Write What You Know? – A Guest Post by John Fullerton, Author of Emperor

It’s some while since I stayed in with John Fullerton to chat about his book Spy Game in a post you’ll find here. Today John is back with a guest post considering the premise that a writer should write what they know to celebrate the release of his latest book, Emperor.

Emperor is published today, 9th December 2022 and is available for purchase here.

Emperor

Can ex-NSA agent Ava stop the Emperor’s war plans before he kills millions – and her?

There’s a new Cold War…and it’s about to erupt into World War Three.

Emperor Qin – absolute ruler, dictator for life – has one task before he succumbs to brain cancer, and it means war. Can ex-spy Ava stop him in time to save millions – and survive?

Qin will ‘unify’ China by ordering the conquest of Taiwan, a democratic nation of 23 million people just 100 miles off the mainland, a pledge the Chinese Communist Party has made every year since the 1949 Revolution.

But there’s a leak, a flood of state secrets.

They land in the lap of the former NSA analyst in Washington DC. Ava Shute hasn’t sought the material. On the contrary, she’s a most reluctant recipient.

One thing keeps Ava going: the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon. The clock is ticking as Chinese agents hunt Ava down with orders to kill.

Write What You Know?

A Guest Post by John Fullerton

Some say one should write about what one knows.

I have — until now.

My first novel was written in a spasm of angst. It was set in Bosnia, where I undertook a number of six-week-long reporting assignments for Reuters. I couldn’t wait to get out of the war zone, and as soon as I was out, had enjoyed a hot bath, a bottle or two and a decent sleep, I wanted back in.

I found it hard to adapt to ‘normal’ life: to family, to working shifts as a chief sub editor at Reuters’ World Desk, to the banalities of a London routine. I had difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, difficulty relating to other people. I couldn’t share the experience with anyone. So I drank, went to the gym, cycled, read books, drank some more, upset a lot of people, swore at several, punched a few, and waited for the next job abroad to relieve the tedium.

So I bashed out my first novel in a blind fury. The Monkey House, set in Sarajevo, was grim. It created a bit of a stir, went into several editions, was translated widely, was twice optioned for a possible film, and helped me pay off my mortgage.

The second was set in Afghanistan, the third in Lebanon during what is referred to as a civil war; that was only half-true, for it was primarily a war-by-proxy waged by Israel, the United States, Iran and the Soviet Union.

The first novel of my Cold War spy trilogy, Spy Game, drew on my time as a ‘contract labourer’ for the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), sometimes referred to inaccurately as MI6 in the media, and working as a head agent on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The other two in the series were based on experiences in Lebanon and Thailand.

Emperor is different.

That’s because I’m stuck at home in Scotland, looking after my youngest child after my wife’s death from cancer six years ago. I promised my wife I would take our six-year-old to Scotland, make a home for her, find her a decent school and look after her to the best of my ability until she reaches adulthood.

That’s what I’m trying to do. So no solo trips, no excursions to Ukraine, more’s the pity.

Emperor is set in two places: Beijing and Washington DC.

I confess I don’t know either, though I spent some months in Hong Kong while it was still under British rule, and I have visited Washington DC, but a long, long time ago.

All I have is my online browser and a few guidebooks along with a massive pile of non-fiction books on China.

Friends have been a big help, especially one who can’t be named because he lives in the shadow of what the Chinese call the ‘relevant department’, a euphemism for the secret police of the Ministry of Public Security.

Will Emperor work as a novel? I don’t know. Will I be caught out by my errors in description, in directions?

It’s quite possible.

Does it work?

Only you can decide.

****

What an impassioned and affecting guest post John. Thank you so much. I have a feeling Emperor will be a huge, much deserved success. Your wife and daughter would be so proud of what you’re achieving in difficult circumstances.

About John Fullerton

John Fullerton was, for a time, a ‘contract labourer’ for the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, an experience that formed the basis of his recent Cold War spy trilogy. He’s lived or worked in 40 countries as a journalist and covered a dozen wars. John Fullerton was employed by Reuters for 20 years with postings in Hong Kong, Delhi, Beirut, Nicosia, Cairo, and London. Emperor is his tenth novel. He lives in Scotland and has begun a new espionage series set in the UK and Germany.

For more information, follow John on Twitter @fictionarrative or visit his website. You’ll also find John on Facebook.

Three Things with Nina Whyle, Authors of From Dusty With Love

I’m always fascinated by writing partnerships and when I heard Nina Whyle had a new book out I simply had to invite them onto Linda’s Book Bag. Bearing in mind we’re heading well into the festive season of the three kings, I thought I’d ask the ladies to tell me three things about From Dusty With Love and themselves.

Published on 6th December 2022, From Dusty With Love is available for purchase here.

From Dusty With Love

There’s a new spy on the block and what she lacks in skills she makes up for with perky enthusiasm.

Out of work actress Dusty Hall, is recruited into His Majesty’s Secret Service and this might be her best role yet! In training she meets Yazmin Khan, the epitome of a walking lethal weapon and a total badass. The two women couldn’t be more different but together they make the perfect duo.

