Our Song by Ashley Bodette – Release Day Blitz

OUR SONG Release Day Banner

I’m pleased to be bringing you a release day blitz post for Our Song by Ashley Bodette whose novel is out today, 31st May 2016. Dealing with a controversial issues of attempted rape and mental health problems, Our Song is a young adult book.

Today you have the opportunity to gain an insight into Our Song through a range of images.

Our Song



I broke up with Trip four months ago. But with the exception of my parents, I haven’t told anyone why. Not my friends, not my little sister, not even Asher.



I’ve been missing my best friend every day for the last nine months. Even though Becca broke up with Trip months ago, she’s still been distant, even when we’re in the same room.
11741037_957726610939992_8835908683750186143_o Trip:

She thinks she can break up with me and then go on a “family” vacation with him? I’m going to prove to both of them that she never should have left me.


You can find more about Our Song and purchase it through these links:

Add to Goodreads | Amazon UK | B&N | Amazon US | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks

About Ashley Bodette


Ashley Bodette is a soon-to-be MA publishing graduate from Kingston University London. She started her venture into the book world as a book blogger, never imagining that one day she’d write a book. Now, you couldn’t stop her from writing if you tried.

Along with writing and providing editing and other author services, you also might find Ashley crocheting, watching British television shows on Netflix, playing piano, singing around the house, or, of course, curled up with a good book.

You can find out more about Ashley Bodette through these links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram | LinkedIn | Google + | Wattpad

Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventure by Natalie Page and illustrated by Chris Rivers Nuttall


I’ve featured a few children’s books on Linda’s Book Bag and when Natalie Page asked if I’d like to be part of the launch celebrations for Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures: The Petal Planet, I readily agreed as it is a wonderful book. I have a review as well as a guest post from Natalie and you will find a Zak and Jen personalised bookmark giveaway at the bottom of this blog post too.

Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures: The Petal Planet is published by Austin Macauley today 31st May 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon and Austin Macauley.

Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures

The Petal Planet

To Jen, her life was a terrible bore. She wished she had more than the landscape she saw… Jen lives alone on her solitary sand planet, until one day, a boy named Zak comes to visit. Through a little of Zak s magic and an unusual umbrella, Jen is transported to a beautiful world, and her new friend helps her learn a valuable lesson along the way.


From Rock Bands to KidLit

The Story behind Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures

A Guest Post from Natalie Page

The Background – you never know why some people come into your life

Imagine this, you are out one evening watching a rock gig with your boyfriend and you happen to see this extremely talented band play. In a fit of over confidence you decide that you want to invite this band to play as part of a charity gig you are organising for Help for Heroes, so you make the call to the band’s management and amazingly, they agree!

Several months of planning later and you are chatting to the band after a very successful charity concert and a friendship is born. This is story of how I met Chris Nuttall, drummer for rock band Heaven’s Basement and now illustrator of Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures.

That charity concert took place back in 2010 and somehow, despite extremely busy lives and both having children, Chris and I have managed to stay in touch.

As the years rolled by I got to know Chris a little better and soon discovered that as well as being a talented musician he was an exceptionally talented artist. I was particularly struck by two characters that featured heavily in some of his paintings. They resembled rag dolls and in each piece they were pictured against a beautiful night sky. The imagery was so ‘other worldly’ it was captivating, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I often wondered about the background to the characters, who they were, why they were in space. But that was all I ever did.. wonder.


Writing the book

In 2014 my life changed forever, I gave birth to my daughter and found myself on maternity leave. For the first time in over a decade I had head space to be creative. I had always loved to write. However, school, university and my career took over and I lost the ability to simply ‘write for fun’, swapping my fiction stories for PowerPoint presentations and business proposals. Suddenly that wasn’t the case anymore and my brain was alive with hundreds of stories that I just couldn’t wait to get down on paper.

It was during this time that I saw Chris post another image on Facebook of one of his rag doll paintings and my brain went into over drive. I called him and asked whether it would be ok for me to write a story featuring the characters he had painted. Strangely enough he told me he had been looking for an author to write some stories about them and the partnership was born!

Either unluckily or luckily for me, I had a baby who was not fond of sleeping, so I often found myself up in the middle of the night trying to settle her whilst sat in a chair. I soon found that this was my most creative time, and one night, when my daughter was taking a particularly long time to settle, I pictured the characters coming to life in my head.  As I sat, watching my daughter drift off my brain became filled with ideas and rhyming sentences and once my daughter was back in bed I was scribbling them down. For the first time in ages the story flowed out of me and within 45 minutes I had a first draft.

I sent the draft to Chris the very next day and he loved it. From then on we embarked on the long journey together to try and achieve one goal… get published.

We agreed up front that this was an entirely joint project with all credit being split 50 / 50. This makes things a lot easier as we never argue over who contributed what.

If I can give any upcoming authors / illustrators any advice, it would be that if you decide to partner up, be sure to have the conversation up front about how things are split. Don’t forget to include discussions about if your book becomes hugely successful and you have things like merchandise to consider. It may not happen, but at least you will know where you stand if it does.


The journey to being published

Our journey has been a somewhat unconventional one. Despite what you might think, we have found that traditional publishing agents are not keen to take on an author / illustrator partnership. This is apparently because big publishers prefer to match authors and illustrators themselves, often pairing an established author with a debut illustrator and visa versa (you don’t always see Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler together!).

It soon became clear that if we wanted to get the book produced as per our joint vision, then we would either need to self-publish or approach independent publishers directly (the big publishing houses don’t tend to accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from authors).

Thankfully for us, Austin Macauley were willing to take on our project and have been very supportive in allowing us to dictate how we wanted the book to look and feel.

The finished product is one that we hope will inspire children. We have tried hard to combine a simple, yet thought provoking story with some magical characters and we hope that people will enjoy what we have taken the time to create. Fingers crossed we will get to continue and turn these characters into a series!


My Review of Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures: The Petal Planet

I loved this little book. It is beautifully illustrated by Chris Rivers Nuttall as some of the images elsewhere in this blog post show and the text works so well with the pictures. Zak and Jen are cartoon like which will appeal to children, but also they are not conventional looking children so that I feel an important issue of appreciating people for who they are, not how they look, is subliminal in this story.

There’s a really well constructed story with a defined beginning, middle and end that would satisfy all children, but with the potential for future stories to come. Indeed, I think it would make an excellent talking point with younger children to discuss what might happen next and to develop their oracy through making up new adventures for Jen and Zak.

I thought the rhyming prose was pitch perfect, especially as it is hard to construct a narrative in rhyme without it feeling contrived but Natalie Page does this brilliantly. There are so many useful ways the story could be used by teachers and parents too. Exploring the rhyme scheme, looking at homonyms and homophones would all be fabulously exemplified in Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures.

I also really liked the messages behind the text with Jen coming to appreciate what she has in her own life and with the potential for children to try to grow plants too so that they are emulating Jen’s activities.

It sounds as if I’m just reviewing Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures with my ex-teaching head on, but the bottom line is that this is a wonderful story, well written, fabulously illustrated and perfect for children of all ages!

Win a Zak and Jen Bookmark


For your chance to win one of five Zak and Jen bookmarks with a personalised message please click here.

You can follow Natalie Page on Twitter and there is a Zak and Jen Twitter account too here. You can also visit the Zak and Jen Facebook page here.

