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 Means to Deceive by Alex Craigie 

Book Description:

Eighteen months ago, Gwen Meredith left the job she loved and came back to Pembrokeshire to help support her irritable and increasingly confused grandmother.
But someone is pursuing a vendetta against her.

As the attacks become more malicious, her old anxieties begin to build.
She’s attracted to her new neighbour who is keen to help…but can she trust him?

When those closest to her are threatened, her desperation mounts.
Who can she trust?

Gwen has a dark secret of her own.
Can she even trust herself?

My Review:

Means to Deceive is what I always call a gripping psychological read. As with this author’s style, it’s a slow- burner; but well worth the wait; the tension slowly but surely racks up the terror for the protagonist,Gwen. The plot twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing, and feeling every emotion Gwen feels: trepidation, unease, her suspicions of those around her. There are two obvious antagonists, but there are also two people in her life she has always loved and trusted, her grandmother, and her brother, even though her lifelong emotional relationship with each of them is completely different. Yet it’s only when, having come back to live in Pembrokeshire to care for her grandmother, her brother visits to help her, and she meetsthe new neighbour Ben, that her life begins to unravel.

Initially I wanted the protagonist to be stronger, more assertive, but the more I read, the more I realised how consumed by guilt and grief she is by something that happened in the past – (not giving away spoilers here). And these two emotions are the silent antagonists, revealed through a recurring section in the book, each time uncovering a little more memory, explaining why the layer of vulnerability in Gwen. Fascinating!

All the characters in the book are well rounded, multi layered. I found myself liking the way they are portrayed, and both loving and disliking some to their actions – to me, this is a sign of a well told story. Certainly I was kept guessing who was really trying to destroy Gwen’s life.

And I like being able to tell who’s speaking in a story, even without dialogue tags, Alex Craigie certainly gives each character their voice in all her books.

I’ve read this author’s works before and one of the talents she has is to bring settings to life by the small details in her descriptions, so the village where Gwen lives: Dernant, the rooms of her home, the garden, the outside spaces, the houses of the other characters are instantly envisaged and give a great sense of place.

As I say, I don’t give spoilers in my review, and here, in the book description, the reader is given enough to know the plot. All I will say, and I hope that has come across in my words, is that I enjoyed Means to Deceive and thoroughly recommend to any reader who enjoys a well written psychological drama

My previous reviews of Alex Craigie’s novels.

Someone Close to Home: https://amzn.to/3JYSMXF

Acts Of Convenience: https://amzn.to/3ICp8XH

The author:

Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power.

Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back.

When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.

Trish has had three books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. The first two books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the health service at its heart. Her third book. Means to Deceive, is a psychological thriller.

Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon.

Book lovers are welcome to contact her on alexcraigie@aol.com

Read less

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

The Long and Winding Road. The journey of a Wannabe Writer #MondayBlogs #Writing #EverHopeful

Image

I wrote for years before letting anyone read my work. If I was self-deluded; if it was rubbish, I didn’t want to be told. I enjoyed my “little hobby” (as it was once described by a family member). But then I began to enter my short stories into competitions. Sometimes I was placed, once or twice I even won. Encouraged, I moved on to sending to magazines – I had some luck, was published – once! But I hadn’t dared to send out any of the four, full length book manuscripts I’d written (and actually never did, they were awful!) That changed after a long battle with breast cancer in my forties and, finally finishing a book that I thought might possibly…possibly, be good enough for someone else to see, other than me, I took a chance.

I grew resigned (well almost) to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox. (yes, it was that long ago!) The weekly wail of ‘I’ve been rejected again,’ was a ritual that my long-suffering husband also (almost) grew resigned to.

There were many snorts of exasperation at my gullibility and stubbornness from the writing group I was a member of at the time. They all had an opinion – I was doing it all wrong. Instead of sending my work to publishers I should have been approaching agents.

 ‘You’ll get nowhere without an agent,’ one of the members said. She was very smug. Of course she was already signed up with an agent whose list, she informed me, was full.

 ‘How could you even think of trying to do it on your own?’ was another horrified response when told what I’d done, ‘With the sharks that are out there, you’ll be eaten alive.’

