Giveaway of Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie

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I’m very pleased to be part of the paperback launch celebrations for Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie. Burned and Broken is published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown and is available for purchase directly from the publisher and on Amazon as well as from other retailers like Waterstones.

To celebrate Burned and Broken I’m delighted to have a UK Only paperback giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.

Burned and Broken

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A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

The charred body of a policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out-shell of his car on the Southend seafront.

To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague’s murder, dark secrets begin to emerge.

Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?

About Mark Hardie

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Mark Hardie began writing full time after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction.

You can follow Mark on Twitter.

Giveaway

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UK only I’m afraid! Click here for your chance to win a paperback copy of Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie. Giveaway ends at UK midnight on Monday 30th January 2017.

Problems and Solutions, a Guest Post by Ruchira Khanna, author of Choices

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I’m pleased to welcome Ruchira Khanna, author of Choices, to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about the links between life and writing for her. Choices is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Choices

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Leonardo is a young man who is standing on a crossroad of life, facing choices. He has a few questions, questions that all of us have faced when facing choices that can change our lives.

Does fate make a man, or do his desires?

Do ambitions and desires actually lead a person to true happiness and fulfillment, or does providence and life changing events actually show a person the true path to follow?

Choices raises these questions, and attempts to answer them. It is a slice-of-life, a book written from the heart.

One Life, Many Challenges

A Guest Post by Ruchira Khanna

One life, many challenges…

All humans endure this problem as we breathe in deep and exhale with a cold sigh and continue to trudge along this planet, Earth.

Many of us leave this world without a thought of solving it, as our minds are so muddled up with the daily activities thus avoiding to complete the full circle wherein lies confused relationships, grim expectations and a foul taste with regards to the other person’s loyalty.

But, honestly, all problems have a solution!

Be it changing the tyre of one’s car to modifying the direction in one’s life. The only thing constant is the “I.”

If I am keen on the change, even the Universe will comply with my wishes. Such is the power of positive thoughts.

That’s how my books come into life … I choose themes for my books that are related to man and his daily grudges. For instance, in Choices, my first novel, I talk about what makes our life. Is it the choices we make or is it predestined?  Do ambitions and desires actually lead a person to true happiness and fulfillment, or do providence and life changing events actually show a person the actual path to follow? Choices raises these questions, and attempts to answer them via a fiction tale.

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My second novel, Voyagers into the Unknown has a theme of happiness, and I show via my fantasy novel how and why travelers travel thousands of miles to get happiness in their lives.

It is a vibrant story of transformation from an unlikely source: a local tour guide of historical Agra, India where the Taj Majal still sways those who behold it. Seeped in educational philosophy, this novel is an uplifting read.

The problems these characters face is just like you and me thus, most of us can relate to it.

My readers have given me a tag line, “Books that make me ponder.” The proof lies in the reviews on Amazon.

America is a country of immigrants with most of us breathing two cultures, and the challenge lies when life envelops you with an individual situation. There is always the confusion to either go left or right over it.

My upcoming novel, Breathing Two Worlds talks about balancing life between two cultures. Being mindful of decisions to make when in a certain environment. I have tried to showcase the two cultures my protagonist experiences, and via a fiction tale, I try to clear the cobwebs in her mind.

For me, my inspiration is the society that I live in. Being conscious of the problems around me, and penning it down via a fiction tale allows me to make the reader ponder over the solutions that the character in the novel tries to display thus, allowing the person who reads to take a take-home message in a subtle way.

I remember my Math’s teacher used to give importance to even the seconds in our lives. She would compare it to diamonds.

“Each second is like a diamond!” would be her Mantra and I have taken forward that quote by giving importance to my readers and their valuable time by making sure they benefit from the time spent in reading and purchasing my books!

About Ruchira Khanna

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Ruchira Khanna, a biochemist turned writer, left her homeland of India to study in America, where she obtained her Master’s degree in Biochemistry from SJSU and a degree in Technical Writing from UC Berkeley.