There is also more aabout Zak and Jen with these bloggers:


Bridezilla’s Book Birthday with Amy Lynch


It gives me enormous pleasure to be joining Amy Lynch in celebrating the book birthday of her novel Bride Without A Groom which has just turned one! You can buy Bride Without A Groom in paperback and e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

You can read my review of Bride Without A Groom here, but just so that you can see why Bride Without a Groom has been so successful, Amy has kindly provided a short extract for you to read here today.

Bride Without A Groom

Single, coupled-up or married, this laugh-out-loud summer read is the perfect anecdote for the wedding season!

Rebecca has chosen the most luscious, five tiered, wedding cake. The engagement ring that she has selected is celebrity inspired. The wedding singer is on speed dial. He doesn’t usually do Michael Bolton, but as it’s for a first dance he’ll make an exception. Father Maguire is checking dates for the parish church as we speak. The deposit on the white sand honeymoon is paid for in full on Barry’s card. She has fallen for an ivory lace couture gown that is to die for. The down payment may require her to sell a left kidney, but it will be worth it. Isn’t that why you have two?

There’s one teeny tiny problem. It’s nothing, really. No need to panic! It’s just that Barry has yet to propose. Says he’s not ready! He can be a bit of a kill joy that way. In fact, he’s gone away on a business trip and says that he needs some space. Meanwhile, Barry’s tie loosens, the Tiger beer is flowing, and his colleague Shelley is providing more than a shoulder to cry on. Back in Dublin, Rebecca worries, putting Operation Win Back Barry into action. But who is the mysterious dark haired woman that is so keen to talk to her, and what is it that Barry wants to get off his chest?

Book birthday

An Extract From Bride Without A Groom


Speed date number three is now beaming at me, white teeth sparkling all in a neat row.

‘Rebecca. Hi. So…’ This is starting to feel like a job interview.

‘What do you do, Brian?’

Yes, I know, unoriginal. Shush!

‘I’m a solicitor. And yourself, Rachel?’

‘It’s Rebecca…’

‘I’m a solicitor’, my mind plays on a loop as my heart pangs. A solicitor. Just like Barry. A sneaky thought takes shape. This man could be a stand-in, you know? A little switcher-oo. He could be like an understudy in a play. People might not even notice! Sure, I could call him ‘Barry’ as a pet name. He’d grow to love it. The wedding plans could still go ahead, just with one minor substitution. I could still keep the ‘B&R’ monogrammed bath towels I have ordered. He could be Barry version 2.0. Not quite the original model, I’ll grant you, but a toothier, sexier upgrade.

‘I work for a PR firm, Brian. Sloan Publicity?’

‘Oh? You might know my brother, he works in PR too? Our surname is Ramsbottom?’ Brian continues.

‘Oh.’ I try hard not to snigger, really and truly I do. But you must understand that Malibu makes me decidedly giddy. It’s like dosing an orang-utan with laughing gas.

Mrs Rebecca Jane Ramsbottom. Dear Lord! The deal is off. I couldn’t possibly marry someone with that kind of surname. My friends laugh at me enough as it is. I’ll have to call the Actors Casting Agency, and tell them that I no longer require their boyfriend substituting services. Anyway, he might have straighter, whiter teeth than Barry, and he might fill that suit very nicely indeed, but I think I prefer the original, crooked-toothed Barry. Don’t ask me to explain it.

We’ve stopped for a halfway break, so good old Pam has ordered me a tequila slammer, and a pint of Guinness. That should help things along nicely. As I sit at the bar, I picture myself balanced on a stool next to Cilla Black in a special edition of the TV show Blind Date. ‘Say hello to our Becky, all the way from Dublin,’ the permed Liverpudlian grins as the audience cheers. ‘Our Becky enjoys wine, OAP makeovers and planning weddings. And now, here’s our Graham with a quick reminder.’

Graham sums it up during the theme tune. ‘Well, Cilla, behind screen number one is Dan. He likes surfing, but you’ll have to … wave… goodbye to a two-way conversation with this one!’

The audience claps with glee.

‘Behind screen number two is Brian. He’s a solicitor, but it’d be a …crime… to take that surname!’

The audience howls with laughter. I’d forgotten how witty ‘our Graham’ could be.

‘Behind screen number three, it’s Farmer Fred. Fred has a cattle farm. But will Becky be …moo-ved… by him?’

Cilla is beaming at me, and wants to know which one I choose. She wishes me a ‘Lorra lorra luck, chuck.’ I try to explain that none of them measure up to Barry.

About Amy Lynch

Amy Lynch picture

Amy Lynch is an Irish author of humorous romantic women’s fiction, but not always with fairy tale endings! She has been working in the charity sector for many years, is married and has two young children. When she is not writing, she can be found juggling school runs, packing lunch boxes, tackling the laundry mountain and walking two large rescue dogs who stare at her until she walks them. Talk about multi-tasking!

Her debut novel Bride Without a Groom is a laugh out loud Bridezilla comedy, was published by Avon, Harper Collins in May 2015.

You’ll find Amy on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter. You can also visit her website.

Four Weddings and a Fiasco by Catherine Ferguson

four weddings 2

I recently took part in the cover reveal of Four Weddings and a Fiasco by Catherine Ferguson which is published by Avon Books in e-book and paperback on 16th June 2016 There are two lovely covers for the paperback and e-book and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to read it too now. You can order Four Weddings and a Fiasco on Amazon, or directly from Harper Collins.

Four Weddings and a Fiasco

Four weddings 1

Katy Peacock lives a life as colourful as her name.

As a wedding photographer, she spends her days making other people smile as she captures all sorts of fun and capers at celebrations that range from the wacky to the wild.

But her own life isn’t looking quite so rosy. Her mum is acting out of character, her menacing ex is back on the scene, and she is torn between two gorgeous men. And that’s before we even get started on the trouble her sister is causing . . .

As Katy weathers the ups and downs of the season, she revisits problems from the past, discovers new friendships and finds that four weddings and a fiasco have the power to change her world beyond measure.

A funny, feel-good read, perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Jenny Colgan.

My Review of Four Weddings and a Fiasco

Katy Peacock is struggling. After a major fall out with her sister, she is finding her debts are mounting, her wedding photography business is demanding and her ex-boyfriend Dominic is threatening.

I have a confession. I did not like the title Four Weddings and a Fiasco and probably would not have read it had I not received it for review. Had that been the case I would have missed out on a lovely entertaining story that brought me considerable pleasure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Four Weddings and a Fiasco, partly because I’ve worked as a wedding photographer and Catherine Ferguson’s portrayal is absolutely perfect so that I could really relate to the scenarios presented.

I thought the characterisation was super. Whilst typical of this chick-lit genre, there is sufficient variety of personality to give a warm, humane and realistic cast. Katy is especially well depicted and I thought she came across as the kind of person any reader could relate to.

The plot is carefully and satisfyingly constructed with the iterative theme of weddings acting as a cohesive force that works brilliantly. There’s an underlying mystery that gives depth too, as the reader tries to work out just what did happen between Katy and her sister Sienna.

Alongside the complications of romance you’d expect from this genre, there are other themes presented to make the reader think – grief, betrayal, family, deception in many forms – so that even the most chick-lit averse reader can enjoy Four Weddings and a Fiasco as an intelligent and absorbing narrative.