‘Or sink without a trace.’ Helpful prediction from another so-called friend.

So, after trawling my way through the Writers & Artists Yearbook (an invaluable tome) I bundled up two more copies of my manuscript and sent them out to different agents

Six months later I was approached by one of the agents who, on the strength of my writing, agreed to take me on. The praise from her assistant was effusive, the promises gratifying. It was arranged that I meet with the two of them in London to discuss the contract they would send in the post, there would be no difficulty in placing my novel with one of the big publishers; they would make my name into a brand.

There was some editing to do, of course. Even though the manuscript was in its fifth draft, I knew there would be. After all, the agent, a big fish in a big pond, knew what she was doing. Okay, she was a little abrasive (on hindsight I would say rude) but she was a busy person, I was a first time author.

But I was on my way. Or so I thought.

A week before the meeting I received an email; the agent’s assistant had left the agency and they no longer thought they could act for me. They had misplaced my manuscript but would try to locate it. In the meantime would I send an SAE for its return when/if ‘it turned up’?

So – back to square one.

For a month I hibernated (my family and friends called it sulking, but I preferred to think of it as re-grouping). I had a brilliant manuscript that no one wanted (at this point, I think it’s important to say that, as an author, if you don’t have self-belief how can you persuade anyone else to believe your work is good?) But still, no agent, no publisher.

There were moments, well weeks (okay, if I’m honest – months), of despair, before I took a deep breath and resolved to try again. I printed out a new copy of the novel. In the meantime I trawled through my list of possible agents. Again.

 Then, out of the blue, a phone call from the editorial assistant who’d resigned from that first agent to tell me she’d set up her own agency, was still interested in my novel and could we meet in London in a week’s time? Could we? Try and stop me, I thought.

 We met. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.

Six months later. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”

And then the death knell on my hopes.

“Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work … etc. etc.”

The self-doubt, the frustration, flooded back.

Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. When she mentioned the sum I had to pay (yes, I had to pay, and yes, I was that naïve) I gasped.’ It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she said. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’

 I thought about it. Rejected the idea. Listened to advice from my various acquaintances. Thought about it some more. And then I rang the agent. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I felt I had no choice; after all she was the expert. Wasn’t she? What did I know?

 When the manuscript came back from the commercial editor, I didn’t recognise the story at all. ‘This isn’t what I wrote. It’s not my book,’ I told the agent. ‘It’s nothing like it.’ The plot, the characters had been completely changed.

‘You know nothing of the publishing world. If you want me to represent you, you have to listen to me,’ she insisted. ‘Do as I say.’

‘But …’

‘Take it or leave it.’

I consulted our daughter, luckily she’s a lawyer qualified in Intellectual Property.

‘You can cancel the contract within the year. After that, you have problems. There will be all manner of complications...

I moved quickly. The agent and I parted company.

I took a chance and contacted Honno, the publisher who’d previously accepted two of my short stories for their anthologies. Would they have a look at the manuscript? They would. They did. Yes, it needed more work but

 I’m proud to say I’ve now been with Honno, the longest standing independent women’s press in the UK, for fourteen years, and have had six books published by them. I love their motto “Great writing, great stories, great women“, and I love the friends I’ve made amongst the other women whose work they publish, and the support amongst us for our writing and our books. In normal times we often meet up . I’m hoping those “normal times” will return before too long.

 Of course, there has been much editing and discussion with every manuscript. But at least, in the end, the stories are told in my words. With my voice

My Review of Megacity (Operation Galton Book 3) by Terry Tyler #Dystopian #TuesdayBookBlog

Megacity (Operation Galton Book 3) by [Terry Tyler]

 

Book Description:

The UK’s new megacities: contented citizens relieved of the burden of home ownership, living in eco-friendly communities. Total surveillance has all but wiped out criminal activity, and biometric sensor implants detect illness even before symptoms are apparent.

That’s the hype. Scratch the surface, and darker stories emerge.

Tara is offered the chance to become a princess amongst media influencers—as long as she keeps quiet and does as she’s told.

Aileen uproots to the megacity with some reluctance, but none of her misgivings prepare her for the situation she will face: a mother’s worst nightmare.