After finishing her studies, Ruchira worked as a biochemist at a Silicon Valley startup for five years. After the birth of her son, Ruchira took a job as a technical writer, so that she could work from home. Soon, she began freelance writing work as well.

Her love of writing grew and she started working on her own books. After four years of freelancing, Ruchira published her first book, a fiction novel for adults called Choices.

Then came the children’s book The Adventures of Alex and Angelo: The Mystery of the Missing Iguana. 

Since then Ruchira has published Voyagers into the Unknown, about the quest for happiness.

In addition to writing books, she also maintains an inspirational blog of daily mantras on Blogspot, called Abracabadra. Ruchira currently resides in California with her family.

You can visit Ruchira’s website and find her on Facebook. Ruchira’s books are all available here.

An Interview with Alex Martin, author of The Rose Trail

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I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Rose Trail by Alex Martin recently and so I decided to ask Alex if she would mind being interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag. Luckily she agreed. The Rose Trail was published on 11th December 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Rose Trail

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Is it chance that brings Fay and Persephone together?
Or is it the restless and malevolent spirit who stalks them both?
Once rivals, they must now unite if they are to survive the mysterious trail of roses they are forced to follow into a dangerous, war torn past.

The Rose Trail is a timeslip novel set in both the present day and during the English Civil War. The complex story weaves through both eras with a supernatural thread.

An Interview with Alex Martin

Hi Alex. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and your latest book, The Rose Trail.

Thank you very much for inviting me, Linda.

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I live in south Wales but grew up in Wiltshire, where many of my stories are set. I worked as a secretary in my youth but didn’t find it that fulfilling. I always had a yen to write but some health issues took me down the path of complementary medicine and I still run a private practice, although only part time now, from my home. I had always wanted to write, ever since I learned to read and discovered the joy of being lost in a story. When it became obvious the Government would postpone my State Pension age to 66, I decided I had better get serious about writing. In a way, I’m glad that happened, as I probably would never have got up the courage to publish otherwise. Necessity is the mother of invention. Now I’ve published 5 novels and have reached the modest financial target I set myself all those years ago. It is very satisfying but more importantly, I love doing it and have many more fictional ideas I can’t wait to realise.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

Do you know, I think it was when I was a child? I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t feel that writing was my ultimate destiny. Now, I wish I’d had the discipline to write seriously much, much earlier, but hindsight is ever a marvellous thing.

You say you came late to publishing if not to writing. How has this impacted on your experience as an author?

Good question. I think it makes me more driven, knowing how much time I’ve wasted.

You write historical fiction. What draws you to that rather than a more contemporary setting?

I think the past can teach us so much. There are patterns in collective human behaviour that we can recognise and learn from. Hopefully we can select the positive and chuck out the negatives. Certainly in researching WW1 I was shocked, saddened and surprised at the ingenuity and courage of that generation. I find it fascinating to research how everyday living was managed in different time periods. What people wore, ate, how they lived and what they believed in. I think studying history helps us understand the path we all travelled to arrive at today’s world.

Many of your titles have reference to plants. Is this to do with writing in a garden shed?

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Haha! Well spotted. No, it’s not because of The Plotting Shed but to do with my previous career as a herbalist and aromatherapist. I simply love plants and they are part of who I am.

 

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

My previous career had its creative side – building a website, writing handouts about foods/health issues and plants. I also took people on herbal walks and talked about plants, taught them which plants to pick and what they could make from them and also did soap-making and bath-bomb workshops. Plus I do love to cook. I almost opened a restaurant years ago with a previous husband but ended up leaving him instead! But that’s another story – maybe it’ll turn into one anyway!