Ready or not, the duo are sent on their first undercover mission: to infiltrate a Moroccan hotelier and suspected arms smuggler, Ahmed Al Sahid. Except there’s a snag, it falls on her sister Coco’s hen weekend. As maid-of-honour it is Dusty’s duty to ensure the bride-to-be has the best hen weekend ever! Coco is not someone you want to disappoint and is far scarier than any deadly, undercover operation. So, Dusty comes up with a cunning plan, to kill two birds with one stone, why not invite all the hens to Marrakech, job done. All she has to do is keep the two worlds apart – what could possibly go wrong?

Three Things

A Guest post by Nina Whyle

As in our friendship, when we are writing we just pick up where we left off. We don’t really have a big discussion about who’s writing what and because we have very limited writing time anyway, we just sort of get on with it. We do have a laugh in the process and perhaps a glass on occasion.

Writing in a Duo

 1) Firmly leave your ego at the door

 2)  Know and like each other’s writing style. Seems obvious but you need to love what the other does otherwise there’ll be conflict 

 3) Be each other’s sounding block, the good, the bad, and hopefully not the ugly. Draw strength and inspiration from one another, you’re not in competition- you are a partnership. Have lots of fun with it

Three Things about Clare

1) I’m a vegetarian Sci-fi Fan.  No, it’s not some weird new genre, it’s two facts. Mildly interesting?

2) Spent most of my adult life in Copenhagen until 2013

3) I have the most stubborn and wilful Maltese called Lolly (aka – Cato disguised in a fluffy white coat)

Three Things about Nina

1) Before children I worked as an Assistant Editor in TV & Films

2) I have written, directed and produced a short film called, Sucking is a fine quality in women and vacuum cleaners

You can watch it on Youtube here

3) I have two cats Bean and Smudge and a Bassett Hound called Potter. He’s the slowest dog in the village.

****

With those facts I think readers are going to be intrigued about your new book From Dusty With Love! Thanks ladies.

There’s a free novella, Best on Board, if readers sign up to Nina Whyle’s newsletter here too.

About Nina Whyle

Nina Whyle is a writing duo made up of two best friends. They write easy-reading, comical adventures of young woman coming into their own, no matter how haphazardly. With a dash of romance, always guaranteed. Their newest book is a comedy espionage adventure with female friendships and family at its heart. Bursting with action, intrigue and bucket loads of glamour.

For more information about the writing duo, follow them on Twitter @NINAWHYLE, Facebook and Instagram or visit their website.

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict

It gives me great pleasure today to share another of my My Weekly online reviews and on this occasion it is of Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 10th November 2022, Murder on the Christmas Express is available for purchase through the links here.

Murder on the Christmas Express

Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the sleeper train to the Highlands is derailed, along with the festive plans of its travellers. With the train stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere, a killer stalks its carriages, picking off passengers one by one. Those who sleep on the sleeper train may never wake again.

Can former Met detective Roz Parker find the killer before they kill again?

All aboard for . . . Murder on the Christmas Express

My Review of Murder on the Christmas Express

My full review of Murder on the Christmas Express can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that Murder on the Christmas Express is far more disturbing and gritty than I had anticipated and all the more affecting for it.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Alexandra Benedict

Alexandra Benedict has been a composer, singer-songwriter, actor, and lecturer in crime fiction, and is now an award-winning writer of novels, short stories and scripts. As AK Benedict, she writes high-concept novels, speculative short stories and scripts. Her first novel, the critically-acclaimed The Beauty of Murder, was nominated for the eDunnit Award; her short stories have featured in many anthologies; and her audio drama has been shortlisted for multiple awards including the BBC Audio Drama Award 2020, and, twice, for the Scribe Award, winning it in 2019. As Alexandra Benedict, she writes contemporary tributes and takes on Golden Age crime fiction. The Christmas Murder Game was an Amazon Fiction Bestseller and was long-listed for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Her latest novel, Murder on the Christmas Express, arrived on November 10th. She lives on the south coast of England with her fiancé, writer Guy Adams, their daughter, and their dog, Dame Margaret Rutherford.

For further information, follow Alexandra on Twitter @ak_benedict, visit her website, and find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Behind Closed Doors by Carol Wyer

I’m a huge fan of Carol Wyer both as an author and a very lovely human being and it’s far too long since I featured her here on Linda’s Book Bag. You’ll find other posts here. My grateful thanks go to Zoe of Zooloo’s Book Tours for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Carol’s latest book, Behind Closed Doors. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Thomas & Mercer today, 6th December 2022, Behind Closed Doors is available for purchase here.

Behind Closed Doors

Two kidnappings, thirty years apart. Can Stacey face her own dark past in order to save her stepdaughter?

When Stacey’s ex-husband turns up on her doorstep begging her to help save his kidnapped thirteen-year-old daughter, Lyra, the terror is all too familiar. Stacey’s own violent kidnapping thirty years ago was never solved, and while a severe case of amnesia spares her from recalling the specific horrors, she remembers enough…

Stacey knows her father never paid the ransom—she has the missing pinkie finger to prove it. She knows she was only saved because of an anonymous tip-off to the police. And she knows her captor was never apprehended.

Lyra’s kidnappers have made it clear the police must not get involved. But Stacey can’t shake the eerie similarities between the two cases, and she’ll use whatever she can, from her journalistic powers to her shady contacts, to save Lyra from the same nightmare. Desperate to find any link between Lyra’s abduction and her own, Stacey forces herself to revisit her forgotten, traumatic past for clues.

