Time For A Short Story by Julia Roberts

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Earlier this year I featured lovely Julia Roberts on Linda’s Book Bag as she explained about self-publishing and the links with her other role on the QVC shopping channel on television. You can read that guest post here. Following that post I decided to read the first of Julia’s Liberty Sands books Life’s A Beach And Then… which I thoroughly enjoyed. My review of Life’s a Beach and Then… is here and the series is available for purchase here.

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So, when Julia asked if I would be interested in reading a short story she has written, Time For A Short Story,  I jumped at the chance.

Time For A Short Story is published today, 12th September 2016, by Ripped Books and is available for purchase here in e-book.

Time For A Story

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Eloise is still coming to terms with the death of her mother two years previously when she takes a job as a waitress in a tearoom while she is home from university to spend the summer in Guernsey. There she meets regular customer, Josephine, whose hobby is writing short stories.

English student, Eloise, offers to read some of the stories and is surprised by how good they are. She organises a special ninetieth birthday treat for Josephine but when the elderly lady doesn’t show up for her usual Wednesday morning elevenses, Eloise gets a feeling that something is terribly wrong.

Where is Josephine? And will she ever find out about Eloise’s extraordinary act of kindness?

My Review of Time For A Short Story

Eloise is working her university summer holidays in June’s cafe where she encounters 89 year old writer Josephine.

Time For A Short Story might only take half an hour to read, but it certainly packs a punch. There is a great setting in the Primrose Pantry, the title of which put me in mind of the primrose path where things don’t always turn out quite as planned, and I could almost taste the cakes and scones on offer.

Characters are well developed and the reader gets a true understanding of who they really are, from Eloise’s dodgy dad to the talented and refined Josephine. I felt a real empathy towards them all, even sulky Claudette. It is Josephine, however, who steals the show and when I read the acknowledgements and discovered that the story is dedicated to Julia Roberts’ own mum, Josephine, who is the same age as the character I could understand why she seemed so real.

There’s a cracking plot that captivates the reader completely. Julia Roberts’ writing is highly skilful and I was very entertained by Time For A Short Story. It might only be a short story but there’s a lot going on!

But the element I really liked most was the theme of writing and seizing the day. Any aspiring writer could actually benefit from the self-publishing tips that underpin some of the action and I loved the message that it’s never too late to start writing but why not start now. I found it quite inspiring.

Time For A Short Story is a smashing read and just right for a commute or lunch break – or for those who would themselves like to be published writers.

About Julia Roberts

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When Julia Roberts won a second prize in a short story competition when she was 10 she decided to become a writer. Several decades later she did just that and her memoir One Hundred Lengths of the Pool was published in 2013.

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Julia still works full time for QVC and currently lives in Ascot with her other half.

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

To find out what other readers think of Time for a Short Story, see these bloggers:

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Spotlight on The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H. Konis

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When I was asked if I would like to review The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H. Konis, published by Outskirts Press, I thought it looked a wonderful book. However, my own father had just had an enormous stroke which has, amongst other things, taken away his speech and, it would appear, many of his memories, so that I didn’t feel emotionally up to reading it. I thought it was such an important topic, though, that I wanted to feature The Conversations We Never Had on Linda’s Book Bag so today I have an extract for you and the chance, open internationally, to win an ecopy of the book.

The Conversations We Never Had is available for purchase on your local Amazon site.

The Conversations We Never Had

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The Conversations We Never Had, by Jeffrey H. Konis, tells the tale of a grandson who had taken his grandmother for granted, but didn’t realize it until it was too late. It is a memoir / historical fiction novel based on the authors own relationship with his grandmother.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “Years later, I moved in with Olga for a period of time, but I allowed history to repeat itself – a classic mistake – and failed to ask her the same questions my father avoided. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I am left with a sense of guilt and profound regret, wishing so badly that I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.

An Extract from The Conversations We Never Had

Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and . . . .”
”Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.