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

It’s much easier these days with the internet. When I researched Daffodils, there was very little on the web about WW1 but since the centenary there’s loads, so I’ve revised the book a couple of times as I’ve learned more. I also have shelves of books on the subject. I enjoy research trips too. Great excuse for an escapade. For instance, I went to both Beaulieu Motor Museum and Brooklands Racing Museum for Speedwell. The latter now stock the paperback in their shop, which is gratifying. The picture on the cover is a real shot of a race held there in the 1920’s when the book is set.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest bit is getting the ideas. They often appear in a dream with utter clarity and I scribble them down the minute I wake and the story builds from there. Then I do an outline of the story arc. The hardest bit is avoiding the soggy middle and keeping it alive and tight all the way through, despite what life might be throwing at you at the time.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

No routines but rather I have phases. Sometimes I love to get up in the early dawn, or even before it is light, and write in that special quiet time before the day begins. Other times, when I’m on a roll and the story has me in its grip, I’ll write for 18 hours a day. I love those days; although it is exhausting, it’s also thrilling. I write in my Plotting Shed. It was built by my husband and I from a kit (unlabelled and in howling gales) for the purpose. It sits at the end of my long, thin cottage garden and I can see the sun and shadows playing across the Welsh hills from the window in front of my desk. It’s good to have a distant perspective when you need to dream and think.

The Rose Trail has a supernatural thread which seems a departure from your other fiction. Was this a conscious decision or did your writing evolve naturally to include this element?

Such excellent questions! I would say it was a natural evolution. I decided to do straightforward historical fiction as I thought it would be a safe bet to start me off but I love the thin, almost transparent veil that I believe exists between time zones. This awareness came about through healing work and I want to weave it into my writing more.

I think there’s a feeling of opulence in the cover of The Rose Trail. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Oh good! As The Rose Trail is so different from my other books, I wanted the cover to be equally distinct. It’s a darker tale (although you can’t really get much darker than WW1) so I wanted the cover to be black. The artist, Jane Dixon-Smith, worked her usual magic from my disparate ideas. The pomander is central to the plot, and ideally should have been older by a few hundred years but I couldn’t get a picture of one without copyright issues. The roses too figure largely throughout the story as the ghostly master of ceremonies bears that name.

(Readers can see more about Jane Dixon-Smith’s design work here.)

If you could choose to be a character from The Rose Trail, who would you be and why?

Fay Armstrong is loosely based on me but only in part. She can do mathematics.

If The Rose Trail became a film, who would you like to play Fay and Persephone and why would you choose them?  

I wish! Hmm, that’s a hard one. Persephone would have to be someone utterly gorgeous and glamorous, say Cameron Diaz, with that slight ambiguity to leave people guessing if she really is a bimbo. Fay is more difficult but I think Renee Zellweger, seeing as she’s happy to put weight on for a part, might carry it off. She’d have to have a crap hair-do as well, of course, which might be a bridge(t) too far?

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Usually research books these days! But I love reading all sorts of books. I enjoyed The Light Between Oceans recently and am currently reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

Everything gives me ideas for writing! It could be some natural inspiration on a walk, an overheard conversation, a knotty problem from my own life, something I’ve read or watched. The hard thing is converting these into print!

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Rose Trail should be their next read, what would you say? 

“Fay slips unwillingly between now and a war torn past, lured on by a restless and malevolent ghost.”

I know readers signing up to your newsletter here will receive three free short stories in Trio. How far do these stories reflect the style of your novels?

These short stories are quite different. Two are contemporary and bittersweet. All are exposures of different frailties in people.

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Thank you so much Alex for your time in answering my questions and in providing such interesting answers.

Linda, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog.

About Alex Martin

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Alex Martin can mostly be found, scribbling or tapping away in her garden shed, indulging her passion for writing, as the wind and rain lash at her little refuge.  Her debut book, The Twisted Vine is based on her own grapepicking adventures in the 1980’s in France when she, like Roxanne Rudge, was running away from life.

The Katherine Wheel Series, Daffodils, Peace Lily, and Speedwell cover the time between WW1 and the roaring twenties. Alex is currently working on the fourth and final book, Woodbine and Ivy, set in the second World War.