But can she make sense of the terrible secrets she unearths in time to save Lyra? And if she does, is she ready to face her own tormentor?

My Review of Behind Closed Doors

Jack needs Stacey’s help.

Behind Closed Doors opens dramatically and the pace is maintained throughout with a high octane finale that elevated my pulse considerably. I loved the timed and dated chapters because they lent a sense of urgency, heightening the tension in the story. I thought it was inspired to present the italicised events from the past through the present tense, because it gave them an immediacy and made it feel as if they were still occurring, drawing in the reader completely. It sounds somewhat ridiculous, but when I returned to Behind Closed Doors I often wondered what had been happening whilst I was away because I was so convinced by the writing!

What strikes me incredibly forcefully every time I read Carol Wyer is her profound understanding of humanity. She knows exactly what frailties we all have, and what the flaws are in our natures, so that reading her writing feels intimate, sensitive and affecting even when the plot is something we have never experienced. Behind Closed Doors swirls with human greed, deception, revenge, desire for love, intimacy and belonging and so many other forms of human interaction that it would reward many re-readings even after the plot is known. This is a layered and fascinating story.

It’s this level of human understanding that makes Stacey such a brilliant character. She’s complex and convincing, making her an ideal protagonist. Alongside her strength and intelligence is a vulnerability and occasional short-sightedness that doesn’t always serve her well. As Stacey’s responses are affected by her past, Behind Closed Doors has a sharply observed psychological edge. Stacey did infuriate me, because I wanted her to walk away from the investigation into Lyra’s disappearance as it felt too demanding for her, and yet at the same time I admired her fortitude and tenacity. This had the effect of making me feel as conflicted as Stacey is and hooked me in further. 

Compelling plot and character aside, however, what’s so interesting here is the manner with which Carol Wyer makes the reader question their own view of morality. In Behind Closed Doors there’s a fine line dividing the innocent and the guilty so that different types of crime, of immorality, permeate the story making it so fascinating to contemplate long after the final page is read. Sometimes doing the wrong thing is completely understandable! This dilemma mean that the writing is intelligent and affecting as well as highly entertaining in Behind Closed Doors.

I so enjoyed this book. Certainly Behind Closed Doors is a fast paced thriller that can be read as sheer entertainment, but I felt it had depths and qualities that deserved reflection and contemplation too. It felt like grown up writing of the best kind.

About Carol Wyer

USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer’s crime novels have sold over one million copies and been translated into nine languages.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in Little Girl Lost and proved that Carol had found her true niche.

February 2021 saw the release of the first in the much-anticipated new series, featuring DI Kate Young. An Eye For An Eye was chosen as a Kindle First Reads and became the #1 bestselling book on Amazon UK and Amazon Australia.

Carol has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post. She’s also been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr. Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy. When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

To learn more, can follow Carol on Twitter @carolewyer, visit her website and find her on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

An Extract from Snowflakes Over Muddleford Cove by Kim Nash

When I heard my lovely friend Kim Nash had just published her latest book, I simply had to ask her if I could feature it here on Linda’s Book Bag and luckily Kim agreed. I’m thrilled to bring you the opening chapter of Snowflakes over Muddleford Cove.

You’ll find other posts involving Kim on the blog as follows:

My review of Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove here (and now with a gorgeous new cover)

My chat with Kim about Sunshine and Second Chances here.

My review of Kim’s debut novel Amazing Grace here.

My review of Kim’s Escape to Giddywell Grange here.

Snowflakes Over Muddleford Cove was published yesterday, 5th December 2022, and is available for purchase here.

  Snowflakes Over Muddleford Cove

 

Love is in the air and the festive season is just around the corner at the seaside town of Muddleford.

Nellie is happily settled in her gorgeous clifftop home. Her favourite evenings are those spent at her beach hut, cozying up under a blanket with her fiancé. There’s nothing quite like spending time together under the twinkly stars – complete with a delicious hot chocolate and her dog Norman sprawled on their feet.

But she can’t help feeling that there’s still something missing.

When Nellie meets Esme, a mysterious visitor to Muddleford, the pair of them come up with a plan to raise money for the local animal shelter, leading to the grand finale – a Christmas Ball.

But Esme’s keeping a secret about Nellie’s past that promises to throw her whole world upside down.

Will this be Nellie’s perfect Christmas for the first time in forever? Or will it turn into her worst nightmare – one that she’ll never forget?

Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.

An Extract from Snowflakes Over Muddleford Cove

CHAPTER ONE

‘Phwoar! Quick Nell. Sexy silver fox approaching from the right!’

I lifted my glasses to see what on earth my friend was talking about.  Relaxing in the late autumn sunshine, sat outside beach hut number 136, she’d disturbed me daydreaming that Jack was massaging suntan lotion onto my shoulders, while I was lying on a beach in the Caribbean.  We could well have been based on how blooming hot it was in Muddleford today.  It was a scorcher for this time of year.

The silver fox that Shivani was referring to stopped just in front of us.  I held my hand up to keep the midday sun out of my eyes.

‘Hi Nellie, how are you?’

‘Hello, Kenny, nice to see you.  You’re brave jogging along the beach in this heat.’

I thought Shivani’s head was going to pop out of the top of her neck, the way she was straining.

