Rehab Run by Barbra Leslie

rehab-run

I’m so excited to welcome back Barbra Leslie to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate Rehab Run, the second in Barbara’s Cracked trilogy. Rehab Run is published today in North America and on 25th November 2016 in the UK, by Titan and is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon and through the publisher.

Last year I read the first in the series, Cracked, my crime book of the year 2015, reviewing it here and was delighted when Barbra agreed to an interview which you can read here. Today, to celebrate Rehab Run, Barbra has written a guest blog all about her central character Danny, who doesn’t always behave as Barbra wants! I’m also sharing my review.

Rehab Run

rehab-run

Danny Cleary is getting clean. When her twin sister was murdered and her nephews kidnapped, drug-addicted Danny crossed North America with her brother Darren pursuing those responsible and being pursued. Now she’s in rehab in the peace and tranquility of rural Nova Scotia; the hardest thing she’s smoking is nicotine, and she s taken up running. This was exactly what she needed. Then she finds a human hand in a mailbox and her rural idyll is shattered. Once again Danny is drawn into a complex underworld of insanity, revenge and murder. She will have to fight to protect her family and uncover the truth.

Controlling Character

A Guest Post by Barbra Leslie

The lovely Linda Hill mentioned something to me recently about writing about the “less salubrious” side of life – her words, not mine.  Once I was able to wipe the smile off my face (‘salubrious’ is one of my favourite words, and I’m always tickled when someone uses it), it got me thinking.  How much of my own life makes it into my fiction?  And holy cow, does everyone assume my own life is as dark as what I write about?

The first novel in my crime trilogy, Cracked, involves a woman – who happens to be a crack addict – on a quest to avenge her twin sister’s murder.  As readers of Linda’s blog may know, I took my own trip down the rabbit hole of addiction, years back.  (In fact, I started writing an early draft of the book when I was recovering.)  Cracked covers a lot of ground – literally.  From the streets of Toronto to a wealthy California beach town and east to the wilds of Maine, Danny is an unstoppable force.  It has an almost frenetic pace.

In the new book, Rehab Run – and I don’t think I’m giving much away here, future readers – Danny is in rehab.  This time, she’s in a cloistered private facility on the east coast of Canada, in Nova Scotia.  And in this chapter of the Danny saga, we are entirely in one part of the world; no private planes for our heroine in this book.  That being said, the action – and as I wrote it, you can be pretty sure there is a lot of action – takes place in the idyllic Annapolis Valley.

I was born and raised in the area I wrote about in Rehab Run.  I have family and friends there.  Those streets and lakes and woods are as familiar to me as the concrete jungle I live in now.  In fact, the Annapolis Valley is where I retreated to, when I left the mess of my own life of addiction behind.  While I never went to rehab myself – I white-knuckled detox and recovery on my own – and the facility Danny stays in is a figment of my imagination, I used a lot of my own experience, my own pain, and made it Danny’s.  Writing about Danny’s struggles with addiction is an exorcism, of sorts, for me.

That being said, I most definitely have not walked in Danny’s shoes in most respects, I am happy to report.  I have three amazing sisters, all of whom are alive and kicking.  And like most of us in the real world, I don’t think I have an archenemy, and as far as I can recall no one has every shot at me with a crossbow.  Really, she and I don’t have much in common, other than that pesky addiction, and the tendency to be a smart-aleck at unfortunate moments.  It may sound crazy to some, but Danny really has got a life of her own, outside of my plans for her.  I found that while writing Rehab Run, Danny was getting up to things that I hadn’t planned for her.  As a writer, that’s both invigorating and sometimes slightly annoying, throwing my careful plot outlines out the window.

Speaking of which, one of my favourite scenes in Rehab Run involves Danny crawling out an upstairs window clad in not much more than an old pair of her late husband’s boxers.  I hadn’t planned for her to do that, but Danny does what Danny does.

Myself, I’m closing my window right now against a cold, grey November morning in Toronto.  I’m keeping myself firmly planted in my office chair, throwing an old cardigan over my t-shirt, and working on my plans for Danny in the next book.  Which she will, undoubtedly, ignore.

(And which I can’t wait to read about Barbra!)

My Review of Rehab Run

Crack addict Danny is trying to get clean in Rose’s rehabilitation unit after a pretty tough time, but her life simply won’t settle down.

Barbra Leslie’s writing should come with a warning; if you don’t want to put your life on hold, don’t pick up one of her books because once you have, that’s it – you’re hooked. Having loved Cracked I wondered whether Rehab Run would appeal as much. It did. I couldn’t tear myself away.