Her latest novel, The Rose Trail, is set between the English Civil War and the present day and was inspired by a real battle that took place in Devizes, where Alex used to live. It is a ghost story woven with a supernatural thread.

You can catch up with the launch of new books, reviews, discussions and discount offers on Alex’s blog and you can follow Alex on Twitter. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

All of Alex’s lovely books are available here.

An Interview with Carol Wyer, author of Little Girl Lost

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It gives me great pleasure to be helping to celebrate the launch of Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer. Little Girl Lost is the first in the Detective Robyn Carter crime thriller series, published on 19th January by Bookouture, and is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

To celebrate publication of Little Girl Lost Carol has kindly agreed to an interview on Linda’s Book Bag.

Little Girl Lost

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A perfect family hiding disturbing secrets. A killer who wants the truth to be told.

A teacher is found dead, close to the school where he works.

A millionaire is murdered at a local reservoir.

For Detective Robyn Carter, there’s no obvious link between the victims. Apart from one thing. The bodies both have the same grisly trophy beside them – a bloodstained toy rabbit.

As Robyn starts to delve into the lives of the two dead men, her investigations lead her to Abigail, perfect wife and mother to beautiful little Izzy. What was Abigail’s connection to the victims? And why is she receiving threatening messages from an anonymous number?

But as Robyn starts to inch closer to finding the killer, Izzy is abducted.

Unless Robyn gets to the twisted individual in time, a little girl will die …

Gripping, fast paced and nailbitingly tense, this serial killer thriller will chill you to the bone. Discover Carol Wyer’s new series – at a special launch price.

An Interview with Carol Wyer

Hi Carol. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and your latest novel Little Girl Lost in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I hate talking about myself but here goes: I became a full-time writer in 2010 when I turned my attention from writing children’s educational books as a hobby, to the adult market.

My first two novels Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines and Surfing in Stilettos won several awards for humour and much attention from the media. Since then, I’ve appeared on numerous BBC radio stations, several international radio stations, NBC television and BBC Breakfast television, and Sky television, discussing age-related subjects such as ‘Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Grumpy Old Menopause’. In 2015 I won the prestigious People’s Book Prize Award for Grumpy Old Menopause.

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I’ve written articles for, and featured in, several national women’s magazines, including Take A Break, Choice, Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Own who also wrote about my journey to becoming a best-selling author.

Having written ten humorous books –three non-fiction and seven fiction, I changed direction this year, and am writing a series of psychological thrillers, and published by Bookouture, featuring DI Robyn Carter. The first, Little Girl Lost released in January 2017, has had some rave reviews and shows I have found my true niche.  (Pause for an evil laugh.)

(I’m finding that laugh slightly unnerving!)

And tell us a bit about Little Girl Lost (without any spoilers please!)

It’s a psychological thriller told from the points of view of three people: Robyn Carter, Abigail Thornton and a murderer. The opening is very gritty and made me wince writing it, but is essential to the plot which twists and turns. I’m going to use a recent review which describes it far better than I can, as I tend to give away too much. This is from Penny For My Thoughts Blog:

DI Robyn Carter is drawn into a search for a common denominator in a series of seemingly unrelated murders. Were the murders revenge for an act committed years ago and if so, who is the killer? When a husband goes missing and his wife discovers that he may not be the person she thought she married, she turns to a private detective rather than the police. Robyn returns to the police force after a leave of absence and discovers that her first assignment crosses paths with the missing husband and everyone involved has secrets and something to hide. Which secret leads to death and who has the most to lose if their true identity is discovered? Is someone setting up Abigail to be a victim or is she battling postnatal depression and seeing and hearing things that don’t exist?

(That sounds fantastic!)

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

Although I’d written educational books for children, I didn’t consider writing as a career until my son left home and I converted his bedroom to an office. That was in 2009.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I’d have definitely been an actress or show presenter. I love the limelight!

How far do you think teaching English has impacted on you as a writer?