Radar has survived gang rule in group homes for the homeless, prison and bereavement, and jumps at the chance to live a ‘normal’ life. But at what cost?

For all three, the price of living in a megacity may prove too high.

Megacity is the third and final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy, and is Terry Tyler’s twenty-third publication.

‘As long as some of us are still living free, they have not yet won. Anyone who refuses to live as they want us to has beaten them. That’s how we do it. That’s how we win.’

My Review:

I knew this was going to be a difficult review for me to write. I’ve been an admirer of Terry Tyler’s work for many years, and I’ve really enjoyed her dystopian books in the Operation Galton series. But because it’s the last in the series, and because I never give spoilers in my reviews, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say without giving away the plot.

But, first, I need to stress that the writing is excellent, as always; the author never fails to tell a great story, never fails to draw the reader in from the beginning.

And there is an especially useful recap of the two previous books, Hope and Wasteland, for those readers who need a reminder of the former stories and characters. I did glance through this, and it is a good prompt. I was glad I was going to meet past characters and to find out what happens to them. And time and again the three stories subtly intertwine to provide an historical background to Megacity.

The settings are described in such depth there is an immediate sense of place. The sinister normality of the megacities vies with the Wastelands, a setting viewed (as are the characters who live there) as ‘the other’. The portrayal of both is instantly evocative and plausible.

Each chapter is told from the different characters’ point of view, and, in that way, it’s easy to become absorbed very quickly with the story of their individual lives. Their lives couldn’t be more different, there is a façade of acceptance most of the time. But underneath there is anger, fear, and frustration. And pain. And loss. Each character is multi-layered, each reveal themselves through their inner dialogue. Thoughts that, with some of the antagonists, is so completely at odds with their spoken dialogue, it reveals their inner depths of corruption. All the facets that humanity is capable of, from empathetic friendship, love and humility to manipulation and complete and unrelenting evil, is shown In this story.

Terry Tyler’s books are usually strongly character led, but in Megacity, the characters and plot are equally centre stage. And powerfully revealed. For me this has to be the most chilling of the series. And yet, ultimately, there are possibilities of hope …

I have no problem in thoroughly recommending Megacity any reader who enjoys dystopian fiction and well told stories.

And, for the author’s writing style, the plot, the satisfying denouement of Operation Galton, i give Megacity a resounding five stars

About the Author

Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Megacity’, the final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy. Also published recently is ‘The Visitor’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller that centres round an internet dating con, but has not yet finished with devastated societies, catastrophe and destruction, generally. 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.

The Rat in the Python #MondayBlogs #Fifties #Memoirs #Humour

Many of you will have enjoyed Trish’s writing here before. She is one of my many talented students that I’m privileged to tutor each week. Hope you equally relish this dip into the past. For some of you it’s a small history lesson, for others, a memory. I am not saying which group I belong to!!

The following words belong to Trish…

If you haven’t heard of a liberty bodice, believe that half-a-crown is something to do with impoverished royalty and never had the experience of slapping a television to stop the grainy black and white picture from rolling, then this book is probably not for you.

It is intended for us Baby Boomers who, in the stability following the Second World War, formed a statistical bulge in the population python. It is a personal snapshot of a time that is as mystifying to my children as the Jurassic Era -and just as unrecognisable.

My intention is to nudge some long-forgotten memories to the surface, test your own recollections and provide statistics to put it all in context.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

The Rat in the Python

Chapter One The House

It would be fair to say that most houses in this country pre-date our generation and so this topic should present few surprises.

However the external appearance is deceptive. We’ve all seen old postcards of towns and can instantly recognise many of the buildings. But what of the insides?

They were different.

In my day none of my friends had fitted carpets and central heating was unheard of. We did have carpets, and the ones I remember were hideously patterned, but they were square or rectangular, circular or oval and housewives in a hurry could lift a corner and sweep the dust and dirt under them.

Heating
We had a coal fire downstairs and my mother would plait and weave strips of newspaper, lay them like a nest in the grate and build a carefully-constructed pyramid of coal in the centre in and around more of these strips. Then she’d light the paper. If it looked as though it was going to sulk and go out she’d produce a sheet of galvanised zinc like a flat shield that she’d hold over the front of the open fire to ‘draw’ it up and once it was going properly we’d feed it with great hunks of coal the size of bread loaves that you could later split open with the poker.

