Places in our Memories: With Sally Cronin #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m so pleased to welcome Sally Cronin, who has agreed to share her memories with us.

Sally

Thank you Judith for inviting me to take part in this lovely series and I decided to go back as far as I could with my memories.

Scientists have more or less established humans can remember back to at least 3 years old, but it can be 6 months earlier for many.

I know I have very strong memories of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, where we lived from 1954 to 1956. I was 18 months old when we arrived, and the memories of those two years are a little bit like a kaleidoscope, creating colourful if slightly distorted patterns. They are also enhanced by the particular aromas, and the sounds associated with living in a land of spices, and on the edge of a jungle.

My father had been in based there in late 1944. Initially he was in a holding camp called Mayina in the jungle, until being transferred to HMS Woolwich in Trincomalee.

He had been based in Scotland prior to this so it must have been quite a change. There he had been part of repair team getting submarines back to sea following damage in the Atlantic. Now he was working on destroyers from the Pacific fleet using Sri Lanka as their home base.

The war in the Far East continued through 1945. Following VJ Day, my father continued working on destroyers needing to be refitted before sailing back to the UK.  He was in Trincomalee until June 1946 and then returned home to the family in Hampshire

He was honoured to receive a “Card for Good Service” presented by Lord Mountbatten the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command in November 1945, in recognition of his valuable service keeping his destroyers at sea.

Earl Mountbatten inspects my father’s base in Sri Lanka @Eric Coleman

Our return to Sri Lanka

My father was posted back to Trincomalee as base radio officer in 1954. After a few weeks he was ordered to take over the RN Transmitting Station Kotogoda, fifteen miles outside of Colombo on a temporary basis. There was a lovely house for the station commander so my father arranged for my mother and the three of us to join him from England.

After a few months my father was then transferred back to Trincomalee. Having been entertained frequently at my parent’s renowned curry lunches, useful contacts had been made amongst the RAF officers at the nearby air base. A DC- 3 was appropriated and they kindly flew the family, all our worldly goods, and wonderful family cook who insisted on coming with us, back to Trincomalee. It must have been so thrilling and I do wish I had been a little bit older to be able to recall the experience.

Photograph

The Coleman family 1955

We settled in a house my father rented near the base. In addition to our cook, we had a house boy to work in the garden and an amah was employed to look after me. I was clearly getting to the active toddler stage and needed watching all the time. Being on the edge of a jungle meant that there was plenty of slithering and snarling wildlife that was fascinating for a child…she had her work cut out for her I am afraid! 

We moved a couple of times more until we eventually occupied the lower half of a large house which had been the WRNS Officers mess during the war. The garden was on the edge of the water this time and it is where my first memories really kick in.

Three sisters Sonia, Diana and Sally

I have two older sisters and whilst during the day I was in the constant care of my amah, when my sisters came home from school, I followed them everywhere, and this included into the water. They were already amazing swimmers and divers and I would be in my rubber ring desperately trying to keep up.

Things I remember vividly.

Our house came with trees and monkeys, small ones who were fascinated by glittering things and food. Their constant chittering filled the days and if a door was left open, they were in the house in a flash. Food was clearly the first priority, especially with our cook’s curries filling the air with tantalising aromas.

However, they discovered a treasure in my parent’s bedroom where the dressing table was adorned with beads, earrings and other trinkets. One night my parents came home from a party to find a troop of small thieves dressing up and admiring themselves in the mirror.

Sonia, Sally and her amah

On the subject of monkeys, a very large one found its way on to our wrap around balcony and discovered a cigarette box. He was not in a great mood and ate all the cigarettes, threatening anyone who approached. They are very dangerous, and I do remember clearly being dragged upstairs to our neighbours by my amah out of harm’s way. Probably wise as I had a tendency to be consider creatures great and small as potential pets.   

I remember getting measles when I was 3years old. I had been too young to be vaccinated before we left the UK and a wave of measles hit the island and I caught it.  The only treatment was to be kept isolated in a darkened room to prevent eye damage and kept cool and hydrated. I remember being in my cot with a fan above me in the dark for what seemed endless days, with my mother and amah applying cool flannels and chamomile lotion.

Sally aged 3 years old in smocked dress

I was soon back to mischief and particularly at my parent’s weekly Sunday Curry parties. It was open house for fellow officers and their wives, and also those on ships in the harbour at the time.

 I do recall the laughter and the attention I used to get as I was passed from guest to guest. My eldest sister was, and still is an accomplished needlewoman, and made me smocked dresses which were always much admired. She also made me underpinnings from the same material. I developed the rather indelicate habit when complimented on the dress, of lifting it waist high and announcing ‘and I have knickers to match’.  Thankfully something I grew out of sometime in my 30s.

I was rarely out of the water, but the one activity I couldn’t share with my sisters was their high board diving. One day my eldest sister was competing in a school event and completed a stunning manoeuvre off the highest board. She surfaced to what she hoped was a good score and lots of applause. Instead there was silence except from an audible gasp from the crowd.

I had followed her up the ladder and toddled down the diving board and jumped in after her. Apparently I bobbed up and shouted ‘Again’.

We were due to return to the UK in July 1956 and were leaving on a troop ship on the 30th. However on the 23rd of July, during my parent’s farewell party, his Captain arrived with the news that my grandmother and aunt had been tragically killed in a car crash in England.

My father was flown home immediately whilst my mother and the three of us left by ship on the 30th as planned. I was too young to understand the enormity of this family loss, and being one of the few children on board, was spoilt rotten. I do remember one instance in particular during a fancy dress party organised to keep us amused.

My sister Sonia made me a beautiful Little Po Peep outfit from crepe paper in lovely colours. I am sure there were knickers to match, but unfortunately it became rather too exciting and things got a little damp… Let’s just say crepe paper is rather unforgiving and absorbent….

The voyage was even longer than anticipated, as two days out of Colombo, it was announced the ship would be going via the Cape as the Suez was closed due to the war in the Middle East. This added another week to the passage and my mother became unwell.

Nothing serious as we were to discover after a couple of months as it turned out she was pregnant with my younger brother at the age of nearly 40. The village doctor initially put her symptoms down to dyspepsia but on a follow up visit she informed him that dyspepsia had just kicked her!

Today the smell of a spicy homemade curry, chamomile lotion, reminiscing with my sisters and spending time with these photographs brings back those long lost memories. We would live in Malta and South Africa over the next ten years, and those memories are obviously more clearly defined, but those earlier years are the most precious to me.

About Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

Her latest release, Life is Like a Mosaic: Random fragments in harmony is a collection of 50 + images and poems on life, nature, love and a touch of humour.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.

Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories Soundcloud Sally Cronin

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Links

Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58

Places in our Memories: With Thorne Moore #MondayBlogs #Memories #SlightHumour

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m pleased to hand over to Thorne Moore. These are Thorne’s memories. Well, they will be, once she’s got the following out of her system!

So, a rabbit walks into a pub and orders a pint of beer.

‘Anything else?’ asks the barman.

The rabbit checks the menu and says ‘Yes, I’ll have a toasted cheese and pickle sandwich please.’

Coming up,’ says the barman.

Next day the rabbit is back. He orders a pint of beer, peruses the menu again and chooses a toasted ham and tomato sandwich.

Third day, ‘What can I get you?’ asks the barman, presenting the rabbit with his pint.

‘A toasted beef and onion sandwich, please.’

Next day, no sign of the rabbit, nor the day after. Finally he reappears, looking very limp and wan.

