Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn Guest Post

I’m delighted to be welcoming Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn to Linda’s Book Bag today, not least because (like I was) Lindsay is a teacher as well as a writer (as I’d like to be).

Lindsay has a new book out, published on 6th December 2015, called ‘The Broken Road’ which is available with Lindsay’s other writing from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Broken Road

When I heard that Lindsay is also a teacher of creative writing I wanted to know if she felt that was a help or a hindrance for her own writing. This is what she told me:

The Delights and Perils of Combining Being a Writer with Teaching Creative Writing.


Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

I am a writer. I write novels, short stories and flash fiction. My first two novels ‘Unravelling’ and ‘The Piano Player’s Son’ have both won awards, and my third ‘The Broken Road’ has just been published. My short stories have appeared in anthologies, and one of my flash fictions was successful in the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction competition in 2013.

I also teach creative writing. I run courses and workshops on the novel and the short story. In addition, I’m a judge for the flash fiction competition run by the Worcestershire Literature Festival.


So, why am I telling you these things? Why have I set being a writer side by side with teaching creative writing? Surely the two roles are highly compatible. Not necessarily. Combining both is a mixed blessing, as the title of the article suggests. So, let’s start with the positives!

To teach a subject, you have to understand it better than if you were simply practising it yourself. The same is true whether you’re teaching Maths or creative writing. You need to be very clear in your own understanding of techniques in order to explain them. In creative writing, areas such as point of view, and showing versus telling, can prove a minefield for the aspiring author. You might think you understand, but then you write things such as Geoff was angry and depressed. You tell readers what Geoff is feeling rather than giving them the evidence and letting them deduce the emotions for themselves. For example, Geoff kicked the book across the floor. A reader can feel Geoff’s anger. He sat on the sofa with his head in his hands. A reader can see Geoff is depressed.

When you teach creative writing, you need to seek out examples such as these to help illustrate the craft to writing students. In doing so, you deepen your understanding and awareness.

I have learnt so much from exploring the craft of writing with students. I can see why a character fails to come to life, where the weaknesses in the structure are, at which moment the point of view hops between characters and back again. I enjoy teaching creative writing: it keeps me on my toes, studying the craft, searching for ways to make it relevant for students. I count myself lucky to have the opportunity.

But – and it’s a big but. The fact that I understand the craft so much better means my need to create something perfect is even greater. Every potential writer wants to produce a piece that is really good. Where the characters leap off the page; where the plot is compelling, the conflict intense, the vocabulary perfect. But the gulf between what is in a writer’s head, and what appears on the page is often immense. We have to give ourselves permission to write rubbish sometimes in order to get a first draft onto the page. Then it can be worked into something closer to the vision in the author’s head.

But giving yourself permission to write rubbish is almost impossible for a creative writing tutor. Knowing and understanding how good fiction works can inhibit a writer to the extent that paralysis sets in. You can’t write, in case what you write is ‘wrong’.

Hence the dilemma of the writer who is also a creative writing tutor: greater understanding of the craft versus an inhibiting need for perfection.

So, would I give up the teaching? Definitely not – I enjoy it too much, and I’ve met so many talented, lovely, interesting people as a result. The perils are there, but the delights far outweigh them.


I’d like to thank Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn so much for being on the blog and with her words ringing in my ears, I’m off to write some rubbish!

You can find out more about Lindsay and her writing on her website.



Callie’s Christmas Countdown by Julie Ryan

Callies Christmas Countdown Banner

I’m delighted to be presenting ‘Callie’s Christmas Countdown’ by Julie Ryan in association with Brook Cottage Books.


Callie is an event planner, organising weddings and corporate parties. What she’d really love however, is to organise the perfect Christmas. How difficult can it be after all? She simply needs to get her divorced parents talking to each other, sort out a Christmas Eve wedding for the daughter of a millionaire and wait for her hunky, rich boyfriend to propose. What could possibly go wrong?





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Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of the Greek Island Mystery series, Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy, each of which can be read as a standalone. She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can.

You can find out more about Julie through these links:

Twitter  @julieryan18


You could win an ecopy of Callie’s Christmas Countdown or a £5/$10 Amazon voucher by clicking here Open internationally!

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

in a dark dark wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood’ by Ruth Ware was published in hardback by Vintage, on 30th July 2015 and will be released in paperback on December 31st 2015. It is also available in ebook from Amazon UK and Amazon US and directly from the publishers.

Nora hasn’t been in touch with Clare for years, but when an invitation comes to attend Clare’s hen weekend, Nora is persuaded to attend by her other friend, Nina. As soon as they arrive at the atmospheric Glass House, it is clear this is going to be a weekend to remember in more ways than one.

I loved this book. There is a breathlessness to the prose that I really enjoyed. ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ crackles with atmosphere and it’s so easy to imagine the settings in this tautly and deftly plotted read. The structure has a completeness that is utterly satisfying. Chapter 5 hit me with a jolt and the plot continued to impress throughout. The tension and atmosphere build bit by bit so that the reader is compelled to read on, experiencing psychological elements that are terrifyingly plausible.