About Jeffrey H. Konis

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After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning.

Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

You can find Jeffrey on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Enter to win an e-copy of The Conversations We Never Had by clicking here.

Spotlight on Strictly My Husband by Tracy Bloom

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Today I’m delighted to be taking part in a blog post with a difference via Brook Cottage Books. Not only am I spotlighting Strictly My Husband by Tracy Bloom, but you have an invitation to a very special Facebook party and a chance to win a copy of Strictly My Husband. See below for details.

The romantic comedy Strictly My Husband was released on 16th July 2016 and is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Strictly My husband

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Couples who dance together stay together

Laura loves it when Tom takes her for a late night tango around the kitchen after their friends have gone home and they’re avoiding the washing up. She can’t dance but who cares when no one is watching?

All that changes when Tom arrives on the doorstep with Carly, a professional dancer, and announces he’s offered her the spare room to rent while she performs in a show that Tom is directing.

An outraged Laura doesn’t feel like dancing with Tom anymore but Carly does. It only takes two to tango, and given Tom’s history who knows where it could end? Will Laura be the one left watching from the sidelines whilst Carly waltzes off with her husband’s heart?

COUPLES WHO DANCE TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER – OR DO THEY?

About Tracy Bloom

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Tracy Bloom was born quite a while ago, is average to short in height, buys clothes based on their ability to hide stuff rather than show stuff, has chemically enhanced hair and wishes she had kept her braces in longer as a teenager. But apart from that she is really happy to try and describe herself!

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Tracy has always liked to say it how it is in her writing, right from when she began her first novel No-one Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday nearly ten years ago. Her insight and wit has led her to be a number one bestseller, published in over a dozen countries and twice winner of the Love Stories Awards for Best Author Published Romance.

You can find Tracy on Facebook, Goodreads, and on Twitter. You can also visit her website.

FACEBOOK PARTY!

Come and take part in the amazing Facebook party for Strictly My Husband! Fun, games, reviews, more prizes and oh and more fun! Click here or email brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk for an invitation!

As well as prizes on the Facebook event party page Brook Cottage Books is also thrilled to offer you a chance to win a signed paperback copy of the book! Just click here to enter.

Fir for Luck by Barbara Henderson

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I met lovely Barbara Henderson at an event in Edinburgh organised by fellow blogger Joanne (whose blog is here), and I was struck by what a vibrant and engaging person Barbara was. So it gives me enormous pleasure to be reviewing her children’s story Fir for Luck today. Fir for Luck is published by Cranachan on 21st September 2016 and is available for pre-order here.

Fir for Luck

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Would you be brave enough to fight back? 

When 12-year-old Janet’s village is under threat– she decides to take action.

It’s a split-second decision that could cost her everything: her home, her family – even her life.

Can Janet save her village from being wiped out? Or will her family and friends be forced from their homes to face an uncertain future?

Based on real life events, Fir for Luck is a tale of the brutal Highland Clearances, when land owners cared more about sheep than people.

My Review of Fir for Luck

12 year-old Janet’s village is under threat – but she’s not going to be evicted without a fight.

I absolutely loved Fir for Luck by Barbara Henderson and whilst it is predominantly written for children I don’t see why they should have all the enjoyment.

Fir for Luck is a completely compelling, interesting story and all the more so because it is based in facts surrounding the Scottish land clearance of the 1800s. What Barbara Henderson has done, is take these facts and weave them into a spellbinding story that echoes the past in a vibrant and exciting plot. Although the timescale is relatively tight, apart from a few flashbacks to the very beginning of the century, the pace is breakneck and I found myself as breathless as Janet on occasion.

Janet herself is a triumph of a character. Strong willed and charismatic, her first person telling of the story is completely engaging and she is a wonderful role model for girls (and boys) everywhere. I also loved Wee Donald as, through him, readers can appreciate those with a disability have equal value to everyone else. Indeed, there are so many themes that underpin the story that would appeal to children and adults alike. Barbara Henderson explores life and death, loyalty and love, moral and legal right, violence and peace and national pride without the reader really realising she has done so. This is such skilful writing.