It’s so difficult to review books like Rehab Run without giving away some of the plot, which in this case is twisty and compelling so that one shock for the reader follows another until you’re almost as punch-drunk as some of the characters! Rehab Run is a thrilling, heart thumping read. I kept having to put the book down to get my breath back and take in the furious pace of events, but I couldn’t leave it alone either and had to read on, almost without my own say so, so brilliant is Barbra Leslie’s storytelling. I don’t usually quote from fiction books I review for fear of spoiling the read, but if I share the first line of Rehab Run I think you’ll get an idea of Barbra Leslie’s style far more eloquently than I can express: ‘It was just my luck that I was the one who happened to to find the severed hand in the mailbox.

As the narrative raced along, with the frequently gruesome body count increasing, I was well out of my comfort zone, but I loved every word, even the frequent expletives as they are never out of place or gratuitous. What Barbra Leslie does so skilfully is to vary the length of her sentences so that they have maximum impact, especially at the end of chapters. She also writes with a wry, dark humour and the first person approach made it feel as if someone I knew really well, Danny, was addressing me directly as I read.

And it is Danny who really makes this series so magnetic. She is an incredible creation. She’s violent, unpredictable, feisty and volatile but equally vulnerable and sensitive when it comes to those she loves. If the chips were down you’d want her on your side and to be honest, I’d be completely terrified if she were my enemy.

Whilst Rehab Run is the second in the Cracked trilogy, you don’t have to have read Cracked to appreciate and enjoy it. There are references that will help new readers and remind previous ones, but Rehab Run is a brilliant thriller as a stand alone too. I honestly, truly, can’t recommend Barbra Leslie’s writing highly enough. If you love crime thrillers and you haven’t read Cracked or Rehab Run you’re really missing out.

About Barbra Leslie

img_1059-1-1

Barbra Leslie studied film and theatre at York University, then English at University of Toronto. She has published numerous stories in literary magazines, novels, and a screenplay. She’s been a marketing manager for a major law firm, a court reporter, and a criminal law issues officer for a government ministry.

You can follow Barbra on Twitter and visit her website.

Jungle Rock by Caroline James

jungle-rock

I was delighted to be offered a copy of the novella Jungle Rock by Caroline James in return for an honest review as I’ve featured Caroline in interview on Linda’s Book Bag in the past. You can read that interview here. Today Caroline explains how Jungle Rock came about – and how, with writer’s block, it nearly didn’t!

Jungle Rock is published today, 21st November 2016, by Ramjam and is available for purchase here.

Jungle Rock

jungle-rock

Handsome young chef, Zach Docherty is feeling the heat. Following an exposé in a national newspaper, his fiancée Poppy Dunlop has broken their engagement. Heartbroken at the thought of life without Poppy, Zach drowns his sorrows and when his agent suggests that Zach becomes a contestant in a reality TV show, Jungle Survival, he reluctantly agrees. Plunged deep in the jungle, into a bizarre mix of talent and trials, Zach meets glamour model, Cleo Petra, and the cameras go crazy.

Will Zach survive and be crowned Jungle King?

Or will his latest exploits push Poppy further away…

Jungle Rock and Writer’s Block

A Guest Post by Caroline James

AUTHOR CAROLINE JAMES (PROFESSIONAL PROMO SHOTS 14.08.2015)

Huge thanks to Linda for hosting me on her lovely blog today. Jungle Rock is my new novella and has been described as ‘a feel-good read’. I wrote this shorter story at a time when I was having a writer’s block and as soon as I started, the words began to flow again. Jungle Rock finds Zach Docherty, a handsome young celebrity chef, plunged deep into the Australian jungle when his agent puts him forward to be a contestant on a popular TV reality show. Zach is feeling the heat after a recent expose in a national newspaper and his fiancée has broken their engagement. The novella includes characters from previous novels but like all my novels, is a stand-alone read. Perhaps the familiarity of the characters helped to get me writing again.

To have a block in any work of creativity is tough, especially when it is your job and it is a discussion I often have with a lovely group of writers that I belong to (The Cheshirati). My own thoughts on how to overcome this problem is to stop procrastinating and turn up at the page and write. Get your rear on a seat and get typing. It doesn’t matter what you get down, at some stage something will start to develop. Don’t attempt to proof or edit till the end and most of all, believe in yourself; don’t die wondering about what might have been.

The urge to write is back, thank goodness, and my next novel, Boomerville, is scheduled for 2017. Jungle Rock is a happy piece and it made me smile and I hope readers enjoy the novella as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Happy reading and writing xx

My Review of Jungle Rock

Having blown his engagement with Poppy, Zach finds himself in a reality TV programme in Australia.