My father would hold the paper he was reading in front of a flagging fire to quickly perk it up. This wasn’t always successful. A dark patch would appear in the middle of the newsprint before the hastily dropped paper burst into flames. Occasionally we’d use a toasting fork to dangle bits of bread in front of the fire but conditions had to be just right. Too soon after the addition of fresh coal and you had a brittle piece of bread with smoked edges; wait until it was too hot and the bread itself would flame and char. There was also a knack to balancing the bread on the fork so that as large a flat surface as possible presented itself to the heat. I lacked this knack. The bread would tear around the prongs and slide down towards the handle or I’d have it so delicately balanced that it would fall off into the gritty ashes or the blaze itself

Paraffin heaters were also popular; ugly great brutes that reeked and smoked but put out an impressive bit of heat. When I first heard ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ I thought of these heaters and even now I can see the blue ring of flames that had to be set at just the right height to balance heat against pollution. And if you’ve lived in a house with a paraffin heater you won’t need me to remind you of that all-pervasive, oily smell.

The non-smelly heating involved electric bar fires. Virtually everyone I knew had at least one of these in the home. They ranged from those of impressive size which stood proudly in the fireplace as a soulless coal substitute, to small, portable ones. These consisted of one or two tightly-wound bars of wire in front of a shiny concave area designed to reflect heat back into the room. You’d flick a switch at the side to turn on one or both bars and then you’d wait to see if either began to glow red. Eventually they’d click and creak and produce a vicious belt of radiant heat from bright-orange elements which were ‘protected’ by a few widely-spaced strips of thin steel. From a Health & Safety perspective these were a nightmare by anyone’s standards. On the other hand, as few families of our acquaintance used fireguards for their coal fires – or their paraffin heaters, for that matter – I suppose it points to a time when Darwinism ruled; parents warned offspring of the dangers and, if they didn’t want to end up as a Cautionary Tale, children kept fingers and other bits at a safe distance.

In the winter, when houses which had never heard of double glazing shivered and quivered, sash windows rattled and draughts moaned through closed doors, the family snuggled up in front of the heat source. Those old advertisements of parents and children in a compact group do reflect the times, but the togetherness was often down to a primitive need to be warm rather than a desire to spend time with each other. Anywhere further than six feet from a fire was as foolhardy as a penguin trying to go it alone in the Antarctic Those of us who got as close to the heat as was possible, without actually spontaneously combusting, suffered from chilblains. I don’t know if anyone in this country still gets chilblains but for me it was an expected accompaniment to the cold weather. My feet were affected more than my hands and I can remember stamping them hard on the ground on my way to school in an attempt to calm the dreadful itch of them.

It goes without saying that when the downstairs was cold, the upstairs was colder. In a time before electric blankets and duvets all we had to protect us was a sheet, blankets and a hot water bottle. Some expensive hotels still use sheets and blankets in preference to duvets but they have the benefit of centrally heated rooms that make them an affectation rather than a necessity. It didn’t seem to matter how many blankets were heaped on the bed, the only bit that felt warm was the bit right next to you that had leached the heat from your own body. Hot water bottles were very welcome but imperfect. Unimaginative relatives knitted weird, lank, garter-stitched covers for them but I never used mine because they absorbed some of the heat intended for me. This meant that at first the bottle was too hot to touch and I’d put my foot against it for as long as I dared before snatching it off at the last moment (exacerbating the chilblain situation). For the briefest of times the temperature was perfect, and it was a real comfort. On waking you quickly learned not to move beyond your imprint in the bed. Everywhere else was inhospitably cold and you could watch your breath curl around the room whilst you mustered the courage to get up. The hot water bottle, by now endothermic, was resolutely avoided until the last moment when both feet would dart down, snatch it up the bed and leave it on top for re-filling that night.