However, what I enjoyed most, I think, about Barbara Henderson’s writing is the authentic voice she has. The prose reflects the time in which the book is set in a natural and believable fashion. The tone is perfect. The descriptions transport the reader to Ceannabeinne and to the era effortlessly so that it feels as if you’re part of the history and not simply reading a narrative.

This might be a book aimed at children, but this 50+ middle aged woman was entirely captivated by it and I’m not ashamed to say I even shed a tear at the end. I cannot recommend Fir for Luck highly enough.

About Barbara Henderson

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Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.

Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.

You can find out more by following Barbara on Twitter and reading her blog.

In Praise of YA Fiction, a Guest Post from Daccari Buchelli, author of Phoenix

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There’s been quite a bit of debate recently about the merits of YA (Young Adult) fiction and I believe it is every bit as good as any other genre. So, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Daccari Buchelli to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell us all about the merits of YA Fiction. Daccari’s novel Phoenix, the first in the Peradon Fantasy series was published on 26th August 2016 and is available for purchase here.

Phoenix

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Magic never ceased to bring Violetta joy, until the day it became her curse. Aged fifteen, the young Flame Mage and Princess finds herself drawn to the mysterious and charming Frost Emperor, Ryore.

Torn between her sudden feelings and inescapable duty to the throne, Violetta seeks to strike a balance. Will she surrender her will forever, or strive for freedom by doing the unthinkable?

Young Adult Fiction: A Genre In Its Own Right

A Guest Post by Daccari Buchelli

You may love it or hate it, but Young Adult Literature is much debated over in the modern day world of fiction.

Does this section of fiction deserve its own genre?

Absolutely!

While differing from Classical Literature, Young Adult books do maintain similar themes, the main ones being growth, and the change of characters, be it emotionally or physically. They offer valuable insights into our day to day life experiences. They provide the youth of today with relevant life lessons, which are learnt by characters similar to them.

One of the greater challenges of writing within this genre is being able to build a strong emotional connection between the characters and the readers. You have to think about what universal problems your target audience, in this case young people, could identify with. Examples such as coming of age, defying authority figures, first loves, and transitional phases, are all things that could be related to at this point.

Despite such challenges, Young Adult fiction provides many benefits to the youth of today. It explores issues faced by young people with a unique and understanding perspective. In addition, in promotes a healthy understanding of different cultures, and how equality is needed between all people. Even through its characters, this genre encourages young people to read and to connect, helping to shape their young minds for the better.

To those who would criticise the Young Adult genre as inferior or unimportant, I must tell you that you are mistaken. By drawing more young people into fiction, Young Adult and its many sub-genres are growing to be the most popular books of modern times. Every genre has its right to exist, but Young Adult Literature is helping to sculpt our young people, creating brighter individuals. As authors, I believe it is our primary duty to inspire future generations and this genre is doing just that.

(Linda: And I couldn’t agree more Daccari!)

About Daccari Buchelli

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Born in 1993, British Fantasy Novelist Daccari Buchelli focuses on the darker side of human nature, with just a sprinkling of old school magic. Raised in Eastern England, he currently composes novels aimed at young adults.

Realising his love of language as a young child, Daccari spent all hours of the day reading and writing. Having Aspergers Syndrome (though only being diagnosed in his early twenties), he often struggled to identify well with his peers and often felt lonely, until he picked up a book.

Fantasy Novels brought him into a sublime world of colour and creation, where he remains caught up to this day, as he works on the genre he most adores. When away from his trusty ball point pen, Daccari enjoys art and music, retro video games, as well as curling up with a good book and a nice cup of tea.

