*Guest Post* Author Harry Bingham Interviews Fiona Griffiths – The Dead House Promo

Dead House Cover

Book Promo

I’m really pleased to have author Harry Bingham taking over today to tell you more about his new novel The Dead House, featuring the irrepressible DC Fiona Griffiths.  He has managed to meet Fiona for an interview to tell you more about Dead House

Harry Interviews Fiona Griffiths

Harry Bingham, author of the Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels, is today meeting with his main character in an effort to get her to spread the word about their latest book, The Dead House, which is currently an Amazon Deal of the Week. Harry has paid for a fancy lunch at a smart Cardiff hotel, but Fiona is not looking particularly pleased to be there. Harry’s literary agent is present, but sits back, watching fretfully – nay, anxiously – from a nearby table.

Harry     Hi, welcome. Thanks so much for coming. What can I get you?
Fiona    Oh, for fuck’s sake!
Harry   What?
Fiona   This again? We have to do this again?
Harry   Fiona –
Fiona   You’re going to say that you’re my author, aren’t you?
Harry   Not just say it, Fiona. There’s a book that has my name right across the front cover.  Big fat red letters.
Fiona   That’s not very strong evidence, is it? Any fool can get a book printed up these days. It’s not even expensive. But let’s run with that whole idea. Let’s say you’re my author. Then presumably you know what I drink.
Harry   I was going to get a bottle of fizzy water.
Fiona   Right. And you’re going to get some fancy-schmancy salad for me, because that’s the kind of thing I always order in a place like this. Only you’ll get something sensible – something that involves chips – and halfway through this damn meal, I’ll start nicking your chips and you’ll just groan and give in.
Harry sighs. Orders. Gets a fancy-schmancy salad for Fiona and something that involves chips for him. They get fizzy water.
Fiona (muttering, trying to be polite) Thanks.
Harry   You’re welcome.
Fiona   So?
Harry   So?
Fiona   Well, look, “author”, you’re never nice to me unless you want something, so what is it you want?
Harry   I don’t want anything. I just thought I’d share our good news.
Fiona (Instantly suspicious.) Good news?
Harry   Yes, our latest book, The Dead House, has been chosen as an Amazon Deal of the Week. That’s a huge deal. It’s like the biggest book retailer on the planet has chosen to promote our book. They love the reaction from readers. They love the quality of the writing. You know, one blogger wrote, “This is a quite brilliant novel and Griffiths a superb protagonist . . . Only one issue stands out after this novel: why aren’t Harry Bingham’s books number one on every chart?” That’s a lovely thing to hear, right?
Fiona   No.
Harry   What do you mean, no? That’s what –
Fiona   They like seeing me –
Harry   Yes, of course, you’re at the absolute heart of –
Fiona   No, they like seeing me suffer. That’s what you do. You set up these situations . . .
Harry   It was good, wasn’t it? There’s a body lying in a country churchyard. No signs of violence. But why is she wearing a thin white dress on this howling October night? And who placed the candles all around her? And why has no one come forward to identify the corpse?
Fiona (shrugs) You gave me a barley seed. The clue wasn’t that hard to follow.
Harry   For you, maybe.
Fiona   But that’s not what Amazon wants. They don’t care about bodies in churchyards. What gives them a kick is all that stuff in the cave? And then right at the end of the investigation –
Harry   In the monastery –
Fiona   With the walls rising –
Harry   And knowing that what lay ahead –
Fiona   Was potentially this, this thing, for ever –
Harry (suddenly anxious) Hey, hey. I don’t mind the odd teaser, but we don’t want any actual plot spoilers.
Fiona   So my answer’s No.
Harry   What do you mean?
Fiona   No, I’m not going to help you market this damn book. I didn’t want you to write it. I don’t want anyone to read it. I didn’t want to go into that damn cave. If that book just curls up on its back and dies, I. Don’t. Care. Quite frankly, I hope the book vanishes and Amazon decides not to stock it.
Harry   Fiona –
Fiona  And now I’m going to steal your chips.
She steals his chips. Harry lets her do it. Then she stands.
Fiona   I’m a detective. You are – or you claim to be – my author. So do what you need to do. I don’t know writing. Editing. Fooling around with literary agents and editors and whatever you have to do. Me, I have criminals to catch. Murderers. I’ll do my job, you do yours. Oh yes, and my job actually matters.
(She pauses. Makes a face. Tries hard.)
Thanks for the chips.
She leaves. Harry sighs. Somewhere in the corner of the room, Harry’s agent has his head in his hands.

Harry’s biography in 25 words

Harry Bingham author pic
Forty-something. Married. British. Kids. Oxfordshire. Runs The Writers’ Workshop and Agent Hunter. Used to be a banker. Now writes full-time. Likes rock-climbing, walking, swimming. Done.
Fiona’s biography in 25 words

fiona-skyTTTD-image [170637]
Young thirties. Petite. Cardiff. In recovery from Cotards Syndrome. Teetotal. Strange. Capable of violence. Dad used to be a big-time criminal, now (supposedly) retired. Done.
You can find out more about them both at HarryBingham.com

Whet your appetite? Here’s the blurb for The Dead House

British detective Fiona Griffiths, one of the most engaging female protagonists in crime thrillers, is back with her toughest case yet. 

When the body of a woman is found in an old ‘dead house’ – the annexe where the dead where stored before burial in medieval times – of a tiny church in a small town in Wales, it seems that past and present have come together in a bizarre and horrifying way.  For DC Fiona Griffiths , the girl – a murder victim whose corpse was laid out with obvious tenderness – represents an irresistibly intriguing puzzle, given Fiona’s unusual empathy for the dead.  And when her investigations lead her to an obscure and secretive monastery hidden in a remote valley, she finds that the murder victim is far from the only victim of a dark and disturbing melding of modern crime and medieval religious practices.  Only Fiona is capable of solving this brilliantly crafted mystery.

Ebook currently only £1.99 from Amazon.  Click here to purchase a copy.