‘Kenny, this is my friend Shivani.’

‘Charmed to meet you.’

Shivani positively preened as he reached across and offered his hand but then quickly withdrew it.

‘Sorry, actually I’m a bit sweaty.’

‘Ooh don’t mind me. I like a sweaty man,’ she giggled and flicked her hair. He turned to me.

‘I’ve had to come out at this time. You know early Sunday morning is a busy time for me Nellie.  This is the first chance I’ll get before I’m back at work again later.’

‘You work so hard Kenny.  You never stop.  You should come and have dinner with Jack and me one of the nights.  We’d love to spend some time with you.’

‘That would be so nice.  It’s no fun eating on your own all the time.  Thank you.’

‘I’ll get Jack to give you a call to sort out a date.’

‘Perfect! Thanks again. Anyway, I’d best get on.’ He started jogging on the spot.  ‘See you soon ladies.  Be good!’

‘Oh, where’s the fun in that?’  I was sure thatShivani winked at him as he left us and continued his jog down the promenade.  Her eyes never left his backside until he was just a speck in the distance at the end of our row of beach huts.

‘God, he’s fit! Why have you never told me about him before? Kenny is smoking hot.’

‘Shivani you perve! Kenny is our parish vicar.’

The Vicar! Well that’s just my bloody luck, isn’t it?  The first man I’ve laid eyes on in months andfancied the pants off and he’s a vicar.  The most action I’ve had in the lady garden department for years is when I went to the nurse for a smear last week.  I need me a man.’

I giggled.  My friend was incorrigible.

‘Anyway, he might be a vicar, but tell me more about him.  I might just pretend he isn’t and fantasise about him anyway.  He is very hot. What a waste.  You’d better crack on at inviting him around while I’m down here.  I could lust at him across the dinner table and wear a low-cut top and flash my tits at him and flutter my eyelashes and make him forget all about his vows to the Lord.’

‘Oh my God, shut up!’  We couldn’t stop laughing, so to calm us both down a bit, I told her what I knew about our parish vicar Reverend Kenny Thomas, who had replaced Reverend James Weaver when he retired from his role at Muddleford Parish Church around three months ago.  The congregation was so upset to see him retire after over twenty years in that role but soon perked up when they met Kenny.

The new vicar had certainly got the ladies of the local WI group a little flustered when he turned up to introduce himself at our monthly meeting.  He was, as Shivani had declared, extremely handsome.  Around 6 foot tall, with a body that looked like that of an Olympic athlete, twinkly blue eyes, short grey hair which he wore swept back off his face, and a short, neat grey beard, he’d definitely set the cat amongst the pigeons.  The ladies of the group nearly fell over each other offering him cups of tea and biscuits when they found out that he was single, and I’d heard from Jack’s mum Val, that after they’d met him, he had a continuous stream of visitors over at the vicarage with cakes and home-made meals.

‘Oh Shivani, there’s a very long queue to get in, if you want to make advances on the local vicar.  Get in line!’

‘A girl can dream can’t she?’ she sighed loudly.  ‘Anyhow, talking of bedroom action tell me all about you and Jack and what’s going on in the baby-making department.’

I sighed. ‘Not a fat lot to be honest.  Not for the want of trying though. We’re literally at it all the time, but there’s just nothing happening.  We’re going to the doctor for a chat next week.  Make sure we’re doing all the right things and that everything is ok.  Jack keeps telling me to chill out about it, he says I’m becoming a little obsessive, but I am a little worried I have to admit. I want a baby so much Shivani.  What if we’re not compatible? What if there’s something wrong with one of us? I just don’t think I could take it. It doesn’t help that within minutes of being married to Reg, Natalie is up the duff.  Bitchbag!’

I grinned to show that I didn’t mean my little dig at Natalie who was Jack’s practice manager. She and I had become friends after a dodgy start to our relationship when she had designs on Jack and was trying to warn me off him.  Then she met Reg and he literally changed her whole life. I tried so hard to be happy for them and I hope that they couldn’t see any difference, but on the inside, I was so jealous of what they had.

Shivani reached across and took my hand and gave it a little squeeze. ‘I can’t imagine how you must feel about Natalie mate, I really can’t.  A chat with the doctor can do no harm surely. At least then, you’ll know all the facts and what you can do next. Maybe Jack is right and you do need to relax a bit more.  Sometimes the stress of it all can make things worse.  I’m sure one of the girls who works in our sales department said that once she stopped stressing about becoming pregnant, she caught naturally. Just try. It can’t hurt can it.’

‘I know I should, but I’ve never wanted something so much in my life.  When I was a teenager, after Dad left and Mum had her drinking problems, I vowed that I would never have children and put them through what I went through.  But then after she died, I changed my mind because I would know all the things to do to be a good parent because of everything I’d lacked.  Even though my parents were no real example, I know that I would be a good mom and now Jack and I are together, and I know what an amazing father he’d be, I want it more than ever.  I want to have that perfect family that I never had.’

‘But you can’t let it take over your life Nell.  You need to put you and Jack first.’

‘You’re both right. It’s constantly on my mind right now and it has to stop.  Poor old Jack is exhausted.  He’s come home early from work twice this week after I’ve texted him and told him that I’d calculated that the time is right.  It’s not very romantic or spontaneous and it does feel that we’re doing it for the sake of making a baby, rather than because the mood takes us.’