You can find out more about Daccari by visiting his website and following him on Twitter. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

The Writer As Agent Provocateur, a Guest Post by Ravinder Randhawa, Author of The Coral Strand

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As soon as my life settles back into a normal phase I’m intending to travel to India – a country I’ve always wanted to visit. In the meantime, I’m delighted to be welcoming Ravinder Randhawa to Linda’s Book Bag today so that I can travel vicariously as Ravinder’s The Coral Strand takes me to Mumbai. The Coral Strand was published by Matador on 26th January 20116 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from Amazon and directly from the publisher.

Today Ravinder explains what it is that motivates her to write.

The Coral Strand

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From English winters to Indian summers. From the cold streets of modern Britain to the glamorous, turbulent and impassioned world of 1940’s Mumbai. Each year, Sita makes a mysterious journey to the Mausoleum, the place of dark memories and warped beginnings. She goes to spy on Emily and Champa, the strange ‘guardians’ she once escaped, and on whom she had taken a daring revenge.

This year proves to be fatefully different… This year, the terrible secrets of the past are starting to emerge; secrets that inexorably link the three women to each other, to the grey-eyed stranger Kala, and to an altogether different world – the glittering, violent and passionate world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Ravinder Randhawa’s women, caught in a desperate fight for survival, cross taboos and forbidden lines in this richly plotted novel, imbued with fascinating historical detail, and the beauties of place and period. Readers of modern and historical novels alike will enjoy Randhawa’s evocative portrait of the compelling relationship between Britain and India, which continues to enthrall and engage us.

The Writer As Agent Provocateur

A Guest Post by Ravinder Randhawa

‘Why do you write?’ I was once asked by the writer Vikram Seth, when we met at a books event.

‘Why do you?’ I asked in turn.

We found that neither of us could answer the question adequately. Writing is multi-faceted: both serious and light, deeply felt and superficial, amusing and heart-breaking. Because life is all these things and more.

When Chuka Umunna, the Labour party politician, was asked why he’d entered politics, he replied it was because he saw injustice and wanted to do something about it. Injustice in the world is also something that motivates me as a writer. It’s a double-sided process. Writing makes me think deeper about a subject, and allows me to highlight an idea, a theme.

The best fiction works subtly and dramatically, engaging not just the mind, but also the heart. So I know, as a writer of fiction, I have to work very differently from a journalist or politician, while staying loyal to the truth. Charles Dickens conveyed the terrible conditions of the Victorian poor, through vivid and remarkable characters, making us empathise with them. Making us learn and think without realising it.

To me, the world’s a fascinating place. Things happen in real life, which a writer wouldn’t dare invent, terrified of being ridiculed. Who would ever have linked David Cameron’s private parts and a dead pig, predicted that Donald Trump would win a presidential nomination, or Gary Lineker strip on TV. ‘You couldn’t make it up, could you?’ people are saying all over the place.

What intrigues me about these events, is what’s happening under the surface, in people’s hearts and minds. “Make America Great Again,” is the slogan that’s impelled thousands to support Trump. But what does it actually mean to individual people? Ask ten different people and I bet you’d get ten different answers. (Oh look, there’s a novel in the making!) And how do they think Trump’s actually going to “Make America Great Again”? Is he some kind of twenty-first century Messiah to them?

I’m a real people watcher. There must be something in this magnetic interest which feeds into the writing. I find that people are the most intricate, complex, frustrating, and bewildering beings in the world. It’s these intelligent and flawed, powerful and weak creatures who make up our world, make it what it is, and create consequences that can affect thousands, for years, decades and even centuries. No wonder they’re the subject matter of novels, plays and poems.

To go back to the original question – why write – it’s a difficult one to answer, but perhaps, like Chuka Umanna, there’s a need to set things right, to try and highlight injustice, false ideas, examine what it is to be human. To be an Agent Provocateur, with the faint hope of entertaining and engaging readers along the way.

About Ravinder Randhawa

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Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old WomanThe Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.

Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’  Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.