‘You look rough,’ says the barman. ‘What’s up with you.’

The rabbit wipes his eyes. ‘I’ve had a bad case of mixing my toasties.’

What has this extremely awful joke got to do with anything? Nothing really, except that I was born in 1954, and when I looked up records to discover what important events happened to commemorate my birth, I discovered that it was the year that myxomatosis was introduced into Britain to control the rabbit population. Actually, it now seem to be recorded as 1953, so I can’t even claim that milestone.

I wasn’t actually aware of myxomatosis at the time. I wasn’t entirely aware of anything much for several months, if not years, but when I was, I assumed, as children do, that all around me was permanent. The world was there purely for my benefit so how it was must have been how it always had been. There was a thing called The Past, but it wasn’t real. There had been a war, but it was something black and white, literally and figuratively, that happened in films on our television. It was a fable that had nothing to do with the present that I inhabited.

I was ten when it suddenly struck me that the period between the end of the war and my arrival was actually less than the length of time I had been alive. It had been lurking all the time just behind me, almost within reach. My first real grasp of history. The past was just under my feet and nothing was permanent after all. My parents had not, as I always assumed, sprung fully formed from the earth for the sole purpose of being my parents. They had, in fact, once been ten-year-olds like me, living through a war that must have been terrifying rather than exciting.I became conscious at that time that the physical world I occupied, a housing estate on the outskirts of Luton, was not a permanent fixture on Planet Earth either. Most of the streets I walked along on my way to school, the houses I passed and even the school itself had only been built a year or two before my birth. What had existed there before was farmland, and its ghost still lingered. The huge wild cherry tree breaking through the pavement opposite our house (responsible for all the pretty but inedible cherry tree saplings in our garden), must have been growing in the hedgerow of a field even before my parents were born.

The lane, generally known as The Lane, that offered me a delightfully dirty alternative route to school, was not just a muddy connection between my road and the houses of Ackworth Crescent, but an old farm track, leading presumably to a farm house that had disappeared long ago. The very dark brooding little house near the top of the lane, in an overgrown garden full of bluebells, was probably as old, but to us it was just self-evidently a witch’s cottage. Some of us claimed to have seen the witch.

The lane was dark and unfrequented, overhung with trees and with no houses in sight, the sort of ominous place that no child would be allowed to walk alone along today. But them was innocent days and no one bothered. The lane crossed a brook on a rotting plank bridge, wide enough to have once supported a horse and cart. Beside the bridge ran a huge pitted iron pipe. I imagine the pipe was fairly recent, the sewer for the growing housing estate, but for us children, of course, it was the only possible means to cross the brook. Who would use a boring bridge when you could balance precariously on a curving pipe?

The brook wove through the estate, in several branches, channelled under new roads in culverts that you could walk through if you didn’t mind falling victim to killer leeches that were in there, just waiting to suck your blood. I don’t remember anyone actually coming across a leech, killer or otherwise, but only a few boys ever attempted it. There was a perpetual mystery about the way streams would emerge from such dark culverts, run in deep gullies between houses and then inexplicably disappear again.

Elsewhere, alleys between the new houses crossed the brooks on footbridges, which you had to run across because Coal Black Charlie lurked beneath them and would grab you if you dawdled. I have no idea who Coal Black Charlie was supposed to be, but I am sure every childhood map has a hiding place for such a character. It remained a mystery what he would do to us if he ever caught us – which he never did.

Eventually the brook disappeared into the most sinister culvert of all, round and pitch black, under the railway, to join the “River” Lea, which at that point was a marshy rivulet seeping out from the ugliest possible grating in the middle of a Neolithic campsite. No one ever ventured into the culvert under the railway.

Any illusion of the permanence of my housing estate was swept away in my last years at junior school, when the prefabs at the centre, including the one where my grandparents had lived, were demolished, the land turned into a massive building site.

There is always something sad, insulting, about the demolition of houses, even prefabs, their inner privacy and wallpaper stripped bare briefly, before being reduced to rubble. It wasn’t just structural entities that were being rubbed out, but homes, people’s pasts. The future, as it was then predicted, rose in their place. Walking to school, my sister and I laid bets on which huge tower block of flats would be finished first. They weren’t complete until I was at High School far away (well, a couple of miles anyway). One was called Hooker’s Court. For some reason the name was later changed.

If I needed a reminder that time moves on, leaving an imprint, but also forever morphing into something new, I visited the scene of my childhood many years later, long after moving to Wales, and found everything both the same and changed, the estate no longer on the very brink of town but engulfed in it, so many new roads and houses that I had trouble identifying my old school route at all. The lane is miraculously still there, surrounded by flats amidst the trees and shockingly gentrified with a pretty lamppost and a new footbridge. No one would think now that it had once been a farm track. The pipe is still there, unchanged. Do children still walk across it?

I found myself realising how differently children and adults see everything – people, places, time itself. To us children, the estate was full of secrets, possibilities, opportunities for play and sources of potential nightmare. We saw the brook and its culverts with unfettered imagination, conjuring up mysteries and monsters. Adults saw a logical scheme of town planning and drainage systems. It was that contrast that first inspired me to write The Unravelling, which is largely set in my old estate, though elements have been moved around a little and names altered.

To the best of my knowledge, no murder ever happened while I lived there, so I invented the plot, and my characters are purely fictional, but the place, through a child’s eyes, with all its sinister potential was real enough.

Thorne can be found at…

Website: https://thornemoore.com/

Twitter: @ThorneMoore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

My Review of Her Nanny’s Secret: A compelling story of love, loss and self-discovery by Jan Baynham #familystory #romance #WW2 #RNA

I gave

Book Description:

How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?
It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.
There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.
It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …

My Review:

Having already read and reviewed Jan Baynham’s Her Mother’s Secret, I looked forward to reading Her Nanny’s Secret. I wasn’t disappointed

My Review:

Having already read and reviewed Jan Baynham’s Her Mother’s Secret, I looked forward to reading Her Nanny’s Secret. I wasn’t disappointed

I really like this author’s writing style, easy to read yet with a depth of narrative that draws the reader immediately into the lives of the characters and their story.

All the characters are rounded and multi-layered, and add much to the plot, but this is definitely the protagonist, Annie Beynon’s story. She is portrayed as a strong-willed and determined young woman, unconventional for her time, yet, like many during those years, she falls prey to her emotions and needs to live with the consequences. Her journey through life from the Second World War and into the 1960s is consistent with her character throughout every circumstance, every decision made.

The  privations of the era, the social divisions of the time are shown through each character’s dialogue which strengthens their personalities. I particularly liked the differences in the syntax of sentences and shown accents that highlights their social and class standing.

This is also portrayed through the evocative descriptions of the various settings and lifestyles. There is no doubt that the author has thoroughly researched the decades that Her Nanny’s Secret is set against.

There are various themes that run throughout the book: The main theme of secrets is threaded around strong elements of romance and familial love, and, crafted around those, are themes of life’s hardships, loyalty, duty, jealousy and  rivalry.

I try not to give spoilers in my reviews, but I hope the above gives a flavour of Her Nanny’s Secret. This is a well-balanced, evenly paced and well written novel and one I have no hesitation in recommending to any reader who loves romance, but also enjoys a family story.