I thought Four Weddings and a Fiasco was brilliantly entertaining, well written and perfect for a beach read or a cosy winter’s afternoon. I will be looking out for more from Catherine Ferguson as her style is effortless to read, engaging and thoroughly lovely.

You can find all Catherine’s books here and follow her on Twitter.

Cold Calling by Russell Mardell

Cold Calling

My grateful thanks to the author Russell Mardell who sent me a copy of Cold Calling in return for an honest review. Cold Calling is published by Troubador in paperback and e-book and is available for purchase on Amazon, Troubador, Waterstones and WH Smith. Readers might like to know that the Kindle version of Cold Calling is only 99p until Thursday 2nd June.

I so enjoyed reading Cold Calling that I had questions that Russell agreed to answer and you can see his responses after my review.

Cold Calling

Cold Calling

Still reeling from the break-up with the love of his life, insurance firm cold-caller Ray English has become a bit of a screw up. Cynical and withdrawn, Ray is aimlessly drifting through life in London with his long suffering best friend, Danny.

However, once he is asked to reform his college band for a friend’s wedding, Ray is soon forced to face up to his old life, and the hometown he had tried so hard to turn his back on.

Anya Belmont is a woman with a secret and a history that continues to shape her life. A coffee shop owner in Salisbury, Anya is successful, yet bored; married, yet lonely. She is also slowly being driven to distraction by her highly temperamental friend, the child-hating children’s author, Eva Cunningham.

Through fate, coincidence or just bad timing, Ray and Anya’s lives begin to change when Ray cold-calls Anya and the two strike up a seemingly innocuous conversation. Against their better judgement, their conversation is soon the start of a relationship played out over the phone.

But can there ever be anything real in a phone call? A sharp-witted, saccharine-free, thoroughly modern tale of lost loves and found friendships.

My Review of Cold Calling

There is a depth to Russell Mardell’s writing that surprised me. Whilst the story is akin to many other multi-perspective narratives based on the difficulty of relationships, Russell Mardell manages to provide a distinct, literary style with human and convincing characters that come across as real people.

Although all four perspectives are told in the first person, the voices are so clear and well balanced that each is definitely a believable character. Eva evoked the desire in me to shake her hard and, perhaps wrongly and saying something about my own personality, I hoped she would get her comeuppance until the very end of the novel when my attitude softened towards her.

I really cared for Ray, Anya and Danny, finding I identified with elements of all of them. The secondary characters play a vital role in developing Ray et al too. They also give layers to the themes that weave in and out of the narrative.

I thought the way the settings were described gave a perfect amount of detail so that I could picture the scenes vividly, especially when described through Ray’s eyes. The writing has humour and wit as well as thought-provoking themes and dialogues that really made me think. I also found the issues presented interesting and absorbing – just how do we deal with end of life care for the elderly with dementia? How many of us do settle for good enough rather than chasing our dreams? How many of us cling to the past at the expense of the present?

What I also found highly effective is that we never really know what Anya and Ray look like. This cleverly underpins the fact that their relationship is conducted over the phone rather than in person so that the reader can use their own imagination. I like the conceit of Eva’s thoughts about being a writer too and her concern that, once in the box of children’s author, she’ll never be able to escape. Russell Mardell obviously thoroughly understand the writer’s angst!

The plot is tightly structured so that there is a satisfying ending that enhances the quality of the novel further. This not all about happy ever after but is more about truth, realism and identifiable feelings that I could relate to and understand, giving me real pleasure in the reading.

I really enjoyed Cold Calling. I thought it was extremely well written, entertaining and interesting and I will be looking out for more from Russell Mardell.

A Few Questions Arising!

Thanks for agreeing to answer the questions I had as a result of reading and enjoying Cold Calling, Russell.

The dedication is to your Mum because she wanted you to write something a bit nicer. Was she satisfied with Cold Calling?

She was! It’s funny, it has become a little bit of an in-joke between us over the years, as much as she has enjoyed my previous, darker, books, she has always said ‘can’t you write something a little bit nicer?’ Though I should say that is not something she says just because of her own preferences, it was always more a case of her thinking a nicer book would sell better. We will have to see if mother knows best!

Adding the additional words in the dedication also allowed me to subtly suggest to people that enjoyed Cold Calling, that should they wish to have a read of my backlist, they would be reading very different sorts of books. I felt that was important too.

I’ll be one of those readers checking out your backlist too, but if readers want to see for themselves they can look here.

Music underlines a couple of key scenes. How important a role does music play in your own life?

Hugely. I am a complete music geek; in fact if music shops still existed in my hometown, I would probably be hounding them for a job. I dearly wish I had even a tiny fraction of musical talent, but I proved with some long ago guitar lessons that wasn’t the case. I always write to music, I can’t stand silence when I’m working. Though it is very important to get the right sort of music to fit the right sort of writing – I probably put too much thought into it! A lot of the bands mentioned I am very fond of, naturally, and I was very fortunate to be allowed to use lyric quotes from one of my favourites, Augustines.

Although Cold Calling is a relatively light read, you also explore some important issues, such as how we deal with elderly dementia sufferers. How did this theme arise? Did you intend to provoke debate in the reader’s mind or did you intend to show another facet to Ray’s character?

I’m always a little wary of covering such subjects, and in fact, in the first draft that storyline was left out. You have a responsibility when you cover such things, and I didn’t want it to ever appear like I was trying a cheap manipulation of the reader. But it became obvious that we needed to see another side of Ray. So much of his story is his struggle to move on from a broken heart. To see a character that can slip into self-indulgence, do something so automatic and unquestioning out of duty and out of love, like caring for an elderly relative, was an important contrast to make.

(And it works brilliantly – hence my question!)

It is an issue that has affected my family, which again made me think twice about going there. But I’m glad I included it, it is only a small part of the story, but a very important one, I think.

I found the four main characters completely convincing. How did you plan for Ray, Danny, Eva and Anna? Did you complete full character profiles, use visual stimuli, or some other system?

I wish I could say that I planned them out extensively. I’ve never written a character profile, I’m not sure I ever could. There are parts of me in all of them, I suppose (though in some cases wildly exaggerated, I should add!) I don’t like doing too much before I start writing, and I very rarely do treatments. It’s not a perfect way of working by any means but I do like the element of surprise when you are writing, to let events and characters be free enough to take you somewhere you didn’t know they needed to go. I always start with basic outlines for characters and events. More often than not, a beginning and an end, but I like the journey I take to get them there to be open to new ideas. The idea of having things planned out before, I think, I would find too constricting and would make the process slightly dull. You only get to know your characters when you are writing, so sometimes they change, and you need to be free enough to let the writing dictate, not the planning.

That said, Cold Calling was originally a film script, many years ago so I have lived with these characters for a while. They have changed a bit since then, but starting this novel I knew them better than any other characters I’ve written.

Are there plans to explore the lives of these four people in a future book?

Maybe. I haven’t any plans at the moment, but I do like them and wouldn’t mind writing for them again. I’m not sure it would ever be a direct sequel though. Often with my books there are character or location crossovers, little things that regular readers might pick up on, so we may meet them again, but only as supporting characters. In fact the book I am writing at the moment may have a few nods and winks to Cold Calling. There will certainly be similar locations, so you never know, they may find there way into this story too.