‘Well don’t be doing that while I’m stopping with you. I don’t want you humping on the kitchen counter while I’m trying to make a sandwich, you big sex pest.’

I grinned at her. She always did have the ability to see the light in any situation.

‘Anyway, I’m just going to close my eyes and enjoy fantasising over the sexy vicar while you make me a coffee.’

‘I’m not your slave you know and stop perving over the vicar. There’s something very wrong about it.’  I smiled at my friend of many years. We’d met at college and had become best friends ever since.  I was so glad she had decided to take a week off work and come and spend it with Jack and me here in Muddleford.  Knowing how much I would miss her had been one of the reasons why I wasn’t sure about moving, but she assured me that she’d be visiting all the time and so far was definitely keeping up her side of the bargain.

‘Oh I know you’re not, but since you inherited your Aunty Lil’s house and this beach hut, you’ve been a bit of a lady of leisure you know.  You need a purpose in life.  So go on.  Be a love and put the kettle on. I’m gagging for it here and I’m not talking about the vicar.’

‘You say I’ve been a lady of leisure, but I’ve been helping out at the animal rescue centre and doing stuff for the WI too you know. It’s all go really and I don’t really have time to go to work these days even if I had a job. Actually, I have another idea too that I want to talk to you about while you’re here and get your thoughts on.’

‘Oh, that sounds interesting.  You’re a proper community girl now, aren’t you?  Girlfriend to the local vet, a friend of the church, on the committee of the local WI, and an all-round-carer at the rescue centre.  I still can’t believe you are in the WI.  I didn’t even know you baked cakes.’

‘I’ve told you before, the WI isn’t all about jam and Jerusalem.  There’s so much more to it than that.  We have craft events, raise money for the local church, and yes that has become a priority for the group now that they’ve taken Kenny under their wing, raise money for the rescue centre and so much more.  It’s about supporting women and making a difference in the community.  We had someone from a local domestic violence shelter at the last meeting, telling us how we can help women who are fleeing their homes.  You wouldn’t believe the number of women and children fleeing domestic violence situations on a daily basis.

‘It’s all so worthwhile Shivani and I feel for the first time in my life as if I really am part of a community and have a real purpose and have the time and the means to help people. For the first time in my life, I feel like am finally making a difference. ’

‘You don’t have to sell it to me you know babe.  I can see how much you are enjoying it.  Look at you.  You’re positively glowing inside and out.  Muddleford life certainly does suit you.  I did have my doubts about you moving down here to Dorset full-time, I have to admit, but you’ve settled in fabulously. And the house is looking beautiful too.  You’ve worked so hard on it to make it your own.’

Along with the beach hut, number 37 Larkspur Lane had been part of my inheritance from my Aunty Lil, who sadly I hadn’t seen for years due to an argument that she and my Mum had years ago.  It was the house that I’d spent many holidays in as a child, but I decided that if Jack and I were going to make it our family home, and move forward, leaving the past behind us, changes had to be made.  I wanted it to be perfect for us both before Jack moved in. While it was a beautiful big old house, it needed some modernising and redecorating.  We’d worked really hard and had got it looking fabulous and Jack had moved in properly instead of stopping over and doing what he always said felt like the walk of shame to his bedsit next door to get changed etc.

We were very lucky to have this gorgeous house by the sea to start our life together.  Some couples spent years saving and would never be able to afford what we had, but that’s what Aunty Lil had said that she wanted to do for me.  To give me a head start in life and I would always be grateful to her.  My friend Dom, the solicitor who dealt with all the finances for Aunty Lil, had suggested that Jack and I should write a prenup. I didn’t want to, but he and Jack discussed it at length apparently, and decided that it was the right thing to do.  Hopefully, Jack and I would be together forever, but you can never predict the future, and they both wanted to make sure that I was protected.  Jack wasn’t short of a bob or two, as a partner in the vet’s practice in the village and I knew he would never rip me off but I finally gave in and agreed.

‘Hasn’t that kettle boiled yet?’ Shivani yelling at me across from the front of the beach hut brought me back to the present.

‘You are a slave driver!’ I laughed as I took two mugs out and plonked them on the low table between the two chairs.

I’d just got myself comfy in my chair again.

‘What no biscuits?’ she winked at me.

At this point, a sleepy little bark made us both laugh.

‘Oh Norman, did naughty Aunty Shiv say the ‘b-word?’ I got up again, popped a big bone-shaped dog biscuit in my pocket, fetched a packet of chocolate digestives, and chucked the packet on Shivani’s lap.

Norman, my gorgeous little furry friend, who I’d also inherited from Aunty Lil, came and sat beautifully at my feet, and held up his paw for a treat.

‘Who’s a bootiful boy then?  My Normie.  Aren’t you?’  Yes, I had turned into one of those people who talked that way to a dog.

‘You’re nicer to that dog than you are to me you know.’ Shivani commented.

‘That’s because he’s a million times better behaved than you are.’

‘Excellent point made Nell.’  We clinked mugs.

I smiled at my friend and we laughed as Norman spun around three times and settled down with his biscuit.