Sometimes, presumably after vivid dreams, I’d wake in the night to find myself either entangled in a nightmare of Witney blankets or shivering because one end was still attached at the foot of the bed but the rest were in a heap on the floor. In the latter case, it was impossible to simply pull them up and go back to sleep; they had to be individually replaced in the right order or they’d be sliding off before you could start counting sheep again.
I was a student when I used a duvet (or continental quilt as they were billed then) for the first time. It was synthetic and the filling quickly moulded itself into clumps that refused to even themselves out again. Nevertheless, from that moment on I knew there was no going back to sheets and blankets.

And there’s nothing more irritating than blankets with rucks in them, unless it’s blankets that don’t line up at the bottom of the bed, or blankets that don’t reach your chin. Or blankets.

Heating also leads me to the issue of plugs and sockets.

My grandmother had a friend who would make sure before she went to bed that every socket had a plug in it. She explained it was to stop the electricity escaping into the house. In her day, as in mine, those sockets were round and the plugs that went into them were round-pin plugs. They were usually brown bakelite and the flex that went into them was covered in a woven material that frequently frayed into long wispy bits at the ends. It’s weird but I don’t remember the changeover from round prongs to square. Did I sleep through it? Did it happen so slowly that it crept up in tiny steps until the old was gone and the new already commonplace?

I suspect that when houses were first wired for electricity they were done in a half-hearted way because no one could think of many uses for the stuff and so one socket per room was considered more than ample. Then people decided on table and standard lamps to cast a warm glow on father reading his paper or mother darning the socks, wirelesses that needed wires, gramophones, electric fires, irons. The only way to deal with such a constraint was to buy adapters and stick one into another until there were sufficient sockets to satisfy demand. The weight of the massed plugs vying for space was frequently enough to drag the adapters away from the wall and someone would have to push them back in to restore power. As I write this, one of the public information films of the time has surfaced in my head and it shows such a cluster of adapters smoking in protest before bursting into flames. It wasn’t just my family, then…

The kitchen
The kitchen seems to be at the forefront of change. In the 50s there were rich pickings to be had for anyone with an innovation that was labour-saving or which made the heart of the home look more modern. Into the 21st century, the wheel has turned in the opposite direction and the more modern look involves a return to butler sinks and free-standing shabby chic furniture in place of the streamlining of the fitted kitchen but, like a return to blankets, there is space for these when other things allow them to be decorative features over the practical.

When I was a child, like most of my friends it was assumed that my mother would stay at home and be a housewife whilst my father would go out and work to keep her there. Women were given housekeeping money and were expected to make it stretch to cover all our needs. A housewife wore an apron to protect her clothes that were comparatively expensive in a time before cheap, supermarket-produced goods. To make ends meet she would frequently cook the same things on the same day of the week so Monday’s meal would be something that made use of the leftovers from Sunday’s roast. She would cook the meals on a white, enamelled stove and ours had bluish-black chips showing where pans had knocked against the enamel. There would also be whorls of grey scratches around the rings where spills had been scrubbed clean.

The food was kept in cupboards or, if you had the space, in a pantry. Vegetable racks held greens with yellowing outer leaves and a limited selection of root vegetables that were prepared in the sink. The first kitchen sink I remember was a white, enamelled one with a green stain under the cold water tap. Taps – which invariably had knobbly cross-shaped tops – seemed to drip with a frequency uncommon today.

Milk was kept in a small fridge (and ours was the envy of our neighbours because it had a freezer compartment that was big enough for some ice cubes or a block of waxy ice cream). I knew someone who still put her milk and cheese in a milk-safe. This was a terracotta container that was placed over the items and doused in water. In hot weather the evaporating water kept the contents cool and at a time when milk arrived daily that was usually enough.

Without the benefit of freezers, a lot of our food came in cans and, before we bought our first rotary, or butterfly, can-opener, the lids had to be removed using a metal lever that was used to punch triangular holes around the top until you could bend the jagged edge back and get at the contents. The rotary opener was a vast improvement on this but there always came a time when it would slip its way round without cutting. You’d have to try clipping it onto the can at a rakish angle and grip really, really tightly, praying that it would get far enough round for success. Inevitably there would be a couple of patches that the opener had grooved but not cut and these were now more difficult to reach. We weren’t the first family, I’m sure, that would resort to sliding spoon handles into the gap, trying to prise the lid back.