I do hope so – I’d like to know more about them! Thanks so much for responding to my questions Russell.


Russell is a novelist, playwright, producer and sometime director based in the south west of England.

silent bombs

His first published book was Silent Bombs Falling on Green Grass a collection of twelve weird and wonderful short stories centered around the town of Mewlish Lull. His follow up Stone Bleeding is a dark dystopian satire of reality TV and celebrity culture. More recently he has published Bleeker Hill a dystopian horror, as well as its sequel, Darkshines Seven. His latest novel is the comedy, Cold Calling.

All of Russell’s novels can be found for purchase here.

Russell has also written for the British stage with the plays Cool Blokes: Decent Suits, and its sequel Suits 2: Back From the Cleaners performed at the Salisbury Playhouse, and The Seventeenth Valentine and Freestate playing at The White Bear Theatre in London.

Having studied film production in London he has written and directed a couple of short films, and continues to develop a number of screenplays.

A music obsessive and film geek, he drinks too much caffeine and still, despite being given many reasons not to, retains a lifelong passion for Everton football club.

You can find out more about Russell Mardell by following him on Twitter, finding him on Facebook and visiting his blog.

Two Types of Writers with Peter Best

Burden of truth online cover

I’m delighted to be featuring another author I’ve ‘met’ online today. Peter Best’s The Burden of Truth is the first part in a trilogy and is available for purchase here. Today Peter tells us all about different types of writers and how he plans his writing in a fascinating guest post.

The Burden of Truth

On a cold day in March 1987, egocentric Brent Sandler makes the decision to change his life for the better. Years later he’s still not happy with his lot but not for the want of trying. Now he has hit rock bottom, penniless and in deep trouble. But little does he know his troubles are only starting as he discovers an awful tragedy unfolding. The problem is, he knows this tragedy is all down to him. Now he is determined to put things right.

Meanwhile in Bodhgaya India, Peter Canon has just made a discovery that will change his life forever. Now, like Brent, he must come to terms with his very own guilty secret of the past. Not only this, his life too is going to get worse as the woman he loves is slowly hunting him down. And when she finds him; questions are asked!

The Burden of Truth is the first installment of a three-part saga of how these two men are pulled apart and then drawn together as each man tries to fulfill his own quest for happiness. But they are soon to find out this quest is thwart with love as well as danger.

Burden of truth online cover

Two Types of Writers

A Guest Post by Peter Best

To me there are two types of writers. No matter what genre a writer may choose, whether it’s romance, a crime novel or even fantasy most novelists chose to write in two different ways. The first group could be described as the ones who simply sit down and write by the seat of their pants until their novel is complete.

Now I must admit I’m completely in awe of these authors. I believe Ian Rankin is one of these types. I’m sure I read somewhere that he goes off to his house on the north east coast of Scotland, sits down and simply writes until he has his first draft complete. No planning ahead, nothing. Apparently he doesn’t even know how the story is going to end or even who the guilty party is until he gets to the big reveal. This, he says, keeps the story exciting and it also lets the creativity of the writer flow.

So all in all I’m not going to disagree with the man. I mean let’s face it he’s one of the biggest and most successful writers around with millions of fans, so really he can’t be wrong, can he?

Anyhow, I’m going to put my hand up and say I have tried this approach to writing a number of times and failed miserably. The problem is for me I just to get into a story only to find I just grind to a halt as my story runs out of steam.

Because of this I have made the decision to join the ranks of the second group of writers. This second group being the ones who plan their work from start to finish trying to keep within the so-called narrative ark.

So this leads onto my book, The Burden of Truth and how I planned it. I will also tell you how, quite often, my best-laid plans do not work.

When I first sat down and decided to write my novel I asked myself, What do I want from all of this?

The answer I gave to myself was probably what many authors would answer anyhow. Interesting characters, great settings, and a good strong plot with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader interested. So really no surprises there.

With this in mind I started on planning my novel and after two months of hard plotting I finally had a good idea of what I wanted to put into my book. Everything was worked out from the layout of the chapters to what the characters were going to do and even how they were to interact with each other. Everything was sorted from page one right to the end.

Now, with this plan all laid out I sat myself down and started to write, and all in all I was quite happy on how it was going at the start. Now I can’t really say how far into the book I was when I realised this happiness was somewhat dissipating rather quickly. Deep down I knew the book was not working. It needed more; as a matter of fact it needed a lot more. I knew deep down this story did not have a heart never mind a message.

So once again I looked at the plan. I also started to think again. Why was it not working and how was I going to add that little extra and make this story work and give it the heart it needed?

Then it came to me; the protagonist Brent. He wasn’t developing as a person. He was not moving on with his life in the slightest. Perhaps he was just going through the motions of life but not moving on with it. Now I knew where I could give the book some heart but the question was, how?

So there I was once again with my thinking cap on. Where can I get this heart? Then it came to me; Shantie! She’s one of the characters who Brent meets just after he has caused a bit of trouble so to say. Now let me tell you a little about Shantie. She’s a beautiful half English, half Indian lady who was brought up in the town of Bodhgaya in India. The town where the Buddha gained enlightenment. It was here where she learnt many Buddhist teachings from the monks around her.

Now I had an idea. Perhaps she could somehow pass some of these teachings over to Brent. With this he would have the chance to build and develop as a character.

Now I was happy again. Now I could move on and finish the story and give it the heart it deserves. However, to finish the story, I had to start again right from the beginning. Because I had made these changes to Brent’s character the original plot fell apart. Anyhow, I knew it was going to be a lot of extra work but I didn’t mind though because it was what I wanted and so it was, a year and a half later I had my first draft copy and obviously nothing like the first plan.

However, all in all I’m quite happy of the end result and I think my readers are too, even though the story took on a totally different identity as I expected.

Take care all and don’t forget. Live, laugh and love.

Great to hear how you plan Peter and thanks for the wonderful advice – we should all ‘Live, laugh and love’.

About Peter Best


Peter Best was born in North Shields in the North East of England in the beginning of the sixties. Albeit the son of a shipyard worker, Peter was brought up in a mining community until the age of eight when for some reason or another somebody made the decision that the community should be uprooted and moved to a place called Cramlington New Town on the outskirts of Newcastle.

After his time in school he served an apprenticeship working mainly on building sites working as an electrician, which he hated by the way! However, as Peter always looks on the positive side of things, he was pleased he did, as it was on these building sites where he came across many different characters who he was pleased to call his friends. “Real people,” he called them. And so it turned out that many of these so called real people, and others of course, featured quite strongly in his novels.

Of course it was not just the people he met on the sites; Peter has over the years come across many different characters on his travels who have all played their part in working their way into his mind.

In 1996 he married for the second time to a young German girl and soon after moved to the south of England. Soon after that he upped sticks again and moved to Wiesbaden in Germany to help support his wife as she pushed at her career as a doctor.

Peter fell in love with the culture of his new surroundings, especially the culture of one of his neighbouring counties Bavaria. However as they say all good things come to an end and he moved back to England. It was at this time when his writing started to come together. Over the next few years Peter started to string together his thoughts and ideas for The Burden of Truth and its sequel. (The name remains a secret for now.)

He now lives with his wife and daughter in a small seaside town in Essex called Frinton on Sea. Frinton, along with its neighbouring town, Walton on the Naze, both feature in his novel, The Burden of Truth.