Jan’s other book:Her Sister’s Secret: The Summer of ’66, is patiently waiting on my TBR pile

The Author:

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked! Fascinated by family secrets and ‘skeletons lurking in cupboards’, Jan’s dual narrative novels explore how decisions and actions made by family members from one generation impact on the lives of the next. Setting plays an important part in Jan’s stories and as well as her native mid-Wales, there is always a contrasting location – Greece, Sicily and northern France

To find out more about Jan, she may be contacted on:

Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – https://janbaynham.blogspot.com

My Review of Only May, by Honno Author, Carol Lovekin #Honno #familystory #secrets #magic

Book Description:

A young woman haunted by ghosts, magic and long-kept family secrets in a new novel from the author of the Wales Book of the Year 2021 shortlisted, WILD SPINNING GIRLS.

I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye.

It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden… the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie. She becomes determined to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction..

My Review:.

Only May is a story that could only have been written by Carol Lovekin. Her writing style is unique, filled with poetic prose that evokes layer upon layer of wonderful imagery, juxtaposed with stories that gradually emerge to reveal fascinating plots, strong characters and atmospheric  settings.

Set in Wales in the nineteen fifties, the narrative portrays seventeen-year-old May as a young woman who has been gifted the power to recognise lies. Even so, she  becomes increasingly and uneasily aware that her family hold a secret about her past that shocks and distresses her.

Throughout the book there is a sense that the freedom that May cherishes in the natural world vies with the restriction of her home life.

The main characters are multi layered: May’s protective but hard-working mother, Esme, who, although she loves her, sometimes irritates May, Billy, her father, a man suffering from both physical and mental disability, but with whom May has a close and loving relationship. And then there is Esme’s sister, May’s unconventional aunt, who encourages her to explore the magic of folklore and the mystery of nature. All ably supported by a community of well-drawn minor characters, each with their own foibles, each adding to the revelation of the central theme – the truth of May’s life. A truth that could mean the destruction of the family. And of her trust in them.

Only May is what I always call a slow burner of a story, with a steady exposé of the plot through a narrative that is Insightful and philosophical. Therefore, this complex and spellbinding novel is one to savour. As such I thoroughly recommend it.

About Carol Lovekin:

Carol is a writer, feminist & flâneuse based in west Wales. She writes contemporary fiction exploring family relationships & secrets, the whole threaded with myth, fairytale, ghosts, Welsh Gothic mystery & slivers of magic.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3ykGaFY

Carol’s Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carollovekin

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2SVpYaR

Murder, Mayhem and Families #womenwriters #Reviews #shortstories #poetry

For a while, I was only been able to read in short bursts; a temporary situation, but I missed being able to immerse myself into a novel. I did use audio books, but I missed the actual action of reading, and I found just listening frustrating, trying to find the actual place in the book that I wanted to emphasise; it’s far easier to skip through pages, either physically or on a Kindle screen. So, when I found these two reads I was delighted.

Cast a Long Shadow: Welsh Women Writing Crime

Book Description:

All original collection of the best of Welsh women’s crime short fiction from new and established voices…

A striking collection of the widest range of crime short stories from contemporary urban thriller to historical rural mystery and the speculative and uncanny.

Includes stories from Tiffany Murray – winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and an inaugural Hay Festival International Fellow; Eluned Gramich – winner of New Welsh Writing Award and shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year; Alison Layland – whose first thriller was a LoveReading Debut of the Month and Kittie Belltree – poet and Disability Arts Cymru Creative Word Award 2020 Winner. Plus a host of previously unpublished talent ripe for discovering.

My Review:

It’s quite a while since I read an anthology, but I enjoy the crime genre, and this particular collection is special for me because, (and I’m declaring an interest here ) – it’s a Honno published book, and I’m a Honno published author. Nevertheless, I’ve  also been a reviewer of many books for some years and I always write honest reviews. The title of Casting a Long Shadow is taken from one of the stories and, reflects the broad ‘shadows’ of crime: from straightforward (or not!) detective stories, murders, missing people, abuse, drug involvement, secrets and even slants on mythology and fairy tales. All themes written in a variety of imaginative and innovative  ways by Welsh women writers. I look forward to reading more from each and every one of them. As the editors with the final decision when choosing these stories , Katherine Stansfield and Caroline Oakley should be rightly proud. Definitely recommended.

To buy:

Honno:https://bit.ly/3tOrOMu

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3b9SKzT

In contrast I dipped my toes into poetry. As with short stories it’s been a while since I immersed myself into poems, and when I closed the last page I wondered why I’d left it so long. By its very format, poetry, where every word must count towards the emotion, can evokes strong reaction in the reader. And this collection certainly does that.

Sherry and Sparkly: Paperback

Book Description:

Maureen and Patricia grew up hundreds of miles from each other in different countries of the UK but share common experiences of childhood in the fifties and sixties when ice laced the inside of bedroom windows and corporal punishment was common in schools. They survived to become brides, mothers, career women and technophobes. Sometimes joyous, sometimes painful, these poems are a conversation about love, hope and identity.

Sherry & Sparkly is a Poetry Conversation between two fantastic poets – one you really want to listen in to.

My Review:

What I really enjoyed about this collection is the accessibility of each short poem, and that, as is stated at the beginning of the book, it’s “a conversation in poetry between two poets. Each poem included is a reaction to what has come before”.

For me, as an older reader many of the poems evoked memories, of childhood… “… in a house where you relied on hot-water bottles to survive the night in rooms where windows frosted inside” (No-Brainer), and of past events…”Black and white televisions…Neil Armstrong bunny-hop on the moon…a home phone at the spin of a dial…” (Millennium), and of resistance to change…”No need to resort to that new computer, the size of four washing machines, rumbling in the corner…” ( Modernity).

Wonderful stories told through poetry – I loved it. And thoroughly recommend Sherry & Sparkly

Written by Maureen Cullen and Patricia M Osborne this collection was sold and bought by me to promote a charity they both support.

To buy:https://amzn.to/3zTdA0K

My Review of Where There’s Doubt by Terry Tyler #psychological thriller


Book Description

‘I can be anything you want me to be. Even if you don’t know you want it. Especially if you don’t know you want it.’

Café owner Kate is mentally drained after a tough two years; all she wants from her online chess partner is entertainment on lonely evenings, and maybe a little virtual flirtation.

She is unaware that Nico Lewis is a highly intelligent con artist who, with an intricately spun web of lies about their emotional connection, will soon convince her that he is The One.

Neither does Kate know that his schemes involve women who seek love on dating sites, as well as his small publishing business. A host of excited authors believe Nico is about to make their dreams come true.

Terry Tyler’s twenty-fourth publication is a sinister psychological drama that highlights the dark side of internet dating—and the danger of ignoring the doubts of your subconscious.

My Review

One of the certainties about any of Terry Tyler’s novels is that there will be individualistic characters that, from the moment they are introduced, come to life. Another of her talents is that she tells a great story, whatever the genre. I can say that, in all honesty, having read every one of her books. Whether it’s sagas, psychological fiction or dystopian, it’s the strength of the plots, the characters and the relationship between the two that draw in the reader from the first page. And Where There’s Doubt is no exception, as a psychological thriller this is both powerful and complex.

I love stories told from a variety of first-person points of view; for me it adds to the narrative if it is revealed in this way. We get to know each character, through their voice, through their behaviour, through their perception of the world, of life. In Where There’s Doubt the author introduces trust and gullibility, motivations with coercions, honesty with lies, and weaves them together. All of which kept me guessing. And usually getting it wrong.  