Ruth Ware’s writing is so skilful. She builds suspense layer upon layer through the questions Nora asks herself, through her attempts to recall events and through the drip feed of information to the reader. Coupled with the intimacy of Nora’s first person narrative this leads to storytelling that ensnares the reader from the first word to the last.

Characterisation is clever so that the mystery (and I can’t say more without spoilers) is credible and authentic. I really liked the acerbic Nina and although initially I wasn’t entirely convinced that Nora would have attended the hen weekend after such a long time of not being in touch with Clare, once Clare’s personality was revealed I realised I have met equally compelling and charismatic people to whom it is difficult to say no.

I found the presentation of the way our lives can turn on a throw away remark, on a text, on a lie fascinating and I also really enjoyed the iterative imagery of writing and theatre. Even the trees play their role to perfection.

I devoured Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood in less than 24 hours as I couldn’t stop reading, so strong was the pull of the story. Brilliant.

You can follow Ruth Ware on Twitter and her website

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Crooked heart

My enormous thanks to Alison Barrow at Transworld Books for a copy of Lissa Evans’ ‘Crooked Heart’ in return for an honest review. ‘Crooked Heart’ is published in paperback by Black Swan on 31st December 2015 and is also already available in Hardback and ebook from Amazon UKAmazon US and direct from the publishers.

When 10 year old Noel Bostock is evacuated from London to St Albans during the Second World War, staying with Vera Sedge is going to change his life in many ways. Still only 36 herself, Vera has an indolent adult son and a mountain of debt and difficulties so that Noel’s arrival gives her the brain power she needs to live her life differently.

‘Crooked Heart’ is a complete gem of a read. I’m not sure quite how Lissa Evans does it, but she manages to combine humour and exquisite sadness in a blend of perfection so that I loved every word from the opening line to the final full stop.

There’s a fairly small cast of characters so the reader comes to understand them fully. Vera is a complete rogue but utterly convincing and endearing. Noel’s precocious intelligence should make him irritating and annoying but instead he is so beautifully portrayed that I almost couldn’t bear to read on in case life treated him even more harshly. He’s wonderful.

The wartime setting is skilfully conveyed. It’s so easy to picture Lissa Evans’ scenes, whether through description, the queuing system, the bombings, or the dialogue which feels natural and effective. I also loved Vera’s mother Flora’s constant steam of letters advising Churchill how to run the war.

Although I would say ‘Crooked Heart’ is ultimately about love, it has a fabulous balance of wit and empathy in an emotional and compelling combination, exploring justice, morality and education within its narrative. It is both compellingly beautiful and wittily funny as the plot races along and whilst there is a tenderness to the writing, there isn’t a hint of sentimentality to undermine its perfection.

I thought ‘Crooked Heart’ was brilliant and Lissa Evans has gained a new fan.

You can follow Lissa Evans on Twitter and find out more about her on her web site.

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman


I’m delighted to be staring off the winter celebrations for Anne Blankman’s atmospheric book, ‘A Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke’. It was published by Headline on 21st April 2015 and is available in all good book stores as well as here in the UK and here in the US or direct from the publisher.

Gretchen Muller has three rules for her new life:
1. Blend into the surroundings.
2. Don’t tell anyone who you really are.
3. And never, never go back to Germany.

Here Anne tells us about the background to the story and how a factual event led to her novel.

A Blend of Fact and Fiction: The Real-Life Unsolved Homicide that Inspired the Murder in Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

Most of the pieces of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke came to me fairly quickly, but one—a crucial one—kept eluding me. I had figured out every aspect of the mystery in my story except for the murder. I knew I needed a suspicious death to occur. But what kind of killing should it be? Who was the victim? And how could I connect the dead person to my two main characters?

These questions circled in my head for days. Finally, stumped, I turned to one of my favorite activities: research. Usually reading about my story’s historical background will jumpstart my brain, and this time was no exception. As I flipped through an excellent social history of early twentieth century Berlin, I came across a snippet about a still-unsolved homicide case that had occurred on the last night of 1932.

The story was brief: After a long shift, a young seamstress had gotten off a bus in her working-class neighborhood and began walking home. She probably didn’t pay attention to the man riding a bicycle toward her. In those days, he would have been a common sight: a man dressed in the brown uniform belonging to the SA, one of the divisions within the Nazi Party.

Perhaps she didn’t even notice when he slipped a pistol from its holster and aimed it at her head, shouting, “Heil Hitler!” She wouldn’t have felt the bullet ripping into her skull, shattering bone and slicing up brain matter in a split-second. She was dead before she hit the ground.

The SA man continued bicycling down the street while other Berliners rushed to the dead woman’s aid. The killer didn’t look upset or act concerned; just turned the corner and vanished into the inky-black night.

He was never identified. The homicide case’s file has moldered into dust; a heartbreaking, random stranger-on-stranger crime.

How bizarre, I thought as I reread the passage. I wonder if this man had a secret motive for killing her—it seems like a well-planned street assassination.