Teaching set texts to GCSE and A-Level students that required analysis certainly had an effect on my writing. I can’t put pen to paper without dissecting my plots and chapters and ensuring they do not fall short. This is particularly true of the series of thrillers. I am paranoid that I have made an error in my timeline, or introduced an inaccurate piece of information that someone will spot. I enjoy playing about with descriptive words or juxtaposing scenes to heighten suspense which is something I got from studying Literature and teaching it too. As for the grammar, well, I’d love to say being a teacher of English has ensured I make no errors but sadly, with failing eyesight, those pesky typos creep in.

(As an ex-English teacher myself, I know exactly what you mean.)

Little Girl Lost marks a departure from your other writing. How and why did you decide to try a different genre?

The real answer is lengthy but suffice to say, like many people who write humour or who do stand up, I have a dark side that first emerged when I wrote a series of short stories entitled Love Hurts. Some tales were amusing, all had a twist, and one was shocking. The reaction to that first story was surprising. People loved it and said I should write more ‘sinister stuff’. That gave me the confidence to explore that possibility. I wasn’t short of ideas. Thrillers have always been my go to choice of book to read. I have been playing about with surprises and twists in my novels for some time, along with darker moments that I sneak in, and Life Swap had the daddy of all twists. After I wrote that book, I decided I was ready to change direction and add as many twists and turns as possible into my books.

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How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

Months and months of research on the Internet and then, phoning people who are in the know to make sure facts are correct, or chatting to them on Facebook.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

Thinking up the plot is the easiest part for me even though it takes months to get it right. Typing is the worst part. I can only type with two fingers, (I know…I know) and given I write out every book longhand first, it takes me forever to type it up.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

Once I start writing, I don’t stop. I suffer from insomnia, so I go and go and go until my batteries run out and I conk out for a short while, or until Mr Grumpy yells at me to stop.

You frequently refer to your husband as Mr Grumpy. How does he respond to that epithet?

He loves it. Ever since he discovered he has a fan club he has relished being Mr Grumpy and even produces videos on YouTube with me to do with travel. (The Grumpy Travel Show).

How did you create your new protagonist Robyn Carter?

I met the woman who inspired Robyn Carter while filming for a television show – Masterpiece with Alan Titchmarsh. We spent an entire day with fellow competitors in a stately home, and I found out a lot about this one in particular. She was such a strong character and looked astonishing. I discovered she was not only into fitness but had won many contests and modelled underwear even though she was my age. I got the idea then for Robyn’s attributes and some of her character, and began writing her backstory into a notebook, as I do with my main characters. Each one has a history and Robyn’s is a very interesting one. There are some clues in the first book, however her character will develop throughout the series. She may not have had much luck, yet she has backbone. She is also flawed, as she should be if she is to come across as human.

Once I began writing Little Girl Lost, I had yellow post-its all over my wall with essential details of the main characters. As for her name; it came to me one night, or I should say at three in the morning, as is so often the case when I am thinking up the plots. I have no idea why I chose it and to my knowledge, I have never met anyone called Robyn.

Little Girl Lost is the first in a new series and I know you’re already writing book three. How difficult has it been to retain ideas for future projects and not reveal everything in this first novel?

I haven’t had any problem with that as each synopsis is in front of me on my wall, when I write. I made sure they were all separate so that didn’t happen.

You’re not afraid to tackle issues like ageing in your writing. How important is it for writers to reflect the society in which they live do you think?

I have always believed that Literature reflects society’s thoughts, fears, and arguments, and as writer’s we need to keep abreast of those to retain integrity.

I know you’re keen for those of a certain age (like me) to age disgracefully – what plans do you have to do so?

I have been ageing disgracefully for the last decade: quad biking, flying helicopters, scuba diving wrecks, ziplining, and facing challenges like diving with sharks, and taking up stand up comedy. Unfortunately, I came a cropper last year and my spine which was in a bad way from my youth, gave up on me, so I am now limited to less wild antics. I haven’t had a chance to work out what I’ll get up to next, but it will involve some wacky project, that’s for sure.