You can follow Ravinder on Twitter and visit her web site, or find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore

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I have been struggling to find reading time recently, so decided to read a book that has been languishing on my TBR (To Be Read) pile that was short enough to read in a single day; The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. The Lighthouse was published by Salt on 15th August 1012 and is available for purchase on Amazon, directly from the publisher and from all good book sellers.

The Lighthouse

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The Lighthouse begins on a North Sea ferry, on whose blustery outer deck stands Futh, a middle-aged, recently separated man heading to Germany for a restorative walking holiday. Spending his first night in Hellhaus at a small, family-run hotel, he finds the landlady hospitable but is troubled by an encounter with an inexplicably hostile barman.In the morning, Futh puts the episode behind him and sets out on his week-long circular walk along the Rhine. As he travels, he contemplates his childhood; a complicated friendship with the son of a lonely neighbour, his parents’ broken marriage and his own.

But the story he keeps coming back to, the person and the event affecting all others, is his mother and her abandonment of him as a boy, which left him with a void to fill, a substitute to find. He recalls his first trip to Germany with his newly single father. He is mindful of something he neglected to do there, an omission which threatens to have devastating repercussions for him this time around.

My Review of The Lighthouse

Futh is taking a walking holiday alone in Germany following the break up of his marriage, but during his week away the past is never far behind him.

Gosh what a cleverly written and frequently quite disturbing read The Lighthouse is. I can’t decide if I love it or loathe it. The prose is so atmospheric, with a claustrophobic feel as we encounter Ester’s loveless, violent, marriage and Futh’s fixation on his mother. The two stories interweave with iterative images of scent and oranges so that there are clues for the reader about the plot as well as the characters.

Indeed, it is the characters that are confusing me. I didn’t like any of them, not even Futh, who has been scarred by his mother’s abandonment and his father’s brutality, and I could fully understand his wife, Angela, wanting to be rid of him, However, I couldn’t stop reading about them, a bit like when you see a road accident and you know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself. Futh is a very damaged man and the novel explores both physical and emotional harm in a way that I found uncomfortable, even though much of that exploration is through implication rather than explicit event. The sexuality presented felt distasteful to me as Ester tries to curry favour with any male guest who crosses her path, somewhat like the way the Venus flytraps in her bathroom snap up their prey, or as Gloria behaves inappropriately towards the child Futh, but I have a feeling that is exactly what Alison Moore was hoping to convey and she has done so brilliantly.

The plot itself seems initially simplistic. A man, Futh, goes on a week’s walking holiday in Germany. But the reader shouldn’t be fooled. There is an incredible depth to this brief story. The nature of relationships and the past and their impact on us is utterly absorbing in its presentation, and the way in which scent and aroma can influence memory and behaviour is fascinating in its depiction. Plot elements are layered upon one another so that the more I think about what I’ve read, the more I notice.

I still can’t decide whether I enjoyed reading The Lighthouse, but I won’t forget it in a hurry and it has certainly made me think – sometimes against my will.

About Alison Moore

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Alison Moore is a novelist and short story writer. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives in a village on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border. She is an honorary lecturer in the School of English at Nottingham University.

You can find out more about Alison via her website

An Interview with A. Wadh, author of Emma’s Equilibrium

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Sadly, I can’t read all the books that I’m offered for review, but when A Wadh approached me about Emma’s Equilibrium I though it looked so interesting I invited him to be interviewed on Linda’s Book BagEmma’s Equilibrium was published in e-book by Matador on 16th February 2016 and is available for purchase here or directly from the publisher.

Emma’s Equilibrium

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As a child, Emma develops a talent for equestrian sport. She follows her passion and moves from England to Canada to compete at the highest level. Over time though, her great success pales into insignificance next to the overwhelming suffering that she comes to experience in the most brutal forms of betrayal, rape and violence until eventually, when the opportunity arises, she moves to Belgium with her husband, in the hope of a new start.