There were very few kitchen gadgets in our house when I was a child. We did have a rotary whisk which I found mesmerisingly exciting. Chips were cooked in a saucepan with a wire basket to hold, remove and drain them. You’d put a slab of lard into the pan, heat it up until it was smoking, put the prepared chips into the wire basket and lower it, hissing and spitting like a trapped cat, into the fat. It is no surprise that chip pan fires also feature prominently in my memories of public information warnings.

The cupboards were filled with china, and there was always one cupboard that had the best china in it to be used when visitors came. Cups always had saucers, and mugs were unheard of in the home. If I fast forward to the beginning of the sixties I enter a different world of colour and melamine. We thought melamine was cool and trendy and it spun and clattered without breaking when dropped onto the equally colourful Marley tiles arranged checkerboard-style on the floor. We threw out our melamine when earthenware became popular…

As a child it wasn’t uncommon to have three cooked meals a day. Breakfast might be scrambled eggs on toast or a fry-up, lunch would generally consist of something meaty with vegetables plus a pudding and the evening meal would be a more substantial version of lunch. All of these meals were cooked from scratch which generated a good deal of washing up. As a consequence, mothers around the country would be continually reaching for their Marigolds and balancing the washed items on the wire rack on the draining board to be dried with a tea-towel that had a stripe down each side.

My Review of What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT



What's Left Unsaid

I was given a copy of What’s Left Unsaid by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, in return for an honest review.

I gave this book 5*

Book Description:

Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.

Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.

As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.

My Review:

There are some books that grab you from the first page, even the first paragraph. What’s Left Unsaid did just that for me:

“If Annie had just been honest with me, we might have avoided much of the ugliness which followed… but she wasn’t and we didn’t…”

How could I resist? I didn’t! It helped when I realised the story is told in one of my favourite formats; it’s written from different points of view under the name of three characters: the protagonist, Sasha, her mother Annie and her late father, Joe. I especially liked Joe’s objective viewpoint that balanced out the subjective viewpoints of the other two characters as they describe the complex and difficult relationship between them. Even so, the question hovering throughout the text is what is truth and what is lies. It’s a cleverly written narrative and I loved the writing style of Deborah Stone; she moves from character to character, slipping easily into their voices, alternately moving the reader to understand each with empathy, yet being able to see the flaws in them as well.

The plot is tense and tightly woven, moving at different paces to reveal the secrets held for years held by this family. There are many themes: family secrets and deceptions, emotional power struggles between characters, dementia, miscommunications, understandings and forgiveness. All delicately intertwined throughout the text.

I always think that, when we reach a certain age we are formed by the things that we have done, what has happened to us, how we have been treated and how we have treated others. In What’s Left Unsaid the flashbacks to Annie’s earlier life reveal her vanity, her prejudices of others and her jealousy of her own daughter. As a reader I was torn between disliking much of what she was and yet having compassion for what she has become; a woman in the throes of dementia. The flashbacks of Joe’s earlier life show his Jewish family’s struggles to move from a totalitarian Russia at the end of the nineteenth century to the North of England where they face fascism and suffer poverty that they fight to escape, much as they have escaped from an oppressive regime.

The characters are many layered. The protagonist, Sasha is living in a loveless marriage and cannot understand either her husband, Jeremy, who has a secret of his own or her son, Zac, typically a monosyllabic, hormonal teenager. She has no closeness with her mother yet is forced to be deeply involved in her life. The author cleverly and subtly reveals the tensions hidden in Sasha, much as she does in all the major characters.  Her internal dialogue initially shows her timidity, her nervousness, in the way she approaches her family. Yet there is also exasperation and even anger. And this comes out more and more as the story progresses.

Joe’s words, spoken from beyond the grave, are wise and, as I said earlier, objective. I felt they gave a distanced reflective view on human nature as a whole. Yet, through the dialogue and thoughts of the other characters, his personality in life is exposed to have had had the same flaws and weaknesses as their own.

Even without the story being allocated to each character the reader is left in no doubt who is speaking; each have their own distinctive voice.

The narrative describing the settings give a good sense of place and provide an interesting background to the story.