‘This really is the life.’  Shivani sighed.  ‘I feel like I’ve already chilled out and left all my worries behind and I only arrived yesterday. I can honestly see why you love it here Nell.  I think Muddleford is the most perfect place in the world.’

****

And I think I need to return to Muddleford as soon as I can!

About Kim Nash

Kim Nash is an author of uplifting, funny, heartwarming, romantic, feel-good fiction and has wanted to write books since she was a little girl.

She lives in Staffordshire with her son Ollie and English Setter rescue dog Roni, is Digital Publicity Director for publisher Bookouture (a division of Hachette UK) and is a book blogger at Kim The Bookworm.

When she’s not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog at Cannock Chase, reading, writing and binge-watching box sets on the TV. She’s also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Staffordshire and organises local and national reader/author events.

Amazing Grace was her debut novel which came out in April 2019.

Escape to Giddywell Grange is Kim’s second novel and was published in September 2019.

Sunshine and Second Chances is Kim’s third novel and was published in June 2020.

Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove is her fourth book and was published in March 2021.

Snowflakes Over Muddleford Cove is her fifth book and is published in December 2022.

For more information, find Kim on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KimTheBookworm.

Cover Reveal: The Venice Secret by Anita Chapman

It’s a real pleasure to be part of the cover reveal for lovely Anita Chapman’s The Venice Secret today today and I’d like to thank Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. It’s always so exciting being in at the start of a book’s journey.

The Venice Secret

One hidden painting. Two women born centuries apart. A secret uncovered.

In 2019, Rachel is stuck in a rut when she discovers what appears to be a Canaletto painting in her grandmother’s loft along with a note addressed to Philippa in 1782. With help from Jake at the local art gallery, Rachel endeavours to find out if the painting is an original and uncovers a secret from the past.

In 1780, governess at Chipford Hall, Philippa is offered the role of mistress by Earl Rupert. She escapes to Venice as companion to bluestocking, Lady Cordelia who reveals a secret that changes both their lives. They do their best to keep the secret from Lady Cordelia’s social circle, but their nemesis is determined to reveal all and ruin them.

****

Doesn’t that sound intriguing?

The Venice Secret will be published on 7th March 2023 and is available for pre-order here.

About Anita Chapman

Anita Chapman enjoyed writing stories from a young age, and won a local writing competition when she was nine years old. Encouraged by this, she typed up a series of stories about a mouse on her mum’s typewriter and sent them to Ladybird. She received a polite rejection letter, her first.

Many of Anita’s summers growing up were spent with her family driving to Italy, and she went on to study French and Italian at university. As part of her degree, Anita lived in Siena for several months where she studied and au paired, and she spent a lot of time travelling around Italy in her twenties.

Anita likes to read journals and diaries from the past, and one of her favourite pastimes is visiting art galleries and country houses. Her first published novel, The Venice Secret is inspired by her mother taking her to see the Canalettos at The National Gallery in London as a child.

Since 2015, Anita has worked as a social media manager, training authors on social media, and helping to promote their books. She’s run several courses in London and York, and has worked as a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College.

For further information, visit Anita’s website, follow her on Twitter @neetschapman, or find Anita on Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.

Staying in with Bear Lawrence

It gives me enormous pleasure today to welcome Bear Lawrence to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me to tell me all about a book I think will resonate with many of us. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Bear Lawrence

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Bear and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought along my first book published on Amazon, Bear with ME. It’s actually the third book that I have written, but the others wouldn’t be of interest to most people.

What makes you say that?

The other two books include my Biomedical Engineering PhD thesis and a novel I co-wrote with a friend years ago, which even I don’t like!

Hmm. Fair point!

I’ve chosen Bear with ME because it’s been written to raise awareness of Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.

That sounds extremely important. So, what can we expect from an evening in with Bear with ME?

Bear with ME will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It’s a collection of humorous, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories based on my own experiences. Fortunately, and unfortunately in some cases, I’ve a lot of stories to draw on from jobs as varied as being a gardener to a university lecturer. I’ve also lived in various parts of the world from as warm as the Caribbean to as cold as Norway.

It sounds like you’ve had quite a life. Tell me more.

When I was diagnosed with the chronic illness, ME/CFS, my life was turned upside down. Once a dynamic, hard-working person, I now had a debilitating and hidden disability. Frustrated with difficulties in explaining my illness to friends and family, I decided to write an article, ‘me and my ME’ for the local parish newsletter to raise awareness in the local community.

When the editor of the parish newsletter told me it would be a few weeks before I saw his finished article in print, I decided to put it on a Facebook ME/CFS page. The response was astonishing with a ‘love’, ‘care’ or ‘like’ being clicked from all over the world. The article was read thousands of times within a couple of weeks.

Buoyed by this success, I decided to write a second article to raise awareness but outside of the ME/CFS community. ‘Motorbikes, Helicopters, PTSD and ME’ was the result and it was also read thousands of times online.

After writing three more articles to raise awareness, I hoped that I might also be able to help those touched by Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. I wrote five more articles with this aim in mind.

With ten articles written, I realised that writing the back to story to each of these articles would make a book. Understanding the importance of editing and book cover design, I worked with illustrators, designers and an experienced editor to produce the best book that I could. The cover has a drawing of a Bear holding hands with a small blue monster. The monster represents ME and it is blue after the colour of the ribbons used to raise awareness of ME. Blue and purple are used for the text on the cover, purple ribbons being used to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia. The illustration and book cover has struck a chord amongst people with chronic illness and poor mental health.