The main characters are multi-layered, from the wary protagonist, Kate, to Nico, the smooth conman, and the three diverse women he meets on an online dating site. And, in the background, adding authenticity to the plot, there are other characters: the would-be suitor of Kate’s, the  friend whose loyalty may be questionable, Kate’s employees in the café, the unpublished and naïve authors – preyed upon by Nico and his claims to be an independent publisher.
There are many settings, but the main background, the seaside town and café, give a unsafe validity to the criminality that is a fundamental theme throughout.

This is a contemporary read, with an all too familiar aspect of deceit and misrepresent in both internet dating and vanity press. But there are always possible consequences with both. I try not to give spoilers with any of my reviews – but I will say that love, loyalty, and justice are also threaded through this book..

 I admire Terry Tyler’s writing style, ability to produce impressive stories, and this thriller doesn’t disappoint. I would highly recommend Where There’s Doubt to any reader who is looking for a fascinating read.

About Terry Tyler:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-four books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Where There’s Doubt’, about a romance scammer. Also recently published is ‘Megacity’, the final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy. She is currently at work on a post apocalyptic series, which will probably take the form of three novellas. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Carol Lovekin #Honno #authors

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno, the publishers.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Carol Lovekin

Hello and welcome, Carol. Lovely to see you here today. 

And glad to be here, Judith

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

Four. Favourite is tough. Like my children, I love them all for different reasons. But I’ll pick Wild Spinning Girls as it’s the one everyone says they like best. And it was shortlisted for a prize: the Wales Book of the Year (Fiction Award) 2021.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

During a read through, I spotted it, almost at the end. It was a moment when one of my characters was musing on the essential nature of ‘girls’ and it was perfect.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The opening chapter! It wasn’t until my editor pointed out, during our initial structural edit, that I’d started the story in the wrong place, I realised I had. Once she told me, ‘It begins with Ida’s accident’ (which feeds into the fairy tale element and the story of The Red Shoes), the penny dropped. I was able to draw on my own background in ballet and had the scene written in my head almost before I got home!

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The scenes involving Olwen – my ghost. I love her. She is my role model and any hauntings I plan will be an homage to her!

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Heather, probably. And some of my readers have expressed an interest in Roni, wanting to know more about her. This is the nature of story however – they are never finished and some threads get left to spin in the wind.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

My next book is due out this May. Which is perfect, as the story takes places over the month of May. Only May is the story of May Harper, a girl who can look you in the eye and see your lies. As gifts go, it’s a double-edged sword; May doesn’t always want to know people’s secrets. But at the heart of her family hides the biggest lie of all, one she is determined to see. 

At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

Before I was published, I was a scribbler with no directions. Once I retired, I decided to take my writing seriously, with a view to publication. And I had an idea I knew could work: if I could write it, it had legs, so to speak. Luckily for me, it had wings. When Ghostbird was published, that was when I knew I was a writer.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Get a grip!? In my view and in my writing life, there’s no such thing. Sometimes (mostly) I write, sometimes I don’t. Regardless of any circumstances which may take me away from physical writing, I’m always thinking about my current story. Every aspect of creating a story is a writer’s work.

Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

Absolutely. I did it with my second book, Snow Sisters. Allegra, the mother in this story is a narcissist. While I was writing the book, I finally said ‘No’ to a long-time friend whose narcissism had pushed me to my limit. ‘No’ is anathema to a narcissist and she instantly ended the friendship. Stealing a few of her attributes was a small but satisfying therapy. And the thing about a narcissist is, they will never guess you have modelled a character on them because in a narcissist’s world, everything is about them anyway. They are perfect, and that arrogant, self-involved, manipulative character couldn’t possibly be them!

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Beginnings. On every level. Sometimes, even though I know exactly what a chapter is about, I can’t start writing it. Can’t find the perfect opening sentence never mind a paragraph. It can takes hours. And don’t get me started on – well – the start! Once upon a time . . .?   

How do you use social media as an author?

Carefully!

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

Although, ultimately, Honno chose me, I always had them in mind. I thought they would be a perfect fit for the first book I submitted. Ghostbird has a quintessentially Welsh feel to it. Added to that was my admiration for Honno as a feminist women’s press supporting women’s voices. I got my debut break with them as a result of taking part in a Meet the Editor session with Janet Thomas. This was life-changing for me. At the age of 71 I became a published author and my fourth book is on the horizon.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Liz Jones

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK  who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Liz Jones

Hello and welcome, Liz. Good to have you with us here today.

Glad to be here, Judith.

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

The Queen of Romance is my one and only (so far…)

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Through a long and tortuous process… My original title, The Many Lives of Marguerite was okay, but didn’t really tell the reader anything. Eventually, I came up with The Forgotten Queen of Romance. The ‘forgotten’ was later dropped… 

What inspired the idea for your book?

It all began when I visited what I thought was just her husband’s grave (that of the controversial Welsh author Caradoc Evans). Then I discovered Marguerite, this incredible woman who had been a bestselling romance author, whose book The Pleasure Garden was became Alfred Hitchcock’s first film, who had appeared in a film alongside the legendary Gloria Swanson, and had run a thriving repertory theatre company in my home town of Aberystwyth. Yet now she lay forgotten alongside her husband, without even her name on the gravestone. I had to find out more…

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The scenes about Marguerite’s childhood in India, during the days of the Raj. I have never been to India and knew little about the Raj, so I had to draw heavily on a combination of research and imagination. But I found this research fascinating. The mindset of the British in India was astonishingly racist and elitist. They were also making huge sacrifices for the sake of the British Empire, which they genuinely believed to be a noble project.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I enjoy visiting places and getting and writing about them in situ. Visiting Broadstairs, where Marguerite lived and ran a theatre company just before the war, was great fun, as was visiting the site of another of her homes, near Aberdyfi, high above the Dyfi estuary.   

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Marguerite as a biographical character was eccentric, endlessly fascinating and also infuriating! The men in her life were (with one exception) pretty awful to here. The character I felt by far the most empathy for was Pauline Bloch, the German Jewish refugee who was Marguerite and Caradoc’s live-in maid during the war. The poor woman was traumatised and not receiving the help and support she needed – least of all from Marguerite who was too wrapped up in her own marriage and money problems to care.  

I was privileged to read some of Pauline’s letters, written some thirty years later, where she reflected on her time with Marguerite and Caradoc. She was a strong, determined and remarkably fair-minded woman who had overcome so much.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Pauline, without a doubt.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

All I can say is I’m researching another biography. It’s far too soon to reveal any more!

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

I don’t think you can really call yourself a writer after just one book. Although now I do write most days – features for magazines, mostly.

 Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

With a name like Liz Jones? Of course I have! If ever I write a book that’s completely different (a novel, for instance), I might just dream up a far more exotic name for myself!

 What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Writer’s block is something I experience every day. Sometimes I can overcome it. Other times, I suddenly find that cleaning the sink or organising my bookshelf is suddenly far more pressing than writing… Yet once I’m really in the writing zone, I find it difficult to stop. If only I found it easier to get there in the first place – I’m still working on that!   

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Peace, quiet, not too much clutter and, above all, a room of my own. (Virginia Woolf said it all really…)

 Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

As a writer of non-fiction, I’m afraid I can’t really answer this!

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Beginning.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

That’s a very big question! There are so many different kinds of good writing. If I had to say, I think it’s honestly – writing where the author strips away any ‘show-offy’ bits and tells the story with sincerity and integrity, rather than indulging in writing that draws attention to itself. Having said that, I can’t resist the odd flourish or purple passage, although I try not to overdo it! 