And then I felt it. The breathless, shivery feeling of anticipation, the tingle deep in my mind, the signal that this story is meant for me. I knew I had my murder.

I’m sure this will have whetted your appetite for Anne’s writing and you can follow her on Twitter and via her Web Site. You can also see what else is happening for Anne’s winter celebrations with other bloggers here:



Badric’s Island by Amanda Nicol

Badrics island

I am delighted to introduce a rereleased novel by Amanda Nicol, ‘Badric’s Island’, published today, 8th December 2015, by Clink Street. It is available from all good bookshops, online and from Amazon

Badric’s Island

It’s sex in another city when a down on her luck actress in London fancies a new career as a writer in this quirky, chucklesome and relatable novel about a modern woman and her eclectic circle of trusty (and sometimes furry) sidekicks.

“A broken heart is preferable to a broken head.” 

Once a cast member on the hit television show Chefs’ Wives, Rachel Jameson now has the means to live in a home in the swanky Battersea Park area in London where she constantly dreams about one day writing a novel or a comedy script – if only she can actually start writing. With her two best friends, Carla, a single mother – who moonlights as the drummer in a band – and Mica, Carla’s keyboard player by her side, Rachel faces all the trials and tribulations of every woman in an especially humorous and touching fashion with Amanda Nicol’s ever-relatable novel ‘Badric’s Island’.

Just as Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones captured the hearts of women who felt like the classical characters were themselves and their close friends, readers will follow Rachel through her personal and professional adventures and root for the frazzled thirty-something to find her happy ending.

Here’s a teaser from the book!


Rule No. 1: Wanting what you don’t have, chasing it till you’ve got it and then finding out that you didn’t want it after all. In fact you still want what you don’t have, i.e., the thing that you once had when you wanted the other.

Rule No. 2: Work comes when you could do without it.

Rule No. 3: You will be absolutely knackered on all the most important days of your life.

Rule No. 4: However sorted you think you might be, when it comes to this particular issue, you’re lost.

Rule No. 5: When solitude is craved, company will call, and vice-versa.

Rule No. 6: Dreams are dreams and reality is reality and never the twain shall meet.

Rule No. 7: Things that are for the best always feel like utter shite.

Rule No. 8: Feeling any degree of smugness is just asking for trouble.

Rule No. 9: There’s always a perfect time for making matters worse.

Rule No. 10: A broken heart is preferable to a broken head.

About Amanda Nicol:

Amanda Nicol age 22 Houseboat

Living with her husband in Hastings, East Sussex, Amanda Nicol spent 20 years restoring Old Master paintings and is now a full time writer and painter. She is currently working on a memoir of her journey of healing from both mental illness and, more recently, cancer and its treatment both in the UK and in Mexico. Her other titles include ‘Dead Pets Society’ and ‘House of Bread’ (Clink Street Publishing December 2015). Badric’s Island by Amanda Nicol was originally published in 2013 and will be re-released 8th December by Clink Street Publishing (RRP £8.99 paperback, RRP £4.99 ebook).

For more information about Amanda, please visit her web site.

Out of Control by T A Belshaw

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It is my very great pleasure to support Brook Cottage Books in spotlighting ‘Out of Control‘ by T A Belshaw and to offer the chance to win one of 5 ecopies and 2 signed paperback copies of the book. This giveaway is open internationally. See the end of this blog post for your chance to enter.

Originally published on 25th August 2015, ‘Out of Control‘ is a noir-suspence novella.

The Story

out of control cover

It began with a trivial moment of carelessness, but the shockwaves that reverberate from this seemingly insignificant incident, spread far and wide.
Ed and his heavily pregnant wife Mary are on an errand for Ed’s ailing father before the pair depart for warmer climes. But the winter of 1962 comes early and one innocuous event and a hastily taken decision will have devastating consequences for the family of young Rose Gorton. Mary’s already fragile mental state is put under further stress while Ed tries to make sense of events that are spiralling massively, ‘Out of Control’.

Out of Control‘ is available for purchase here:



About Trevor Belshaw

me in hat

Trevor Belshaw, aka, Trevor Forest, is a writer of both adult and children’s fiction. He lives in Nottingham, UK with his mad Springer Spaniel, Maisie. Trevor is the creator of Tracy’s Hot Mail (Crooked Cat Publishing,) and has recently released a noir novella, ‘Out of Control’.

Writing under the name, Trevor Forest, he has published fourteen children’s books including the Magic Molly series, The Stanley Stickle series, and Peggy Larkin’s War.

Trevor’s short stories and articles have appeared in various magazines including The Best of British, Ireland’s Own and First Edition. His poem My Mistake was awarded a highly commended status and included in the Farringdon Poetry competition best entries anthology. His children’s poem Clicking Gran, was longlisted in the Plough Poetry competition 2009.

Trevor’s short stories have been published in many anthologies including the charity anthologies. 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, 100 Stories for Queensland, The Best of Café Lit, (2011 2012 and 2013) The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2, Another Haircut, Shambelurkling and other stories and 24 Stories for Advent.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter and his web site

Enter the giveaway here