You’ve recently created a Street Team. How important are bloggers to writers?

Totally essential! I would not have enjoyed any success had it not been for all the many bloggers and reviewers who have helped me since I began writing. I cannot stress how important they have been to me and how grateful I am.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Thrillers and since I speed read, I’ll read several a week when I get the chance.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

Travelling and people-watching always give me ideas for books. At the moment, given my penchant for murdering folk, it’s probably a good idea if I don’t carry out too much real research.

The cover of Little Girl Lost makes me think of Hansel And Gretal with the juxtaposition of innocence and evil. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The lovely team at Bookouture produced the cover. It was designed by the same man who has worked on Wilbur Smith and Bernard Cornwell’s covers. Peter Augustus has done an incredible job and captured the atmosphere perfectly. In my mind, the whole idea of being lost can apply to more than the child who is taken and when you read it, you’ll understand what I mean.

If you could choose to be a character from Little Girl Lost, who would you be and why?

I ought to say Robyn, but I when I was writing the book, I became obsessed with Alice. I don’t want to be her but I loved writing from her point of view. Maybe part of me is Alice!

If Little Girl Lost became a film, who would you like to play Robyn Carter?

Jennifer Leann Carpenter who played Debra Morgan in the Dexter series.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Little Girl Lost should be their next read, what would you say?

A recent tweet summed it up perfectly: It’s dark and messes with your head, you can’t be sure who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. Oh bother, that’s eighteen words.

I’ll let you off! Thank you so much, Carol, for your time in answering my questions.

About Carol Wyer

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Carol E. Wyer is an award-winning author whose humorous books take a light-hearted look at getting older and encourage others to age disgracefully. More recently she has chosen to write for the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, starting with the gripping Little Girl Lost.

Her book Grumpy Old Menopause won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction 2015.

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

Carol is a signed author with Bookouture and Delancey Press.

You can follow Carol on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook. All of her books are here.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Relativity by Antonia Hayes

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I’m thrilled to be part of the paperback launch celebrations for Relativity by Antonia Hayes which was released by Corsair, an imprint of Little Brown, on 19th January 2017. Relativity is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

Relativity

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Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

My Review of Relativity

Ethan lives with his Mum Claire in Sydney. But Ethan isn’t an ordinary little boy and his past is just one element that makes him who he is.

I thought Relativity was astonishing. How can it be a first novel? Relativity is heart rending and wonderful. It’s so beautifully written that I’m going to struggle to do it justice in a review. Reading Relativity felt like someone had my heart in their fist and the more I read, the more they squeezed, until I was almost overwhelmed by the intensity of feeling the story evoked.

I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to anything scientific but I loved the way in which Antonia Hayes relates physics to human life and emotion. It was as if a whole new world had opened up to me in the same way the world is being studied by Ethan. I’d never appreciated the importance of physics for the individual, but everything about Relativity, from the chapter headings to the technical language felt aligned and perfect for the narrative. Just the smallest touches to the writing, such as Claire being called Mum in the chapters concerning Ethan, even though the narrative is still in the third person gave a simultaneous sophistication and somehow a rawness to the writing that I adored.

Essentially there only three main characters, Ethan, Claire and Mark with some minor additions like Alison. This reduced number means that we get to know them intimately so that they are living beings with a real history. I didn’t always like Claire, despite her fierce love for Ethan and I’m still undecided about Mark but I think it’s illustrative of how they have been created that I still find myself thinking about them after I’ve finished reading and I desperately want to know what happens to them all in the future. I felt I understood them completely, flaws and all.

There isn’t a particularly fast paced plot – very often Relativity is actually about the mundanity of everyday life but seen through the perspective of three exceptional people in Ethan, Claire and Mark . It also encapsulates themes and considerations that reverberate through relationships, families and society from bullying to extramarital affairs so that there is something to appeal to every reader.

Relativity is exceptional. It packs an emotional punch that hits you right in the solar plexus. I really recommend it.