For a while, normality is restored. Everything appears to be fine – until they come to the realisation that there is a problem emerging within their family. Emma is increasingly troubled and challenged by the worrying traits that her eldest son is developing. She wonders why she encounters the dark side of men repeatedly. The situation worsens until one day, she despairs and reaches for their hunting rifle.

It’s time for an intervention. Just as suffering can co-exist with triumph, sometimes there is hope in despair. An encounter with Death provides answers that allow Emma to better understand her existence. She comes to understand that her life is just one part of a much larger plan and that things tend to happen for a reason. She also discovers that she is right at the cusp of achieving that much-desired state of existence, equilibrium.

An Interview with A. Wadh

Hi Arvind. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Emma’s Equilibrium in particular.

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

I am British, of Indian extraction, married to a French lady; we have three children and live in Brussels.

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

In my twenties; I used to feel emotions that I had an urge to put down on paper. I tried some poetry, but was unhappy with the result.

I know you have a very challenging ‘other’ job. What advice would you give to those who need to balance different work with their writing?

I would advise that you should only write about stuff that is unrelated to work. This way it allows for two lives to co-exist. Writing is very time consuming and needs to compliment your ‘normal’  life.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?  No idea.

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your writing is realistic?

I stick to topics and places I know and delve into them further depending on the need of the story. In any case, I draw the setting from my own life, my reading and watching films.

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

I find it easiest to write and most difficult to edit. Emma was pruned down by 50% in consultation with The Literary Consultancy through successive reviews, rewrites and re-reads.

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

At home,  in my ‘free’ time.

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

Magazines, newspapers, Spanish books.

Thérèse Raquin (Zola) and The Picture of Dorian Gray made a huge impact on me and prompted my theme of the co-existence of good and evil, triumph and betrayal.

You speak eight languages. How far does this help or hinder the writing process for you?

It helps to the extent that I have an insight into different cultures. It also anchors my life as a student.

I know you’re hoping to change the cover to Emma’s Equilibrium. How important is the cover to an author?

More important than I originally imagined. I am being particularly fussy with the redesign.

There’s a positivity in Emma’s Equilibrium, despite the darker elements. To what extent does this reflect your own philosophy of life?

I am fascinated by the twisted nature of human beings and the fact that life is not a straight path from beginning to end.

If you could chose to be a character from Emma’s Equilibrium, who would you be and why?

I would be Emma because she gets a very useful perspective on existence.

If Emma’s Equilibrium became a film, who would you like to play Emma and why would you choose them?

Excellent question; I have often thought about that one. I thought about a brunette, blue eyed Jennifer Lawrence or a younger Sophie Marceau.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Emma’s Equilibrium should be their next read, what would you say?

I will quote one of the reviewers on Amazon, author Laney Smith: I believe this is what timeless literature looks like, as I can see this being just as relevant a hundred years from now as it is today. Very impressive.

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

Readers can follow Arvind on Twitter. You can watch the trailer for Emma’s Equilibrium here.

An Interview With Stephanie Harte, Author of Peppermint Park

peppermint park

I’m very pleased to welcome Stephanie Harte to Linda’s Book Bag today. Stephanie’s latest novel, Peppermint Park, is out now and available for purchase on your local Amazon site and I’ve enjoyed hearing more about it in today’s interview.

Peppermint Park

peppermint park

The tree-lined street in the affluent suburb of Chigwell, Essex was made up of extravagant mansions. Peppermint Park looked picture perfect on the outside, but behind closed doors, it was a different story. It concealed a life of torment, where family secrets were hidden from public view.

In the swinging sixties, Violet boards a plane bound for San Francisco with her boyfriend Bradley, to start a new life at Happy Acres, a hippie commune. Once they stepped inside the boundaries, they entered a different realm, one without clocks and calendars. Where naked yoga sessions and howling at the moon were compulsory activities, and people experimented with marijuana, magic mushrooms and moonshine as a daily pastime.

Violet and Bradley were having the most amazing time of their lives. They were living the dream. But was their amphetamine-fueled existence about to come crashing down around them? Surely you can never have too much of a good thing, can you?