You’ll find Peter on Facebook, Goodreads and Goodreads Burden of Truth and on his website. You can also follow Peter on Twitter.



Putting the Myth into Mystery with Virginia King

The First Lie ebook 400 KB

I’m delighted today to be featuring another author, Virginia King, whom I’ve met through the Facebook group Book Connectors. Not only do I have a guest post from Virginia, and my review of her book, but she is also giving away a prequel to the Selkie Moon stories,  a stand alone short story Laying Ghosts. You’ll find the link below. Even better, is the chance to win a signed copy of The First Lie or an audio version plus a $15 Amazon Gift Code. One Grand Prize lucky winner will $100 Amazon Gift Code. See the information at the bottom of this blog post for more details.

The First Lie, the first book in the Selkie Moon series is available for purchase on Amazon US and Amazon UK. It is currently only 99p for a limited time.

Putting the Myth into Mystery

A Guest Post from Virginia King

A few years ago, serendipity played a trick on me. I’ve always loved mysteries grounded in the real but on the flipside I’ve had a passion for folktales and their ability to touch me at a symbolic level. Two new authors and a crisis later, these two interests collided, changing my career as a mystery writer forever.

The Girl in a Swing

Well-thumbed Copy of The Girl in a Swing 200KB

Richard Adams (of Watership Down fame) came first. In this psychological thriller he weaves the mystical into the real to create something very powerful. The unseen brings profound insights to the seen as the clues to a dark secret creep up on the main character and the reader through a series of psychic happenings. I’ve read the book ten times, trying to figure out how Adams laid bare this human tragedy with such finesse, and every time the clues have the same effect on me even though I know what’s going to happen. But deconstructing the narrative and marking the clues with post-it notes didn’t reveal the alchemy at work between the lines. What was going on? Can words alone show us the truth about ourselves with such power?

All she had to do was jump …

This sentence got me started on my own psychological mystery. Soon Selkie Moon turned up, a modern woman with a mythical name – the ‘selkies’ are the Celtic seal people who peel off their skins and dance in the moonlight in human form. I hoped Selkie’s name might ‘mysteriously’ create depth in the story, but balancing the horizontal momentum (What happens next?) while excavating the layers of the puzzle resulted in many drafts.

Landing in the labyrinth

The book was set in Sydney, my home town, so to find a deeper connection with the story I grabbed my camera and spent a whole day visiting all the locations. But I returned home in tears because none of the places ‘spoke’ to me.

Serendipity intervened. I dropped Selkie into a strange place – Hawaii – and her role as a malihini (a newcomer) brought an amazing dimension to the story. Selkie is escaping a destructive relationship in Sydney but she lands in a mythological nightmare in Hawaii. The events are so bizarre and terrifying that she’s forced to delve into the past and face the shocking truth about herself.

My editor and I still chuckle over her initial reaction: You’ve got an Australian main character in a Hawaiian setting, but you’re drawing on Irish/Scottish mythology (selkies); it’s difficult to make those disparate elements fit together cohesively.

Mythical Hawaii

Understatement. It was a mess. But cultures have mingled for centuries in Hawaii – ho’ohihi, interconnectedness – surely it was the perfect place for mythologies to collide and merge … Luckily I met an author who can forge a ‘mythical mess’ into something akin to magic.

Kafka on the Shore

In this coming-of-age novel Haruki Murakami reacquainted me with the power of mythology. By weaving magic realism into suspense and popular culture, he takes the reader into a labyrinth of symbols that evoke the layers of human experience. As the description promises:

Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder.

Raining Fish Woodcut 1555

He also plays with an Oedipus complex, a journey into a time-slip forest, a mystical stone that must close an invisible doorway … This mess of symbols from around the world is complex and strangely satisfying – because we catch glimpses of our secret selves.

In interviews Murakami also hinted that, like the reader, he wasn’t always sure what was going to happen next. At some level he let the mythology call the shots and create a mysterious journey into the human soul.

Poltergeists and surprises

I now found the courage to weave some magic into my own realism. With Hawaii as my inspiration I allowed mythical elements to drop into The First Lie like poltergeists and create havoc until I figured out why they was there. I discovered that I love this kind of writing because I can never lose the capacity to be surprised, taking the mystery beyond the predictable.


Connections started forming themselves, often while I was asleep:

  • In Hawaiian mythology, Hulu the monk seal is a spirit guide that reunites us with ancestral knowledge – the perfect talisman for Selkie’s journey of discovery.
  • I created a fictional Hawaiian beach with an Irish name, only to realise in the middle of the night that Sydney has a place with the same name, right near Selkie’s childhood home. Spooky!
  • A scientific study into monk seals wonders if their moaning inspired the mythical Sirens in the Odyssey. The experience of Odysseus hinted at a dramatic scene for Selkie – a scene I could never have planned without messing with mythology.

Seal Eyes + Effects

Putting the myth into mystery

second path

Now I’m hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology. The Second Path is set in France (watch out for a Perrault fairy tale) and in Book Three (coming soon) the folklore of rural Ireland is helping her unravel an old murder.

My review of The First Lie by Virginia King

I have to say I wasn’t sure what to expect from Virginia King’s writing, but it surprised me by the intensity of its presentation. Virginia King weaves the symbolism of the world into a fast paced and exciting story that is part mystery and part mysticism, providing several strata of meaning in a very absorbing and thought provoking story. Indeed, the story can be read as a thriller but also as a kind of self-awareness manual as the reader has much to learn from the journey that Selkie makes for herself. The traditional stories surrounding selkies, the sea, voodoo and magic give a supernatural depth that is absolutely fascinating.

I felt The First Lie was essentially a love story, but not in the traditional sense of a conventional male/female relationship. Whilst there are these conventional relationships, Selkie also needs to learn to love and value herself and love is portrayed through memory, friendship and family relationships too. I thought this exploration gave real warmth to the book that I enjoyed immensely.

If I have a criticism, it is that I would have liked more descriptive narrative as there is so beautifully at the very beginning and end, as the book is very dialogue driven. However, this does allow a deeper insight into Selkie’s personality. So too does the first person storytelling and I found what Selkie thinks equally as informative and important as what she says. By the end of The First Lie I felt I had come to know a real person.

I really enjoyed The First Lie and I think it’s a book that would reward more than one reading to appreciate fully the nuances of metaphor, myth and spiritualism. I’d really recommend it and I know I will be returning to it again.

A Free Ghost Story – Laying Ghosts

Laying Ghosts

The above experiences inspired Laying Ghosts, a 24-page modern ghost story with mysterious links to a murder ballad from the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also the prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery Series, explaining to the reader (and the author!) just why Selkie suddenly ran away to Hawaii. Download your free copy here.

About Virginia King

Virginia King Author Portrait Small

When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

You can find out more about Selkie Moon and Virginia on Virginia’s website, on Facebook and by following Virginia on Twitter. You’ll also find buy links for all Virginia’s books here.

Fantastic Virginia King Giveaway Opportunity

The First Lie ebook 400 KB

To enter to win a signed copy of The First Lie or an audio version of the book and a $15 Amazon Gift Code with the opportunity to win a $100 Amazon Gift Code click here.