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? 

As a biographer it has to be character! I have to feel fascinated by a character to want to write about them.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m on Twitter, which I’ve found pretty useful, in a low-key sort of way. I know Twitter has a bit of a toxic reputation, but it’s great for connecting with other authors and keeping in touch with Honno and the wider world of books. What I also like about Twitter is that it’s okay to promote your own work there – unlike facebook, where too much self-promotion tends to be frowned upon! 

 Why did you [choose? Honno as a publisher?

The honest answer is because Honno is based in my home town of Aberystwyth. When my idea was still embarrassingly sketchy, I contacted the lovely Janet Thomas (a member of the Honno committee and hugely experienced editor). Thanks to Janet’s unstinting encouragement, I began to feel that my idea really could work as a book. Later, as a first-time Honno writer, I felt supported by the team throughout the whole process – from the initial edits to the marketing. Becoming a Honno author is like joining a very special women’s club! 

Author Bio:

Dr Liz Jones is a prize winning writer of creative non-fiction and journalism, and a creative writing tutor at Aberystwyth University. Her book, The Queen of Romance (Honno), a biography of Marguerite Jervis (aka Oliver Sandys and Countess Barcynska), ‘the most successful author and theatre entrepreneur you’ve never heard of’, was selected for The Independent‘s book choices for May, 2021.

Twitter: @LizJonesAber

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Sara Gethin

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.  

If you’re in the area we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno.

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Sara Gethin

Hello and welcome, Sara. And thank you for being with us today. 

 It’s good to be here, Judith

Please tell us how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I’ve written two novels for adults, and I’m going to add an optimistic ‘so far’ to the end of that sentence, as I have another storyline percolating in my head. ‘Not Thomas’ was my first novel. It’s a contemporary story about a neglected five-year-old boy and the people who are letting him down – spectacularly – and those who try to help him. The children in my second novel, ‘Emmet and Me’, are also failed by the adults around them. The background to that story is the extremely harsh industrial school system of 1960s’ Ireland. Picking a favourite from only two books feels like an impossible choice, but the most recently published is ‘Emmet and Me’, so I’ll choose that one.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The inspiration for ‘Emmet and Me’ came from a memoir I read by a man who’d been brought up in an industrial school in Letterfrack, Connemara. Those schools were filled with children whose families had fallen on hard times, and they were run, mainly, by the Catholic Church. They operated all over Ireland from the late 1800s, and some of them – a handful of the infamous ‘laundries’ – were still open in the 1990s.

The Letterfrack school was notorious for the extremely harsh treatment meted out by the Christian Brothers who ran it. Peter Tyrrell, the author of the memoir I read, wanted to draw attention to the terrible plight of children in these schools during the 1950s and ’60s. He felt ignored by the people in power, and eventually took his own life by setting fire to himself on Hampstead Heath. The character of Emmet came to me very clearly after reading Peter’s memoir, and I knew that at some point I was going to write about a boy growing up in the inhumane conditions of a rural industrial school in 1960s’ Ireland.

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

There’s one scene in ‘Emmet and Me’ that readers have said makes them shudder. It’s where one of the characters has a rather nasty and unusual accident. The peculiar thing is I didn’t realise, until I went back to edit that passage, that I’d described an incident I’d witnessed as a child. That same accident happened to a friend I was with in a field when we were seven years old. I had buried the memory until I wrote about it for the book. Writing that scene initially wasn’t as difficult as going back to edit it, and discovering I was reliving the incident from my own childhood.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I loved writing the conversations between the two central characters, the ten-year-olds Claire and Emmet. The children meet in school and become forbidden friends. They’re misfits. Emmet is looked down on as he lives in the industrial school, or ‘orphanage’ as the locals call it. Claire feels out of place because she’s been uprooted from her Cardiff home and dumped at her granny’s isolated cottage. Both children love reading and horses, and Emmet and Claire bond over a copy of Black Beauty. It was great fun to write conversations alternating between Welsh and Irish accents, although it was also quite a challenge!

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

There are two girls in Claire’s class who are referred to by everyone as the ‘House Girls’. They live in the local orphanage, and they stand out a mile in school because their uniforms are different from the other girls’. They’re ignored or teased by the children in their class, and the teachers treat them appallingly too. Despite this, they show Claire nothing but kindness. I’d love to expand their story one day.

*At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

The first book I wrote was the collection of stories for children, ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’. When I found it on the shelf of my local library, I truly felt like a writer. That was back in 2013, and I’ve written three more books for children since then, plus two novels for adults. I still get a huge thrill when I see them on the shelves of Llanelli library, although I really hope they get borrowed too!

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I write my children’s books under my real-life name, Wendy White, but I use Sara Gethin as a pen name when I write for adults. That’s because the stories I’ve written for children, so far, have a light touch and are humorous, whereas my stories for adults are in a totally different vein. That’s not to say there’s no humour at all in my novels – I really hope I make my readers laugh or smile a few times when they read ‘Not Thomas’ or ‘Emmet and Me’. But it’s certainly true to say there are darker moments in the stories too.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I love to have music on in the background while I write, but not just any music – it needs to be a playlist I’ve put together for that specific piece of writing. Sometimes the playlist consists of one song, repeated over and over, for a particular scene. I find music is the easiest route back into the mood I’m trying to create for a book, especially if I’ve had to take a break from writing. When I’m struggling to find the words, it’s normally because I haven’t yet discovered the perfect piece of music.

How do you use social media as an author?

Ah, social media – love it or loathe it, it’s not going away any time soon, is it?

I’m mainly active on two platforms – Twitter and Instagram – with an occasional dip into Facebook. My favourite is Insta. I could waste many happy hours on there, scrolling through images of gorgeous scenery and beautiful book covers. My own posts are mostly of sandy walks and shipwrecks. Cefn Sidan is my local beach, and it’s very photogenic. I’ve also been known to post the occasional book-related pic.

On Twitter, I love following authors and talking about books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. I mostly retweet other people’s news, with a shameless flurry of self-promotion when I have a new book out myself, and I’m always so grateful when people share my news too. Pre-pandemic, when I’d organise signings in book shops, I’d tweet about them before and afterwards. My book launch for ‘Emmet and Me’ last year was a Zoom affair. I tweeted  about that to an extremely annoying extent, I’ve no doubt! But it was wonderful to have so much support from the Twitter community for the launch event, and for the new novel too.

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

I love the fact that Honno is run by a committee of women, and I’ve been a fan of the publisher and their books since my student days, many years ago now. Long before I began writing, I knew it would be wonderful to be published by them. I feel it’s a huge honour that my two manuscripts were chosen for publication by Honno, and I’m very proud to be featured among the fabulous female writers they have on their list.

Thank you so much, Judith – I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to talk about books again! I’m so looking forward to getting together in May for the Honno Book Fair at Narberth. It will be a very special event indeed! Sara x

Sara Gethin Bio:

Sara Gethin is the pen name of Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli and worked as a library assistant before becoming a primary school teacher. Her debut novel, ‘Not Thomas’, written in the voice of a neglected five-year-old boy, was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. While home is still west Wales, she and her husband spend much of their free time in Ireland.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Hilary Shepherd

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Hilary Shepherd

Hello and welcome, Hilary. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Could you tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

Five written, three published. My favourite is ‘Albi’.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The book is based on a village in Aragon in Spain where we have a house. Over the last 20 years we’ve been told a lot of stories about the impact of the Civil War on neighbours who have all died now. Our house is full of farm implements that would have been in common use then and the sound landscape has changed little – the streets are too narrow for traffic so human voices dominate. The sheep flocks still graze to the sound of their bells and the shepherds call to them as they always did. The golden orioles still sing. I couldn’t not write about it!