Join Violet and Bradley on their journey as they take a leap of faith into unknown territory in search of a new beginning, set against the stunning backdrop of Northern California.

An Interview with Stephanie Harte

Hi Stephanie. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Peppermint Park in particular.

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

I was born and raised in North West London where I still live with my husband Barry, daughter Sarah, son James and Cairn terrier Ruby. I trained in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at London College of Fashion and worked for many years as a Pharmaceutical Buyer for the NHS, based at Barnet General Hospital purchasing medicines and related supplies for North London hospitals.

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

I had dreamt of writing a book for years but had always been put off by such a daunting task. But something changed and on New Year’s Eve 2013 I decided to make a resolution, this year I’m going to do it. The time had come, and I finally felt ready to put pen to paper.

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

When I’m not writing I work as a self-employed Beauty Therapist teaching beauty workshops at a specialist residential clinic that treats children with severe eating disorders. I also love to sew.

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

I use the internet and spend a great deal of time checking multiple sources. I pay attention to tiny details to ensure my research is correct.

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

I find writing dialogue the easiest and I love writing descriptions. The most difficult part has to be finishing for the day when I still want to continue.

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

I write Monday-Friday in our office at home with my trusty terrier Ruby squashed on the chair behind me, in case I forget to take her for a walk.

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

I read a wide variety of books. I love anything from contemporary fiction to non-fiction, psychological thrillers, biographies, cookbooks and anything related to aromatherapy.

I know you have quite a scientific background. How useful was this when writing about some of the drug related elements in your story?

I think my background working in pharmaceuticals helped me when it came to writing about addiction as I know certain medication is closely monitored. It is just as easy to become dependent on prescription drugs as it is illegal ones.

Peppermint Park is your third novel. How has your style developed since you began writing fiction?

Kitty Murphy

Unlike my other two novels Peppermint Park is a bitter sweet romance and it contains some serious issues. Having written two light-hearted novels I wanted to try something different with this one.

wight

What made you choose the 1960s as the setting for Peppermint Park rather than the 1980s of your other two books?

A large part of the story is about a commune in the USA. I thought it would be appropriate to set the novel in the 1960s following the Summer of Love when the hippie culture was at its peak.

There are some unorthodox practices in Peppermint Park. What is your view of alternative therapies?

I love aromatherapy. I make beauty products and treatment oils using essential oils for my friends and family. I always use my own products when I run my beauty workshops.

If you could chose to be a character from Peppermint Park, who would you be and why?

I would be Sunshine; she’s optimistic about everything and lives in her own little world.

If  Peppermint Park became a film, who would you like to play Violet and Bradley?  

I would like Elle Fanning to play Violet and Justin Bieber to play Bradley.

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

Hippies, moonshine and mayhem help Violet overcome her troubled past and find a brighter future.

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Stephanie.

About Stephanie Harte

stephanie

Stephanie Harte was born and raised in North West London where she still lives with her husband Barry, daughter Sarah, son James and Cairn terrier Ruby.

She was educated at St Michael’s Catholic Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school she trained in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at London College of Fashion.

She worked for many years as a Pharmaceutical Buyer for the NHS, based at Barnet General Hospital purchasing medicines and related supplies for North London hospitals including, Edgware General, Finchley Memorial, Napsbury & peripheral sites . Her career path led her to work for an international export company whose markets included The Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

Since 2007 Stephanie has been teaching regular beauty therapy workshops at a London based specialist residential clinic that treats children with severe eating disorders.

A Universal Truth, a Guest Post from R.L McKinney, author of Blast Radius

Blast radius

It once again gives me enormous pleasure to welcome to Linda’s Book Bag an author I’ve met in person. This time it is lovely R.L McKinney. Rebecca’s novel Blast Radius is published by Sandstone Press in e-book and paperback and is available for purchase from all good booksellers, WaterstonesAmazon and via the publisher.