An Interview with Steven Hayward, author of the Debt Goes Bad Series

Jammed Up

Today it’s my pleasure to be featuring another author I’ve ‘met’ through various online book groups, Steven Hayward. Steven’s latest book Jammed Up is published today 28th May 2016. Jammed Up is a novella that complements Steven’s first novel Mickey Take and is available to buy here, but if you read Steven’s interview you’ll find out how to get it for FREE by signing up to Steven’s newsletter.

To celebrate this latest publication, Steven kindly agreed to an interview on Linda’s Book Bag.

Jammed Up

Jammed Up

Loyalty. Betrayal. Injustice.

A rudeboy never forgets. It’s been ten long years and ‘Jam’ has been working his way through a list of men who tormented his best-friend, Jabba. Now there’s only one name left to cross off…

When he takes an easy lookout job for criminal entrepreneur, Herbert Long, he knows something’s not quite right. Knock-off gear and bent coppers have never been his bag, but the money’s good and he doesn’t want to live with his aunt forever. All he has to do is get down to the depot, watch a handover and report back what he sees. Little does he know what he’s getting himself and Jabba in to.

He’s not the only one nervous about the deal, DI Terence Pinner needs this to go off smoothly to settle a debt that has him enslaved to South London gangster Raymond Riggs. But with so many people involved and serious money at stake, things get messy very quickly.

Out of his depth and up against an organised criminal gang, Jam has to learn fast to stay alive. But if there’s one thing that keeps him going, it’s thoughts of sweet revenge…

An Interview with Steven Hayward

Hello Steven. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

Hello Linda, thank you for having me. I’m absolutely thrilled to be your guest today.

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

I suppose I could begin by telling you what a wild child I was and about all the crazy stuff I did as a youngster, and how my completely dysfunctional life led me to the creative place I now inhabit… But no, the truth of it is, I’m a (fairly) quiet, studious guy from a working class background and a close and happy family. I grew up on the coast in Dorset, became the black sheep only by virtue of going to grammar school, joined a bank, and (quickly glossing over the permed hair and highlights phase during the Duran Duran years) moved to London at the age of 22. I met my wife Helen and we’ve been married a long, long time. I travelled quite a lot for various banks, living and working in a few different places, ending up as the Head of Anti-Financial Crime at a US bank in Canary Wharf.

I’ve run the London Marathon twice and helped raise over half a million pounds for New Ways as the financial controller of its annual advent ball. I now divide my time between consulting for banks on their anti-money laundering controls, experimenting with book marketing strategies, being easily distracted on Facebook and Twitter, and occasionally writing crime fiction.

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

Looking back there was a point in time in all of that where I lost something that had burned within me as a child. While grammar school nurtured my right brain preferences for Art and English, to a greater extent it channelled me unwittingly along a more academic route. The rational left brain took over and sent me into a career that was to sustain me financially, but not creatively. It’s ironic that Economics was the subject I did least well in at school only to spend the next 25 years thinking about little else! It was 11 years ago that I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical and, as well as raising a beagle puppy (my muse, Ella), I went back to explore those creative preferences. Three years later, I quit the full-time job with the long-term aim of becoming a published author.

Today we’re celebrating Jammed Up, the novella prequel to your novel Mickey Take. Why did you decide a prequel was needed?

When I started writing Mickey Take, I had such a lot to learn. But, of course, it’s one of those situations where you know what you know (or at least think you know), but you don’t know what you don’t know! I now know that you can’t anonymously drop a new novel into the ocean of Amazon and expect anyone to notice – whether it’s any good or not. And you can’t spend months building support for that novel and then not reward your readers with something of a similar ilk – we all know how successful series are. And then a year ago I discovered Ian Sutherland. He’s the London-based writer of the Brody Taylor thriller stories, but also something of a Twitter guru. What struck me most about my first interaction with Ian was that he was offering me his book for free. In fact, he was offering his first book to everyone for free. Once I understood his strategy, I realised I had a problem. I didn’t have a series and I wasn’t about to give away the only book I’d published for free!

With my readers seemingly keen to read more about Mickey, I’d already been persuaded of the merits of a sequel and that was to be the priority when my most recent consulting contract ended last Summer. But first, Helen and I headed to Rome to celebrate our 25th (OMG, I must have been a cradle-snatcher!) and I came back with an idea for a short prequel with the common thread of a debt gone bad, which was the by-line of Mickey Take.

You may have heard of National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo. It’s like marathon running for writers! Well, I sat down on 1st November with a rough plan and a goal to write 50,000 words by the 30th. I failed. But unlike most who fail, it was words that I ran out of rather than days. By the 24th, I had 39,000 words and the first draft of Jammed Up finished. Now that it’s been through beta-readers, several re-writes, professional editing and proofreading, I no longer think of it as a marketing funnel, even though I will still be offering it for free. It’s both a prequel and an introduction to Mickey Take, albeit with one major difference.

What are the challenges of writing a prequel to another work?

In order to achieve its objectives, Jammed Up had to be capable of standing alone on its own merits, being enjoyed by readers of Mickey Take as a true prequel, whilst also offering completely new readers that introduction I was talking about, without spoiling their subsequent enjoyment of the original. The first challenge this presented was that I felt the existing lead characters, Michael Field and Grace de Manton, who are introduced and tell their stories in Mickey Take, couldn’t appear in this earlier tale. That led me to conclude that in addition to a debt going bad, the consistent theme had to be the backdrop and the antagonists rather than the main character – hence a prequel with a difference! I then saw an opportunity to take a relatively minor exposition in Mickey Take about the collapsed murder trial of the ruthless gangster, Raymond Riggs, and tell the story leading up to the death of his business partner. Not only did that act as a bridge between the two books, it also gave me a solid destination to write towards.

The next challenge was to create a new central character who was as flawed as Mickey, but at the same time very different, and pitch him equally, if not further outside his comfort zone within the corrupt world of Riggs, Herb Long and DI Terence Pinner. For inspiration, I looked to Croydon (five miles from where I live) with all its issues and diversity. From there the confrontational, but staunchly loyal and significantly more desirable (than Mickey, so I’m told) Kingston Michaels, aka rudeboy “Jam”, was born. That decision had the added appeal of giving this story a more urban feel and I had a lot of fun, and more than a little local help, giving Jam an authentic voice. I also gave him a young lady, but far from being just a love interest, Siobhan Jennings has a heart-breaking story of her own that acts as another link into Mickey Take.

Finally, several people have said that Mickey Take is a very complex thriller – and let’s be fair, there is a sociopathic serial killer lurking in the shadows that I haven’t even mentioned yet! So, I guess the other big challenge was to add sufficient layers into the novella (it now comes close to 50,000 words) that would do justice to the characters without disclosing any of the big secrets that a new reader would then still appreciate in the original novel. The hardest part was giving Jammed Up enough similarity in terms of style, characterisation and sub-plots without giving too much away about Mickey Take.

Have I achieved all of these objectives? As Mickey would say, you’ll be the judge of that!

You say the similarities between you and Michael stop when Michael ‘throws in the towel’ in the city, but how much of his character is like your own?

Confession time! Isn’t it the first trap every debut author falls into? You’re told to write about what you know, yeah? And then you can’t help transplanting your own personality onto the first protagonist to come along. I got so far into the first draft of Mickey Take before realising he had turned into me! I then went about reversing everything to make him the antithesis of me, by sharing my personality traits in a given situation around the other characters (for example, Mickey’s boss and his mum) or by having Mickey do the exact opposite to what I would do. That said, he does still have a moral compass; his problem is that he allows himself to get too close to too many magnets. Boy, I wish I’d thought of that line when I was writing Mickey Take!