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Albi himself, a nine-year-old boy who is catapulted into a strange and forbidding world but is still only a child. I think of him whenever I’m in the village and things he got up to and it’s a jolt to remember sometimes that he exists only in my head. And in the heads of my readers.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The ending, because there were so many threads to draw together and I wanted to do justice to my characters and also to history, which doesn’t have resolutions.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The pranks Albi gets up to, and the irony of what he sees compared with what he understands.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Now I’m older, a comfortable chair. 

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

At the moment it’s to keep writing when making physical things seems so much less of a self-indulgence. This is a knock-on of covid though I’m not sure why. At the moment I find myself preferring to make a window than spend time at my desk, which isn’t very conducive to finishing off my next novel.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Writing that isn’t tied to the earth by too many words in the wrong places.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Both – they leapfrog each other until it gets difficult to remember which was the trigger, though I’m pretty certain the characters come second but then drive the plot, sometimes surprisingly.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m afraid I don’t. I used to, but I really didn’t like it.

 Why did you Honno as a publisher?

Because they were there, and because Caroline responded so generously to my first submission. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the community that Honno is and the chance to be aware of others’ progress through the otherwise deeply solitary experience of being published.

About Hilary:

I live on a hillside in the middle of Wales where I have spent most of my adult life farming and woodworking, and also writing. My first novel was set in the Sudan where I lived for two years, the second in Ghana, and the third in Spain. Writing about other places is a wonderful way to spend time in them when life keeps you somewhere else.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Annette Purdey Pugh

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno, the publishers.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Annette Purdey Pugh.

Annette Purdey Pugh

 . Hello and welcome, Annette. Great to see you here today. 

 Glad to be here, Judith

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

So far, I have only had one book published: A Murder at Rosings, published 2021.

So, what inspired the idea for your book?

I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice, but the immediate inspiration was an indulgent afternoon watching the BBC adaptation. It just occurred to me that it would be fun to use some of the characters in a murder mystery.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

It was all great fun to write! This, of course, has a lot to do with Jane Austen’s wonderful characters, who formed a basic framework upon which to build. I was provided with a ready-made villain, in the form of the obnoxious Mr Collins, and a natural suspect, in Mr Bennet. Lady Catherine’s grand establishment at Rosings was ripe for population with all those servants necessary to run it and I greatly enjoyed bringing them to life, together with the two ‘detectives’ who investigate.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

The character I most enjoyed writing about is Mary Bennet. As Jane Austen depicts her in Pride and Prejudice, she is very dull, especially when compared with her sisters, and we learn very little about her, except that she is studious and can be given to pompous pronouncements. This leaves her character open to exploration, and, as my novel progressed, I found my sympathy for her growing. Her visit to Rosings with her father, and her experiences there, both before and after the murder, cause great changes in herself and her life. Hopefully, if there were an alternative universe where fictional characters came alive, she would be happy with the outcome.  

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

I have thought a lot about a sequel, but I do feel that my story came to a natural conclusion at the end of A Murder at Rosings. However, I have been toying with the idea of continuing with the history of the house itself, with reference, of course, to past events.

Meanwhile, I have been working on a completely different mystery concerning buried bones and old wrongs in the Cors Caron area of Ceredigion.

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

I’ve enjoyed writing stories and poems all my life and have won prizes in the Learners’ Section at the National Eisteddfod. I took two full-length Open University courses in Creative Writing and found them immensely fulfilling. However, I don’t think I would ever have considered myself a ‘writer’ until Honno agreed to publish my novel, A Murder at Rosings – and, even now, I feel a bit reticent about it!

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

This is a big question! For me, good fiction writing is a combination of the following: An interesting storyline which draws the reader in quickly and maintains their interest throughout; characters who arouse the reader’s sympathy and a desire to know what happens to them next; a style of writing which flows well and is appropriate to the subject matter. Above all, a piece of prose, whether fiction or non-fiction, should be readable and enjoyable. If it’s a struggle to get from page to page, then it’s not for me.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? 

As a writer, the characters definitely come first, though I’m not always sure where they come from in the first place. I like to see where they will take me, and it is not necessarily in the direction I might have sketchily planned for them. Sometimes, a peripheral character may turn out to be crucial to the plot, when that finally emerges. In writing A Murder at Rosings, I was more than half-way through before I had any idea as to the identity of the murderer, or the circumstances, but the characters eventually led the way. As a reader, I think I have always been most interested in the characters; I faithfully follow some detective series, for example, not so much for the mysteries as for the detectives’ evolving personal lives!

How do you use social media as an author?

I’m very new to social media and did not use it at all until my book was published, when I saw that it is useful for authors to have some social media presence. Consequently, and with the encouragement of an old friend, I joined Twitter, and enjoy interacting with others on that platform – although I am often lured away from writerly things by politics! I try to mention my book in posts from time to time, sometimes including a relevant photo. Twitter is also a good source of advice from other writers, whom I have found to be really supportive. Finally, it is full of news of literary events and publication opportunities, as well as of the myriad of new books which come out every week.

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

I sent my manuscript to Honno on the advice of my sister-in-law, who used to work for Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. I was encouraged by their website, where I was told that all submissions would be read, and by the fact that it is a company run by women, with the aim of publishing Welsh women’s writing. As an added bonus, it’s based in Aber!

Biography

Annette Purdey Pugh grew up in Flintshire and graduated in English from Lancaster University. She studied Creative Writing with the Open University, and has won prizes for poetry and prose at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. In a varied career, she has worked as a medical librarian, an optical adviser, and a milkwoman. She lives with her husband on the family farm in West Wales, where they keep 300 sheep. A Murder at Rosings is her first novel.

Connect with Annette:

Twitter: @APurdeyPugh

A Parrot for Your Shoulder? #Reflections #Humour #Friends #BookReview:What Lies Between Them by J.L. Harland

For months now I have been peering at the outside world through a thick net curtain with the odd hole here and there. I haven’t become a ‘Nosy Neighbour’ though, my already limited vision has been exacerbated by cataracts.

My world of shortsightedness began a long time ago. In fact I was seven years old. The school sent home a note to my parents alerting them of the problem.They’d just assumed I was a clumsy child, who fell over a lot, and dropped things.

As the years progressed the lenses in my glasses became thicker – ‘ jam jar bottoms’ was the usual description.

Mind you, it didn’t stop me being “sporty”. I counted the steps needed before I took a metaphorical leap into the dark over the hurdles and high jump, before I took off for the long jump, and worked out which way to throw the javelin.(though, for the latter I did become aware of the the sports teachers always calling out, “it’s Judith’s turn”. Took me a long time to work out why I was so special – and I do wonder what would happen in these days of health and safety). In cross country I would follow the leading group of runners, until my friend told me the finishing line was a hundred yards straight ahead, when I sprinted to the front.

At sixteen, I had my first Saturday job, saved up for contact lenses – and never looked back – well, actually I did look back, and forward, and sideways – and upwards. I’d never realised there were so many stars!! Or should I just say… stars in the sky?