I feel very privileged to be featuring you here Bear. I had no idea about the significance of the colours and if we can raise awareness of chronic illnesses in ways that will help I’m more than happy to do so.

I hope that after reading even one article that reader would have more understanding of some of these chronic conditions. My big hope is that like himself, you too will become an ‘Awarenessist’ after reading Bear with ME!

I’m going to have to read Bear with ME soon to find out! 

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought a little bit of advice. One of my articles is titled, ‘Has ME changed me?’ Whilst it has unquestionably physically changed me, it has not changed me fundamentally as a person. I remain kind and empathetic. I also remain daring, although not in the sense of daring such as snow-boarding, sky-diving or snake charming. My daring is writing with such honesty and openness that it can make a person weep. People with chronic illnesses are often grieving for their old selves and depressed. My advice is to sit or lie down with your favourite snacks and drinks, and let the furball cuddle in and enjoy life!

I think that’s wonderful advice regardless of the experience you’re going through Bear. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story with me. It’s been a real pleasure to chat with you about Bear with ME.

Bear with ME

Bear With ME is a collection of humorous, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories and articles. All were inspired by true events experienced by the author, Bear Lawrence, who has led a quite remarkable life. ‘Bread, Biscuits and Murder’, ‘Motorbikes, Helicopters, PTSD and ME’, ‘me and my ME’ and other astonishing, inspiring, educating stories will leave you both laughing and crying as Bear reveals his soul.

These stories and articles were written to raise awareness and help those touched by Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. The back story to each of these makes for compelling reading in a book you’ll struggle to put down. Bear hopes that like himself, you too will become an ‘Awarenessist’.

Bear with ME is available for purchase here.

About Bear Lawrence

Bear Lawrence has enjoyed an interesting life. He’s worked as a delivery driver in Norway, a helicopter tour pilot in the Caribbean and a helicopter flight instructor in Oregon. In the UK, he’s been a sales assistant, gardener, landlord, biomedical engineer, university lecturer and award-winning inventor. He’s even found time to race motorbikes, yachts and karts.

Diagnosed with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, Bear now writes articles and books to raise awareness of chronic illnesses and hidden disabilities. These are also intended to help those touched by Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS in particular. He wants people to join him in being an Awarenessist!

For more information, find Bear on Twitter @BearLawrence1, Facebook and Instagram.

An Extract from A Killer Strikes by Georgia Rose

Despite never having met Georgia Rose in real life, I feel she has become a friend over the time I’ve been blogging – not least because she has supported me tirelessly, sharing my posts unselfishly on her social media. When I realised that Georgia hadn’t featured on Linda’s Book Bag since we stayed in together to chat about Parallel Lies (here) and that she has a new book, A Killer Strikes, coming out on 1st January 2023, I simply had to feature her again. Luckily Georgia has allowed me to share a snippet from the book and I think you’ll agree, it is brilliant!

Let’s find out more about A Killer Strikes.

A Killer Strikes will be published on 1st January 2023 and is available for pre-order here.

A Killer Strikes

The perfect family… The perfect murders…

A family massacred. A village in mourning. Can anyone sleep safely while a killer is on the loose?

Laura Percival, owner of The Stables, notices something wrong at her friend’s house when out on her morning ride. Further investigation reveals scenes she’ll never forget.

While the police are quick to accuse, Laura is less so, defending those around her as she struggles to make sense of the deaths. And all the time she wonders if she really knew her friends at all.

A chance encounter opens up a line of investigation that uncovers a secret life. One that Laura is much closer to than she ever realised.

A Killer Strikes is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and dark revelations then you’ll love this exciting novel.

An Extract from A Killer Strikes

At the beginning of the third week of January, I’m riding Fifty back up School Lane towards home when, in the distance, I see a girl standing on the opposite verge to Number 9 staring at the property. She’s on the skinny side of slim, shoulders slightly hunched as if she’s not strong enough to square them, long dark hair that hangs like curtains, and she’s transfixed on something about the house. The police tape is still in place but, now broken in a couple of places, the tatty ends hang down on this still day. I get closer. The noise of us approaching does nothing to distract her from her focus. Until, that is, I call out to her.

‘Hey, are you okay?’ Then I immediately regret it.

She jumps like a startled rabbit at my voice, as though it’s broken her trance, and turns away from me scrabbling for her car door.

I stop, hoping she might too. ‘Don’t go. Did you know Jenny?’ She looks about her age.

She ignores me, climbing quickly into the car before slamming the door and driving off in a hurry. I haven’t seen her around here before and wonder why she’s come now. I curse myself for scaring her off. She could, of course, simply have been a friend leaving flowers, but there was something about the fact she couldn’t get away from me fast enough that I found curious.

Like I had caught her out.

Or she knew something.

****

Doesn’t that make you want to dive right in to A Killer Strikes? I’m so thrilled to be able to share that with you today. Oh, and it says something about Georgia as a person too that she asked me to add the following:

Many thanks for inviting me onto your super blog, Linda. I appreciate the support.

Isn’t that just lovely?