About Antonia Hayes

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Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, lives in San Francisco with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

You can follow Antonia Hayes on Twitter and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers:

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A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

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It gives me great pleasure to be on the celebratory tour for a book, A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart, that I’ve adored reading. Published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown. A Boy Made of Blocks is available for purchase here.

A Boy Made of Blocks

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MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX… He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.

MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM… To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.

When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?

A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heartwarming story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.

My Review of A Boy Made of Blocks

Sam Rowe is autistic and his parents’ separation is not aiding his progress.

I found the self deprecating and honest first person narrative in A Boy Made of Blocks totally convincing so that it felt as if I knew Alex personally. The more I read, the more he had my empathy and sympathy even though I thought he’d been selfish and unhelpful towards Jody in the time before the novel actually begins. Here is a man with flaws and struggles so many of us can relate to.

I felt Keith Stuart balanced the challenges of dealing with Sam with the use of wry humour very effectively, giving a realistic and touching narrative in which I became so immersed I forgot I was reading about characters in a book and not real people. I’m not sure if that experience for me was because Keith Stuart has lived a similar life to Alex or because the writing was so skilful and effective but either way I absolutely loved this book.

Having no experience of dealing with children like Sam, I have no idea how realistic this portrayal is, but it felt thoroughly honest, convincing and authentic to me. It also taught me to be less judgmental of other people’s children when I’m out!

The allegory of the Minecraft game works incredibly well as a device to illustrate Sam’s life as it is invariably scary and also an adventure. I appreciated the multiple meanings of the title as Sam uses blocks to create his Minecraft world and suffers blocks in his actual life – from society, school, his father and his own perceptions of what he can achieve. However, I felt actually this was not a story so much about a boy made of blocks as a man, Alex, building a wall of blocks around himself. Both narrative elements are wonderful.

I thought the plotting was so stylish as the story is really about the quotidian events many families face, but I found it held my attention so thoroughly that I couldn’t bear to put the book down to do other things. I was completely engaged by the sub-plots involving Alex’s wife Jody, his sister Emma, his best friend Dan and Alex’s mother too. This isn’t just a novel about autism, it’s a novel about humanity, relationships and our insecurities and triumphs.

I honestly adored this book. I cried, as I often do with affecting reads, but A Boy Made of Blocks had an emotional intensity for me from despair to joy that I found extremely touching. I usually pass on copies of books to others to read. I’m keeping this one as it’s too special to part with.

About Keith Stuart

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In 2012 one of Keith Stuart’s two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together – especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.

You can follow Keith on Twitter and there’s more with these other bloggers too:

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When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough, a Guest Post by Robert Crouch, author of Fisher’s Fables

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I love featuring new to me authors on Linda’s Book Bag and when I ‘met’ Robert Crouch in the wonderful Book Connector’s Facebook group and found that it was blogging that led to his first published book, Fisher’s Fables, I had to invite him onto the blog to tell me more, especially as I’m a blogger with writing aspirations. Fisher’s Fables was published on 25th November 2016 and is available for purchase here.

Fisher’s Fables

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If insubordination were an Olympic sport, Kent Fisher would be world champion, according to his boss, who’s struggling with a section that’s the best at being the worst.

Yet there’s worse to come when Kent shows his dysfunctional team how to win in a no-win situation and get a second chance to make a first impression. No matter what the challenge, or how absurd the strategy, Kent and his colleagues can always find a way to frustrate their superiors.

Loosely based on the author’s experiences, Fisher’s Fables began life as a humorous blog, poking fun at dubious management, even more dubious acronyms, and the most dubious changes never needed.

Fictionalised to protect the guilty, Fisher’s Fables is packed with unforgettable characters and witty dialogue that’ll raise a chuckle or three from anyone who enjoys watching the mighty fall.

The blog and characters went on to inspire the first Kent Fisher murder mystery novel, No Accident, which starts where Fisher’s Fables ends.

What Do You Do When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough?