What’s Left Unsaid is a complex and poignant read. Thought provoking and absorbing it left me reflecting on the complexities of marriage and families. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy well-written family sagas

 

 

My Review of Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Someone Close To Home by [Craigie, Alex]

I gave Someone Close to Home 5*

My Review:

It’s been quite a while since I read a book in one go but I couldn’t put this one down. Someone Close to Home sent me through a whole range of emotions; delight, sadness, anger, joy, frustration. And this is a debut novel! The writing style of Alex Craigie  is sophisticated, emotive and empathetic.

The start of the story grabbed me straightaway: the image of the protagonist, Megan, watching “each minuscule judder of the hand (of the clock)”, her immobility and her thoughts on her childhood, especially of her selfish and destructive mother who Megan loathed – still loathes, is compulsive reading. There is one sentence that foreshadows all that happens as the story continues: ‘This is all down to my mother… she’s been dead for over thirty years now and still she’s poisoning my life.”

This is a story of two halves: the time that Megan is in the badly-run care home, which lasts around six months and is told in present tense, mainly through the internal dialogue of the protagonist, and the whole of her childhood and younger life.told in past tense as flashbacks. The latter leads the reader inexorably to the point where Megan is lying helpless after suffering a stroke. She is at the mercy of mostly inattentive carers, poorly paid and resentful. Their actions, the way they carry out their tasks on Megan is described simply by her; they are tasks done to her, sometimes carefully, sometimes without heed. And then there is the carer, Annie… I’ll say no more.

The description of  of the protagonist’s days evoke the dreariness. The word, “waiting” is repeated so many times that I, as the reader, also waited with Megan, knowing, with some dread, that something awful will happen.

The main characters: Gideon (childhood friend and later the man she loves. Claire, her true friend in later life, Jordan,  Megan’s husband, egotistical actor and a cruel man, Theo and Camilla, her greedy and selfish children), are many layered and well portrayed; their dialogue identifies them immediately. And, although there are many flat characters,, in the guise of the carers and the owner of the care home, the author also gives them distinguishable voices. 

The descriptions of the settings give a good sense of place. The room Megan is lying in is told in meticulous but confined detail. We see the limited view she has, and only that. (it did give me a sense of claustrophobia, I must admit.). There is “the sturdy chest of drawers topped with shapes that will become a television and some framed photographs”as “the heavy grey light” “pushes into the room” after a long sleepless night”. We hear “the rattle of trolleys” that she knows is “laden with clean and soiled bedding”, the “insistent buzzing” of room bells, the “moans, shouts and cussing from room nearby punctuated by the chivying of staff”. We feel her pain through the roughness of the care, the threat of bed sores. And the details of the places in her childhood, the  houses she lived in, countries she visited as a professional pianist, are full of evocative imagery.

It’s a plot that moves at an even pace but, ultimately, it’s also one that took me by surprise. Even closely following the actions of the characters in the story still didn’t prepare me for the ending.

Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie is a book I thoroughly recommend to any reader.

Book Description:

Talented pianist Megan Youngblood has it all – fame, fortune and Gideon.

But Gideon isn’t good enough for Megan’s ambitious, manipulative mother, whose meddling has devastating repercussions for Megan and for those close to her.

Now, trapped inside her own body, she is unable to communicate her needs or fears as she faces institutional neglect in an inadequate care home.

And she faces Annie. Sadistic Annie who has reason to hate her. Damaged Annie who shouldn’t work with vulnerable people.

Just how far will Annie go?

Author details:

Born in Sunderland, in the north of England, Alex has wended her way south via Eccles, Bramhall, Histon, Cambridge, Leicester and Market Harborough before finally coming to rest thirty years ago in a peaceful village  in Wales. She lives in an old, draughty house with stone walls 2’ thick that make any DIY a real challenge and she knows she’s really lucky to have all her children and grandchildren living close by. It’s often chaotic and noisy but these are her most treasured moments and she savours them – even if she’s reduced to an immovable heap after they’ve gone.  When not writing, reading or simply enjoying the rural life, she’s in the garden waging a war of attrition against the brambles that she encourages in the hedges for birds to nest in, vicious nettles that support a variety of butterflies, and bindweed that looks lovely but doesn’t share nicely with the other plants.

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2JDruLL

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2KezulB