About Georgia Rose

Georgia Rose is a writer and the author of the romantic and suspenseful Grayson Trilogy books: A Single Step, Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water. Following completion of the trilogy she was asked for more and so wrote a short story, The Joker, which is based on a favourite character from the series and the eBook is available to download for free here.

Her fourth novel, Parallel Lies, encompasses crime along with Georgia’s usual blending of genre and its sequel, Loving Vengeance, has now completed The Ross Duology.

Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her passion for people watching and her overactive imagination.

She has also recently started running workshops and providing one-to-one support for those wishing to learn how to independently publish and you can find her, under her real name, at www.threeshirespublishing.com.

Following a long stint working in the law Georgia set up her own business providing administration services for other companies which she does to this day managing to entwine that work along with her writing.

Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire in the UK where she lives with her much neglected husband and dog.

You can find out more about Georgia Rose on her web site and on Facebook. You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter @georgiarosebook. You’ll also find all about Georgia on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Single in the Snow by Helen Whitaker

My enormous thanks to the publicists at Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Single in the Snow by Helen Whitaker in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published in paperback by Hodder on 29th December 2022, Single in the Snow is available to order through the links here.

Single in the Snow

Jen is turning thirty and has spent her entire life jumping from man to man. So, when her latest relationship ends in disaster, she decides she needs to stop pleasing others and focus on herself. And where better to start afresh than the beautiful Canadian ski resort of Whistler?

Okay, she’s broke, unemployed, and has never so much as strapped on a pair of skis – but Jen is determined to make it on her own. She just has one rule: to stay single for the entire ski season.

When a new job forces Jen into contact with snowboarding instructor Art, the two of them are set on keeping their distance. It shouldn’t be hard, since they hate one another on sight – and Art knows better than anyone how to keep other people at arm’s length.

The problem is, the more time they are forced to spend together, the clearer it seems that Jen’s promise to stay single might not be quite so simple . . .

My Review of Single in the Snow

Jen’s making a fresh start in life.

What a fabulous book! Single in the Snow is funny and sad in equal measure and is a really wonderful read.

The plot is so important to today’s world. Certainly there is romance in the background, but Helen Whitaker explores love in many forms, including that in families and between friends, the most important of all being self-love. She illustrates to perfection the way so often we mould ourselves to fit in with others, or how we suppress our true feelings so that we don’t get hurt or display our real emotions. Both Jen and Art have demons to overcome and their development through the narrative is just brilliantly done.

Indeed, I adored the way that Helen Whitaker links the similarities between Jen’s physical efforts and Art’s mental health in a way that acts as a catalyst for the reader’s emotions and makes Single in the Snow absolutely belie the opinions that romantic fiction is ‘fluffy’ or meaningless in any way. This is a book that has lightness of touch, romance and humour but which thrums with mature emotion too, making it highly effective and affecting.

The characters have depth and attraction – often because of, rather than in spite of, their flaws. The one exception for me was Eduardo. Much as I abhor violence, if I ever met Eduardo in real life, I really would have to punch him! Jen is a triumph. She is a kind of Everywoman who embodies traits that all readers can appreciate and Art’s realistic struggles to come to terms with what has happened in his past are simply heart rending.

Aside from the developing, and repairing, relationships in the story, the themes are wonderfully explored. Workplace harassment and bullying, taking a chance, being true to yourself, mental and physical health, happiness and how we find it and so much more fill the pages of Single in the Snow to the extent that I laughed and cried reading this story and thought it was fabulous.

With a gorgeous snowy setting, romance and reality woven together with consummate skill and characters to fall in love with, Single in the Snow is the perfect winter read. I loved it.

About Helen Whitaker

Helen Whitaker is a journalist and author living in London. Formerly the Entertainment Director of Glamour UK, her day job is currently Editor of High Life magazine and she writes books in her lunch hour, in the evenings and in any free time she has around parenting. She has been published in Grazia, The Telegraph, Fabulous, Stella, Red and BBC Three. She lives in Walthamstow with her husband and son. Her first novel, The School Run, came out in 2019, and I Give it a Year came out in 2021.

For further information, visit Helen’s website, find her on Instagram, or follow Helen on Twitter @helbobwhitaker.

The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley

A short while ago I was privileged to share an extract from The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley in a post you’ll find here. Today, over on the My Weekly website, I’m thrilled to share my review. I also reviewed A Special Cornish Christmas by Phillipa Ashley on the My Weekly website here.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon on 10th November 2022, The Christmas Holiday is available for purchase through the links here.

The Christmas Holiday

She’s planned the perfect Christmas. But fate might have other ideas…

Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.

With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.

But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.

Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.

Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…

Let Sunday Times bestseller Phillipa Ashley whisk you away to the Lakes this Christmas, with a story full of unexpected romance, second chances, snowflakes and starlight! Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Karen Swan and Heidi Swain.

My Review of The Christmas Holiday

My full review of The Christmas Holiday can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that The Christmas Holiday absolutely brims with the true meaning of Christmas in an exciting, engaging and emotional story that I adored.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Phillipa Ashley

Philippa Ashley

Phillipa Ashley writes warm, funny romantic fiction for a variety of international publishers. The first two books in her best-selling Cornish Café series made the Amazon Top 20 and Top 10 chart in 2016.

Phillipa lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter.

For more information about Phillipa, visit her website or find her on Instagram or Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @PhillipaAshley.