Fast forward a few decades, and suddenly the world became blurry again. Last year it was discovered I’d developed a cataract. I adjusted by writing on the laptop in eighteen font, in bold, and, when reading, altering the Kindle to around twenty words per page..

Which leads me to the ‘getting rid of the cataract’ scenario.

But first a (short – or really, not so short) aside. Two months ago I was diagnosed with a condition called TMD (according to Google, a disorder of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and the nerves associated with chronic facial pain). I was issued with a sheet of ‘DOs and Don’t’s’ –

1.Do not chew gum or pen tops ( Pen tops?!!! ).

2. Do not bite food with your front teeth. (When it’s almost impossible to open your mouth wide enough to get food to your back teeth).

3.Do not yawn too wide. (Try reading that without getting the urge to yawn).

4.Do not bite your nails. ( Anyone remember that horrid tasting stuff your mother painted on you nails as a child to stop that?)

5.Do not clench your teeth – apart from when eating, your teeth should be apart. (See point two)

6. Do not rest your chin on your hand (Even when totally fed up and peering at the laptop screen from three inches to read the last sentence you’ve written?)

Oh, yes, the cataract!

I was given an appointment for the surgery, followed by a rushed, last minute instructions to have a NHS PCR test, not the Government PCR test, which I’d already had (the two do not have systems that communicate with one another, apparently).

So far so good…

The following is a text I sent to a caring, empathetic and long-standing friend…

‘The test was a bit difficult,’ I wrote. “The fully PPI protected nurse said, “Open mouth.“.
Me: “I can’t” Explained about the TMD.
Nurse: “Well, has to be a mouth test, not a nose test. So, open wide. Wider.” Poking stick through my clenched teeth. “Say Ahh.”
Me “Argghh.” Heaving – gag reflex working well!!
Nurse (brightly): “There, all done.”
Me: Projectile vomiting.

On the way to the hospital for the operation, I explained the PCR problem to said friend, expecting sympathy. Her matter of fact response? “You’ll have to wear an eyepatch afterwards, you know. Would you like a parrot for your shoulder to go with it?

Now, having explained the delay, I can get on with the real reason for writing this post. I’ve been wanting to write the following review for some weeks now.

What Lies Between Them by J.L. Harland (FREE delivery March 17 – 21)

I was sent an Arc of What Lies Between Them by the authors with a request that, if I liked the story, would I endorse the book? Would I? I’ve been honoured to tackle this task

My Endorsement….

” Emotional,sensitive and thoroughly satisfying.”

In addition I also decided to give an honest review.

I gave What Lies Between Them 5*

Book description:

Elin Fiorelli, a career academic, has returned from three months in Finland to Brynderwen university, Wales. She thinks she has her future mapped out, a professorship within her grasp. But, her former lover, Michael Harwick, is now her boss. Her job is at risk and the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her with the secret she has kept buried deep within herself for so long. When her mother becomes terminally ill, trying to balance work and duty becomes more difficult. But Elin is resilient and as the year unfolds, she faces her past traumas, emerging stronger than before.

My Review:

 I loved this story. And I think it was mainly because I was so fascinated by the protagonist, Elin. She encapsulates so many of the facets of any woman’s life: the struggles to be recognised in a male dominated environment, the guilt of conflict between self-fulfilment with the pressures to conform in society, the familial love that juxtaposes duty and yet sometimes underlying resentment.

And then there is the Dean, Michael Harwick, the elusive figure from Elin’s past, whose actions set her on her path for the life she has since led. And which, despite devastating trauma, has given her the strength to achieve the highest respect in her field of work.

The descriptions of the main setting, Brynderwen university, bring the place to life: the sounds of the campus, the lecture halls, the students union, the canteen, the sights of the grounds, the inner offices of the Dean and tutors, the atmosphere of academia. But there is also the background of the home lives of the characters: of Elin and her demanding, yet desperately ill and lonely mother, of Sue, her friend, divided by loyalty to Elin but also to her job. .All set against the bustling life of Cardiff and its people. The authors bring so much of the city to life on the page.

An excellent plot, engaging rounded characters, great dialogue and a good sense of place to keep the reader enthralled from the first to last page. Couldn’t ask for more.,

What Lies Between Them is a story I thoroughly recommend.

About the Authors:

Two authors with one voice makes: J. L. Harland. Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett enjoy the creative process of working together and producing stories that have a unique, blended voice. Their debut novel, What Lies Between Them’is published by Dixi Books in 2022 and they are currently editing a sequel. J. L. Harland short stories have been published in anthologies and online and a novella is out on submission. Their website, jlharland.co.uk, has a blog on writing where further information about their work can be found. Individually, Janet Laugharne’s poetry has won or been placed in competitions and appeared in Black Bough, Atrium Poetry, Sarasvati and The Dawntreader (forthcoming). Jacqueline Harrett’s crime novel, ‘The Nesting Place’, featuring D.I. Mandy Wilde, is recently published with Diamond Books.

Links to J L Harland:

Website: https://jlharland.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JLHarlandAuthor

Buying link for What Lies Between Them:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3tWxtzz (FREE delivery March 17 – 21)

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Crystal Jeans

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Crystal Jeans.

 Hi and welcome, Crystal. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I’ve written four books and though my latest, The Inverts, is my favourite, I have a special place in my heart for The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, as it was my first.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Someone else did actually – Catherine Merriman, a fellow Honno author, suggested it. She was my teacher at the time and she lifted it out of the text. It was in reference to an illustration from my Children’s Book of Bible Stories – it showed tigers and lambs and people frollocking in paradise (I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness). I’d wondered if the tigers were vegetarian in paradise.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

No particular part was difficult. Overall, it was hard trying to splice together what was essentially a collection of personal essays into a novel. Emotionally, it was hard writing about my mother as I wasn’t on speaking terms with her at the time. But I got to flex my magnanimity muscle, which made me feel very noble (we’re fine now). I also struggled with fictionalising it. Looking back, I could have gone further. I was too close to it.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

I’m not writing a sequel but I would like to return to creative non-fiction one day. I thought I’d scratched that itch with The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise but apparently not. I’d like to write very honest essays about sex. I will never write about my family again. I felt awful when VToP came out – my mother loved it but she was very anxious about how she might be perceived and I felt bad for her. Guilty. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel. It’s too early for me to talk about.

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

When I started writing my first novel at age 21. It was terrible by the way.

 Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

No. I love my name. And it already sounds made-up.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Hell. I’ve only had writer’s block once, when I was pregnant. I watched a lot of TV and felt very empty.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Tea and nicotine. Radio 2 played on low. And a walking treadmill or a knee stool. Sitting at a desk for years has ruined my back.

 Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

Yes. Writing about my mother made me really think hard about how she might have felt at certain points of her life, like when she lost her own mother at 14. As I said, we weren’t speaking at the time, and part of the reason I ended up wanting to make up with her was the empathy I felt recounting (fictionalised) parts of her life.

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The first draft. I absolutely love the editing process though. It’s like a fun puzzle and I could do it all day.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I don’t. I’m beyond crap at using social media to promote my work. I don’t have a lot of time for it, or enthusiasm. I don’t really understand how Twitter works – am I supposed to add anyone who adds me? I personally have never bought a book because I’ve seen an author’s Twitter feed. I buy books through word-of-mouth. My agent tells me that it does make a difference for some authors – those who seem like they actually enjoy it. I think if I was in my teens/early twenties when my books came out, I would have been brilliant at social media book promotion because I was such a flaming narcissist and attention seeker back then. Now, the prospect fills me with dread and low-level anxiety.

 Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

Honestly? None of the big London publishers would accept unsolicited manuscripts, I couldn’t get an agent, so I tried the Welsh indies, who did accept unsolicited MMS. Honno turned out to be a great fit though and I have nothing but praise for Caroline, my editor.

Bio

Crystal Jeans has had three books published by Honno – The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, which was shortlisted for the Polari Prize, Light Switches are my Kryptonite, which won Wales Book of the Year in the English language for fiction, and The Homeless Heartthrob, a collection of short stories. The Inverts was published by Borough Press in 2021. She lives in Pontypridd with her wife and two children.

My twitter – @crystaljeans1

My Review of Making Waves, the sequel to Inside Out by Thorne Moore

As with Inside Out, I was given an ARC copy of Making Waves by the author, in return for an honest review.

I gave Making Waves 5* out of 5*

After reading this book I was happy to give the following endorsement: “Thorne Moore’s writing has three great qualities: the variety of genres, an exceptional sense of place, and characters that come alive on the page.”

I reviewed Inside Out here: https://bit.ly/3tNqwyI. Although both books are brilliant stand alone stories, I recommend reading Inside Out first.

Book Description:

Two hundred years in the future, with the Solar System in the hands of mega-corporations…
Tod Fox, commander of the Heloise, has delivered six rash volunteers to Triton, control centre of Ragnox Inc. But then he took one away again.
Now volunteers and crew face a new chapter in their lives, as human resources at the mercy of Ragnox Director, Jordan Pascal, or as allies of Pan, under Benedict Darke, the relentless enemy of the Triton regime.
Where will their allegiance lie? There is no middle ground in Arkadia. It is war. No mercy. Victory at any price.

Volume II of Salvage. Sequel to Inside Out

My Review:

I need to start by saying that Making Waves is only the second Science Fiction book I have read (and, yes, the first was Thorne Moore’s book, Inside Out). So I have little knowledge of this genre. But my interest in this author’s work is – and has long been – the psychological underpinning of the stories: I am always instantly gripped from the very first lines and by the way she presents the characters with all their foibles, their strengths, their weaknesses. And, juxtaposed with that aspect, are the settings they are living in. Backgrounds that inevitable affect their actions.

Even so, I was taken by surprise in Volume ll of Sequel: some of the characters act… well… out of character. Or, should I say, not with the personalities I expected after reading Volume l. The author gives them a new dimension. The travellers who journeyed to Triton on the ISF Heloise and the original crew of ISF Heloise, are instantly recognisable by their spoken and internal dialogue and by the subtle inclusion of details from their back stories. But they have extra facets to their characters, greater depths in their portrayals by their reactions to what is happening in the plot. Once engaged with that I applauded the courage, the innovative adaptation to the lives they are forced to endure, and I despaired of the evil of those connected with Ragnox on Triton and the desperate conditions there. And I was fascinated by the varied and complex new characters associated with Pan; Benedict Darke, that add even more interest to the story.

Trying hard to resist giving away spoilers here.

And, yet again, as in all her books, and although it’s an alien world. it’s the author’s inherent ability for writing descriptions (sometimes in only a few words) of the settings that evoke a sense of place. That gives credence to this excellent plot.

A plot that is intricate in the way it moves along, twisting and turning, yet with an ease that brings together the expected and unexpected, as in ‘real’ life.

This is a cracking book that kept me riveted and immersed. And, as I said in my review of Inside Out, Making Waves is a novel I would recommend to any readers who enjoys character-led stories – whatever the genre.

The author:

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton.
She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru.

Find Thorne at

Website:https://thornemoore.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

Buy Making Waves from:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3sZufKR

A lovely review of The Memory from Lynne Patrick, member of Promoting Crime Fiction #PromotingCrimeFiction #MysteryPeople #TuesdayBoolBlog

Published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press,
19 March 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-91290513-2 (PB)

Euthanasia is the greyest of grey areas in criminal terms, especially when the person on the receiving end is incapable of making such an irreversible decision. For thirty years Irene has lived with the memory of her mother Lilian standing at her sister’s bedside holding a pillow. No one has ever talked about it, but it has stood between mother and daughter ever since, a dark shadow that made an already fraught relationship almost unbearable 

And now Irene and Lilian are inextricably bound by the cruellest of fates. Lilian is in the most demanding phase of dementia, and before the disease took hold she refused point-blank to give Irene power of attorney. They are joint owners of the house they live in, Irene’s childhood home, but with no control over her mother’s financial affairs she cannot sell it to pay for Lilian’s care and has to do everything herself. Through a nightmare twenty-four hours, during which Lilian’s demands become increasingly challenging, memories flood into Irene’s mind and she relives the childhood that led to that appalling moment and the frustrated adulthood that followed. 

Rose, the dead sister, was a Downs baby, and Lilian rejected her from the outset. Irene, on the other hand, fell in love. Her adoration of her small sister, and the motherly care she lavishes on her is portrayed in almost tear-jerking detail, as is Rose’s affectionate nature, a common feature among Downs children. Irene is not without support, even after her father, who loves Rose but cannot deal with Lilian, leaves to set up home with another woman. There’s Sam, her childhood friend and later sweetheart, and Nanna, who willingly takes on the burden of the household. The network of complex relationships and all their ups and downs form the foundation of the novel.  

Whether The Memory is a crime novel in any conventional sense is open to conjecture. As a perfectly observed account of the last stages of dementia, and a picture of a family riven and distorted by both tragedy and great love, it is a masterclass. But it is also as meticulously and tautly structured as any psychological thriller. As well as vividly drawn characters and a rich sense of place, there are edge-of-the-seat moments of tension, and a twist at the end that I would never have predicted, obvious though it was the moment it was revealed.

Judith Barrow has taken two emotionally charged situations and woven them into a heart-wrenching story which had me close to tears more than once. Long before the end I had stopped caring whether it qualified as crime. I simply didn’t want to stop reading.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Buying Links:

Honno: https://bit.ly/3b2xRSn

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3qEbVnM

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3k8DIMO

Judith Barrow originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years. She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

https://judithbarrowblog.com

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

https://promotingcrime.blogspot.com/2021/09/the-memory-by-judith-barrow.html?showComment=1631538885937#c1304619422469911346

Promoting Crime Fiction

My photo
UK-based Mystery People, set up in February 2012, was founded by Lizzie Hayes following the discontinuation of the Mystery Women group.
Mystery People is dedicated to the promotion of crime fiction and in particular to new authors.
But this is not just a writers’ group, for without readers what would writers do?
Lizzie says…
“From an early age I have been a lover of crime fiction. Discovering like minded people at my first crime conference at St Hilda’s Oxford in 1997, I was delighted when asked to join a new group for the promotion of female crime writers. In 1998 I took over the running of the group, which I did for the next thirteen years. During that time I organised countless events promoting crime writers and in particular new writers. But apart from the sheer joy of reading, ‘I actually love books, not just the writing, the plot or the characters, but the sheer joy of holding a book has never abated for me. The greatest gift of my life has been the ability to read.”
As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion. Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction. New reviews are posted daily, but to search for earlier reviews please click on the Mystery People link below and select ‘reviews’ from the welcome page. This will display an alphabetic option for you to find the review you would like to read
:

https://promotingcrime.blogspot.com/2021/09/the-memory-by-judith-barrow.html?showComment=1631538885937#c1304619422469911346