Grace is also a strong character. How did you go about creating her? Is she based on someone real?

Show me a straight male author who hasn’t created a character to represents his ideal woman! No, seriously, I suppose there are one or two people I’ve known who might be lurking somewhere behind the character of Grace de Manton. And maybe I’ve always been in thrall to petite women with imposing personalities! Grace starts out as a single-minded predator with her own agenda, but that soon changes. I think what makes her different is that a challenging upbringing has left her streetwise, but she remains very self-aware. She has self-confidence and she’s nobody’s fool, but her drive to find the truth about her past is directing her towards a more settled life. ‘I soon came to realise,’ she says, ‘happy families is just a card game.’

Siobhan Jennings in Jammed Up is physically very different, has a normal background – you might even say, privileged – but she’s equally assertive when the men around her show their weakness. And she has also known tragedy. It would be interesting to see how the two might get along in future…

You’ve had some amazing reviews for Mickey Take. What is it, do you think, that draws readers to psychological thrillers like yours so readily?

Thank you. Yes, I’ve been bowled over by the positive response. I think what makes people intrigued by psychological thrillers is the fine line that often exist between our perception of good and evil and the seemingly subtle differences that can lead some people to do the things that others would never dream of doing. Also, I think, like me, people are intrigued by the ease with which these “evil” people assimilate into society and often excel in authoritative positions. In researching for Mickey Take, I wanted to understand the distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths. Some argue the terms are interchangeable and I accept this is a highly complex area with a whole spectrum of characteristics, but I liked the simplicity of the definition that equates the terms with nature and nurture. It suggests that a psychopath is born bad, whereas a sociopath is conditioned by their environment to do bad things. What I find scary is that society often highly values many of the traits of psychopaths, which makes it both easier and more rewarding for them to integrate. The unknown element is what makes these ruthless, manipulative people kill, and I think that’s the part that fascinates readers the most.

If Mickey Take became a film, which actor would you choose to play Michael Field and why?

I used to say Danny Dyer… but in recent years that has become a little clichéd, given that it seems Danny Dyer only ever plays… Danny Dyer! Right now I’m looking at a picture online of Tom Hardy – and I know that would be a popular choice with the ladies. He seems to be about the right age, five foot nine, unruly crop of slicked back hair, has a slightly used look about his face, and in the suit and tie he’s wearing, he could certainly pass for a non-conformist failing to impersonate a banker!

I know you haven’t entirely left city life behind. Which persona – author or financial crime consultant – is your preferred role and why?

I absolutely love the writing persona. I am a bit of a control freak so I’m happiest being my own boss. I’m also naturally introverted and enjoy my own company. Writing is a very solitary process but I never feel lonely. I’m also never not busy. The only thing missing by comparison is the income! As a consultant, I enjoy working with others and solving problems and I’ve always enjoyed the recognition that has come with my professional career. So, if there’s one thing that would make my writing life complete, it would be to one day earn that same level of respect as an author.

If I wanted to commit a financial crime, what three things might catch me out?

Great question, if slightly compromising! I could quote the criminal offence provisions for tipping off under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, but I won’t!

  1. Don’t use awful spelling, grammar and Edwardian salutations when operating your so-called boiler-room email scam. We used to have hours of fun reading them all. But beware, these are getting better all the time. I’m sure that’s not a mistake you would ever make, Linda!
  2. Never turn up at Border Control with a case full of €500 notes. Their large denomination makes them the banknote of choice for traffickers. Previously nicknamed Bin Ladens; you knew what they looked like, that they were out there somewhere, and they moved around a lot. But no-one ever saw one!
  3. Don’t run your small retail business with a low turnover, and then start making regular large deposits of cash. Even if they are below the regulatory threshold for monitoring, the bank is obliged to know its customer’s business sufficiently to discover if the amounts bear any resemblance to its actual turnover.

Hmm – I think I’ll stick to blogging!

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Mickey Take and Jammed Up should be their next reads, what would you say?

Discover the next hapless victim in the longstanding feud between Herb Long and Raymond Riggs.

15 words exactly – well done!

On a different note, you’re a strong supporter of the New Ways charity which works to improve life for those in Africa. Why this particular charity?

In a previous bank role, I ran the relationship management team serving UK pension clients. One of my major relationships was with Unilever where I met Angela Docherty who was the senior investment advisor. In her spare time, Angela had established the charity New Ways which was, and remains, the UK fund-raising arm for various missionary-led activities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi. I volunteered on the annual ball committee and, even after we had both moved on from the jobs that brought us together, Angela and I remain close friends and I continued as financial controller for ten years.

What I love about New Ways is the positive and direct impact it has on the lives of a large number of people, but through a philosophy of empowerment. In Turkana, Kenya, for example, it initially targeted the most vulnerable within the semi-nomadic pastoral communities – pregnant women and children under five – but now provides healthcare, education and nutrition to thousands of children on a daily basis. And by encouraging the drilling and damming for water, the growing of crops and the catching of fish abundant in Lake Turkana, gradually, and with sensitivity towards an ancient culture, it has facilitated a better and more sustainable way of living.

The vast majority of New Ways fundraising efforts are derived through volunteers giving the charity an incredibly low cost base (less than 5%) when compared with all the large well-known charities you might donate your time or money to. There’s a real sense that your ten pounds, or whatever it is, is actually being spent on things that make a real difference. And when you hear that New Ways can feed a child for a year for less than £50, it really is a no-brainer!

Since first publishing Mickey Take, I have and will continue to donate 5% of all royalties to New Ways on an annual basis.

That sounds amazing. If blog readers would like to find out more about New Ways, they can click here

Finally, Steven, is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?

I’d just like to say something about covers. I’m one of those risk-taking (foolish?) indie authors who create their own. The big challenge with that is getting an objective viewpoint on whether they stand up to scrutiny in a highly competitive marketplace. I love playing with graphics and am always open to honest feedback and I’m hugely grateful to a whole host of people for helping me find the right look for both books. In thinking about what to do for the cover of Jammed Up, and to allow a more consistent style across what has become the “Debt Goes Bad” series, I decided to subtly alter the e-book cover for Mickey Take to the greyscale version you see today. I’d like to give a shout-out to a young lady on Facebook who I’ve never met, who came up with the idea for keeping the eyes blue. I’m hugely grateful to her. Take a bow, Regan Lockhart!

Steven Hayward (2)

One last thing, that strategy I was talking about… well it’s now live, so Jammed Up is available for free to everyone, via my website. So please click the link here and claim your copy!

About Steven Hayward


Steven is a financial crime consultant who suddenly decided some time ago, his dream was to write fiction. His debut novel, Mickey Take: When a debt goes bad…, features an ex-banker who throws in the towel on his “big” City job, but that’s where the similarity ends. Between writing crime thrillers and volunteering as the financial controller of the annual New Ways Advent Ball, Steven periodically ventures back into the ranks of London commuters. In contrast, Michael Field, the protagonist and primary narrator of Mickey Take, is perhaps less likely to resume his career in financial services anytime soon!