A Guest Post by Robert Crouch

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After years of edits, revisions and rejections by publishers and agents, I put my novel on the shelf and stopped writing. Maybe having an environmental health officer solve a murder in a traditional whodunit was too different. Maybe the characters didn’t leap off the page as one agent advised me.

Despondent and bruised by self-doubt, I figured a break from writing would do me good.

About two years later, I became aware of blogging. It looked like the perfect medium to write about my work as an environmental health officer, but I had to take care. As a law enforcement officer, I would be in hot water if I breached confidentiality. If I revealed the names of dirty restaurants or negligent employers, I could prejudice legal proceedings or find myself in court.

The only safe way to write about my work was to fictionalise it. And there, gathering dust on the shelf was my last novel with a cast of characters from an imaginary environmental health service.

In March 2007, Fisher’s Fables launched when Kent Fisher described my radio interview about the ban on smoking in public places. To broaden the blog’s appeal, I added a healthy dose of humour and irreverence to satirise issues as diverse as sexual health, public spending cuts and the banalities of management.

Over the years, as more people followed and enjoyed Fisher’s Fables, my confidence grew. The characters began to take on a life of their own. The blog morphed into a mini sitcom with complex storylines, plots and conflict, courtesy of a backstory between Kent and new recruit, Gemma Dean. Though fictitious, the episodes tackled current issues and the challenges at work.

Then I realised I’d found my voice as an author.

It was time to return to my whodunit. Twelve months later, after reading the first three chapters and a synopsis, Penmore Press offered to publish No Accident, the first Kent Fisher murder mystery.

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Without the blog, I would never have rewritten No Accident. Fisher’s Fables restored my confidence. It allowed me to improve as a writer and breathe life into my characters, turning the dull world of local government into something funny and entertaining in the vein of ‘Yes Minister.’

To show my journey from blogger to published novelist, I published Fisher’s Fables as a book in November 2016, adding two additional posts to end Fisher’s Fables at the point where No Accident starts for a seamless progression. Though perhaps unusual, it feels like a fitting record of a somewhat different approach to publishing a first novel.

I spent hours, sometimes days and weeks, crafting each blog with the care and attention I would give any kind of writing. Whether a journal, a guide to solve problems, or fiction, blogs need snappy titles and quality content to capture readers and hold them. If you can make them laugh, or cry, even better.

Established authors can blog to communicate with readers and encourage feedback. Most readers want to know more about authors, how they work and where they get their ideas from. Blogging is a great way to answer those questions and allow fans and followers to know a little more about their favourite authors.

I’ve covered ‘the writer’s life’ in my Robservations blog, but I want to expand into areas and interests enjoyed by my readers so they can become more involved.

Thank you, Linda, for a chance to guest on your site and share my story with your followers.

My absolute pleasure Rob. Great story and very motivating for aspiring writers like me!

About Robert Crouch

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Robert’s love of writing began when he won a national short story competition at the age of 12. Life, marriage and a career in environmental health pushed writing onto the backburner until Penmore Press offered to publish No Accident in 2015.

Robert Crouch pays homage to the traditional whodunit and murder mystery novels of authors like Agatha Christie while adding a fresh and irreverent twist.

He achieved this by creating Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer with more baggage than an airport carousel. Based on the author’s own experiences, Kent made his first appearance in the humorous and irreverent blog, Fisher’s Fables, which ran from 2007 to 2014 and was released as an eBook in November 2016.

In No Accident (available here), Kent investigates a fatal work accident at a theme park. But could it be a murder in disguise? That’s the question that propels his investigation through many twists and unexpected turns, putting him and the people he loves in great danger.

Robert now writes full time and lives in Eastbourne on the South Coast of England with his wife and their West Highland white terrier, Harvey, who stars in the novels as Kent’s sidekick, Columbo.

The second Kent Fisher mystery, No Bodies, will be available later in 2017.

You can find Robert on Facebook and visit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter. You can receive a free copy of Case Files by signing up to Robert’s newsletter here too.