I was so interested in the idea that Rebecca had written a ‘war story that isn’t a war story’ that I just had to invite her onto the blog to explain.

Blast Radius

Blast radius

Sean McNicol’s best friend Mitch saved his life in Afghanistan, in an act of impulsive heroism. Now Mitch is dead and Sean has left the Royal Marines with a head full of ghosts and guilt. Mitch talks to Sean from beyond the grave, by turns encouraging him, cursing, singing and leading him to question his own sanity on a daily basis.

Turning his back on his life as a soldier, Sean grudgingly returns to the downcast Scottish town of his childhood and takes a job moving second-hand furniture for the Once Loved Furniture Company. He is hired by a former schoolmate to clear her late father’s house at Cauldhill Farm, and gradually discovers that his own life is intertwined in the most unexpected way with the farm and its former occupants.

In order to find the thing he wants most- a bit of peace- Sean must confront the unquiet spirits of his past: his alcoholic mother, his absent father, his old (almost) girlfriend Paula, his own fatal mistakes in Afghanistan and, of course, Mitch.

A Universal Truth

A Guest Post by R. L Mc Kinney

Blast Radius, my debut novel, is the story of Sean McNicol, an ex-Royal Marine who comes home to his village in Scotland and struggles to settle back into civilian life. Sean has blast damage to one ear after an IED explosion in Afghanistan, and the only thing he can hear in that ear is the ghostly voice of his best friend Mitch, who died saving his life. The book’s title is a technical term: a blast radius is the spatial area affected by an explosion. In the book this has both literal and metaphorical resonance.

Since the book was published last year, I have been asked one question repeatedly. Why would a woman with no first-hand knowledge of war choose to write a war story? I suppose one could equally ask the same question of Pat Barker, whose award-winning Regeneration Trilogy had such a powerful impact on me. Put on the spot, my answer to this is that I hadn’t really intended to. I sat down to write a very different book and, being a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of person, this is what I produced.

However, this isn’t the best answer. The real answer is that Blast Radius isn’t a war story at all. It’s a home story. It’s a story about life in a working class Scottish community in these austere times. It’s a story about a man who comes back from war to a place he never wanted to come home to, a place which holds as many bad memories for him as the poppy fields of Helmand Province. He is as haunted by unanswered questions about his dead mother and absent father as he is by Mitch. Before joining the Marines, Sean was damaged by poverty, a chaotic childhood and the feeling of being an outsider.

This is territory I know well. In my non-writing life, I have spent many years working in regeneration, collaborating with people from disadvantaged communities who are working to life make better where they live. Many of them are people who, like Sean, have had to fight to overcome adversity. The fictional town of Eskbridge is set in Midlothian, where I live, and most of the places described in the book are pretty close to my own front door. So many books set in Scotland run to one extreme or the other: Highland mystique or violent urban streets. Blast Radius is about a Scotland that is workaday, a dreary post-industrial town surrounded by beautiful country, ordinary people who are trying to navigate their own daily minefields. The war element adds an additional layer of complexity, but that’s reality too. Around the corner from my office in Dalkeith, the local veterans’ charity supports men and woman who have been affected by this country’s relentless string of wars. The Chairman of that charity recently told me he sees Sean in every man who comes through the door.

The thing Sean wants most in the world is a bit of peace. To find it, he must learn to stop running from the chain of explosions that have defined his life. He must learn to live where he is. I think this is true for all of us, whether we have been to war or not.

About R. L. McKinney

Rebecca McKinney

R. L. McKinney was born in Boulder, Colorado in 1971. She completed a PhD in social anthropology at Edinburgh University in 1999 and since then has worked in social research and community regeneration. In past incarnations, she has trained horses, worked in a bar, taught creative writing, played folk and bluegrass music, and performed with the Scottish a-capella singing group Stairheid Gossip. She now lives in Lasswade, Midlothian with her husband and two young children. Blast Radius is her debut novel.

You can follow Rebecca on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.