You’ll find Steven on Facebook and Goodreads and you can follow him on Twitter.

Mickey Take

Mickey Take

Murder. Corruption. Revenge.

For hapless ex-banker, Mickey Field, losing his City job and beautiful wife is just the beginning. The proposition from one-time friend and small-time gangster, Herbert Long, is non-negotiable. Pay-back for that little cover-up years ago, from which young Mickey emerged unscathed, to climb the corporate ladder. But this time, there’s no easy way out.

If you like your heroes conflicted and outwitted at every turn, and your heroines strong and manipulative, you’re going to love Mickey and Grace. And if you enjoy being teased by the dark threat of an evil force lurking in the shadows, you won’t want to stop reading Mickey Take until you’ve discovered the identity of the cold-blooded killer.

Readers are calling Steven Hayward’s impressive debut a gripping, edge of your seat, psychological thriller, expertly written, full of twists and turns. Grab the paperback or download the ebook today. Go on, Take the Mickey!

To buy Mickey Take, click here!

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

britt marie

I am hugely indebted to Nikki Barrow at Hodder for a copy of Britt-Marie Was Here in return for an honest review. Britt-Marie Was Here is published in hardback and e-book by Scepetre and is available for purchase on Amazon, from Waterstones, WH Smith and all good bookshops.

Britt-Marie Was Here

For as long as anyone can remember, Britt-Marie has been an acquired taste. It’s not that she’s judgemental, or fussy, or difficult – she just expects things to be done in a certain way. A cutlery drawer should be arranged in the right order, for example (forks, knives, then spoons). We’re not animals, are we?

But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward, absurdly pedantic busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes.

So when Britt-Marie finds herself unemployed, separated from her husband of 20 years, left to fend for herself in the miserable provincial backwater that is Borg – of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it – and somehow tasked with running the local football team, she is a little unprepared. But she will learn that life may have more to offer her that she’s ever realised, and love might be found in the most unexpected of places.

My Review of Britt-Marie Was Here

my grandmother

Oh my goodness, the tension as I approached reading Britt-Marie Was Here. I adored the first two books by Fredrik Backman and was so worried that a third might be too great a possibility to live up to the charms of My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises (my review here) and A Man Called Ove (my review here).


I had also met the author too so it was even more nerve wracking as Fredrik Backman is such a charming and entertaining man that I was desperate not to be disappointed in this third novel. You can see what happened when I met Fredrik Backman by clicking here.

britt marie

What a relief Britt-Marie Was Here turned out to be. I adored every single word of it. Whilst some readers might find the style too similar to the other books, for me it was like encountering an old friend and finding I still loved them.

Fredrik Backman has such a perfect turn of phrase so that every nuance of emotion and meaning is accessible even though the book is in translation. Credit and congratulations must also be given to Hennig Kock for translating the original manuscript. I think what makes the writing so successful is the balance of sentence length and style as well as the present tense narrative so that there is a vivacity and liveliness that is totally captivating.

I laughed aloud and shed several tears reading Britt-Marie Was Here. Indeed I enjoyed it as much as A Man Called Ove and more than My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. Fredrik Backman has the uncanny knack of being able to delve inside a person’s soul and convey exactly what they are thinking. He achieves this as much by what he doesn’t write as by what he does – he knows how to convey meaning through a character’s glance as well as by what they say, for example.

It is the desire to belong, the sense of loneliness and the ultimately uplifting emotions that make Britt-Marie Was Here so fantastic. There is also such lovely gentle humour that entertains and delights. So too do the small illustrations at the start of every chapter, the meanings of which become clear as you read.

In a sense there isn’t a complicated plot. Britt-Marie needs a job and gets one in Borg, a run down and small provincial town. That said, I couldn’t stop reading without pause, so intent was I in wanting to know what happened to Britt Marie and the inhabitants of Borg. Almost incidentally Fredrik Backman drops in burgeoning homosexuality, small time crime, murder and violence which you wouldn’t expect and which add depth to the plot. There is also tenderness and humanity that touches the soul.

The characters are wonderful. Even the bell above the door to the shop/ post office/ pizzeria/ garage has a personality. Britt-Marie is a fantastic creation and I found her as compelling as Ove. She is revealed as much to herself as to the reader as the story progresses and I thought the ending of the novel was totally apt and fitting.

It wouldn’t matter whether readers have read the other novels by Fredrik Backman. Each works as a stand alone and some might enjoy Britt-Marie Was Here more if they haven’t read the others, but I thought it was truly gorgeous. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and thought that Britt-Marie Was Here was perfect.

You can follow Fredrik Backman on Twitter and visit the blog where his writing began (I find Google Translate helps!)

French Kisses by Jan Ellis

French Kisses

My grateful thanks to Jan Ellis for sending me a copy of French Kisses in return for an honest review. French Kisses was published by Endeavour on 27th July 2015 and is available in ebook from Amazon and you’ll find more from Jan here.

French Kisses

To the outside world, Rachel Thompson has it made: a wealthy husband, a successful career as an artist, and a to-die-for house in the middle of rural France.

That is until her husband Michael hits 40, discovers his inner love-rat and runs off with the kids’ young, skinny dance teacher.

Determined to ignore her friends’ advice to up-sticks and move back to England with her children, Rachel decides to turn their crumbly stone farmhouse into a bijou hotel.

As Rachel strives to create a new life for herself, friends and family rally around to give her a Christmas and New Year with plenty of surprises.

With help – and some hindrance – from her loved ones, Rachel transforms their home into a cosy guest house for an eclectic collection of visitors, including Josh Perry, a handsome American academic.

Although Rachel is getting plenty of attention from local admirers, her husband Michael is never far away…

Will Rachel and Michael rekindle their love affair?

Or will she be sharing French Kisses with someone else…?

‘French Kisses’ is a fun romance about starting again and learning what really matters.

French Kisses

My Review of French Kisses

When artist Rachel’s ex Michael has a baby with his new and much younger partner, the whole of the French village where Rachel lives think it’s time to give her a new project, preferably with a new man and so Rachel opens Tournesol Guest House.

French Kisses is a lovely light, romantic novella just perfect for the beach or, as I did, for reading on a long haul flight.

Alongside characters to care about with Rachel as a down to earth person anyone would be pleased to have as a friend, there’s humour and wit with spiders and ragged trousers playing their part fully. Given that this is a novella, I thought the depth of Rachel’s character was incredibly well presented. Her natural dialogue and the emotions and thought processes she displays are all very clearly and carefully depicted so that she comes across as a highly plausible ‘real’ woman.

What Jan Ellis does so well though, is evoke the setting. She provides a feast for all the reader’s senses from the texture of a cat’s fur to the shades of red in a print for the wall. The creation of a typically French village is perfect without being cliched and I could picture the blue serge suits of middle aged men and almost taste and smell the delicious pastries, cheeses and Christmas dinner.

The plot is fairly simple but still gives plenty of interest with life not always running smoothly for Rachel and the story is well thought out so that it is a hugely satisfying to read. I wasn’t entirely sure if Rachel would get her man – or if she did, which one it might be! You’ll have to read French Kisses for yourself to see what happens!

I really enjoyed the escapism of French Kisses and I want to book my stay at Tournesol Guest House immediately.

You can find out more about Jan Ellis by following her on Twitter, and by visiting her Facebook page and her website.