I haven’t read the other books featuring Zach, but it made no difference at all to my enjoyment of this topical and entertaining story. I have a confession. My guilty pleasure is ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here‘ which I watch every year leading up to Christmas. Now, whilst I don’t think you need to be a fan of the programme to appreciate Jungle Rock, the fact that I am really enhanced my pleasure in the story as there are many echoes. I could imagine the scenarios and recognise the references which brought the story to life very vividly. Christmas is an underlying theme too, but it is not overdone as in some Christmas stories. It successfully underpins the time of year in which the story is set.

Whilst Zach is the central character, he is presented in a slightly oblique way so that Poppy, Bob, Jo and Harriett have greater focus and uncover Zach to the reader. I really liked this different approach and felt I got to know all the characters intimately, despite Jungle Rock being a novella. There’s a brilliant range of individuals with a cast of different ethnicities, sexualities, professions and ages so that Jungle Rock has a character that every reader can relate to.  I especially liked the fact that Harriett and Jo are living life to the full, giving a positive image of those of us of a certain age!

I thoroughly enjoyed the underlying messages to the story too. Characters are quick to judge one another and have to reassess their position which gives a clear message about not jumping to conclusions even when presented with ‘evidence’. Caroline James celebrates family, relationships, honesty and trust in her quick and lively writing and through her fast paced plot.

If you’re looking for a highly entertaining story for a winter’s afternoon in the run up to Christmas, look no further. Jungle Rock is for you.

About Caroline James

AUTHOR CAROLINE JAMES (PROFESSIONAL PROMO SHOTS 14.08.2015)

Caroline’s debut novel, Coffee Tea The Gypsy & Me shot to number 3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun newspaper. Her second novel, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity… Chef? has been described as wickedly funny: ‘AbFab meets MasterChef in a Soap…’ Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me, an Amazon best-seller, was a Top Ten Finalist at The Write Stuff, London Book Fair 2015 and the judge’s comments included: Caroline is a natural story-teller with a gift for humour in her writing.” Her next novel, Boomerville will be published spring 2017.

Gypsy

Caroline has owned and run many catering related businesses and cookery is a passion alongside her writing, combining the two with her love of the hospitality industry and romantic fiction. As a media agent, Caroline represented many well-known celebrity chefs and her TV script, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity Chef? was runner up at the Winchester Writers Festival 2016.

She has published short stories and is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association. Caroline writes articles on food and celebrity based interviews and is Feature Editor for an online lifestyle magazine. She is a founder member of The Cheshirati and is available for inspiring and entertaining talks on anything related to the hospitality and publishing industry.

You can find all of Caroline’s books on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

You can find out more about Caroline on her website and follow her on Twitter. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

An Interview with Mendus Harris, author of Dead Man’s Gold

dead-mans-gold

I’m delighted to welcome Mendus Harris to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell us all about his writing and Dead Man’s Gold in particular. Dead Man’s Gold is the first in the Lomax Gold Mine Series and is available for purchase in paperback here.

Dead Man’s Gold

dead-mans-gold

There is a small town in Ghana, W Africa which exists for no other reason than to mine gold. It was founded in the early twentieth century when a lucky strike sent people flocking to the site to find wealth and employment.

Edryd (Ed) Evans arrives from his hilltop on the Welsh Borders. He is an experienced gold exploration geologist who has spent large amounts of time in West Africa. But he is wary of returning after being kidnapped and held hostage on his previous visit. He has come because an old friend, Greg Boston, has disappeared in mysterious circumstances…

An Interview with Mendus Harris

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

I’m a Welsh Liverpudlian, born in Scotland whose spiritual home is in Ireland. After many years working as a geologist in mining I now earn a living as a teacher. I’m married with three children and live in North Wales.

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

I always felt that  I’d like to be a fiction writer, the urge grew progressively as I got older, when I realised that I had a story to tell. I began to write seriously seven years ago

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

As a gold exploration consultant I was required to write the equivalent of a Master’s thesis every six weeks. Although based in cities in New Zealand, then Australia and then Canada, much of my time was spent in isolated mine or exploration camps in the Outback, Labrador Coast, Scandinavia and, of course, Africa. So in some ways being an author is a way of utilising the creativity that developed during these formative years.

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

I write using my own experiences. Dead Man’s Gold is a memoir that morphed into a work of fiction when I stitched my own recollections of working in a real African gold mine along a plot line. The more outlandish incidents have been left out, either because nobody would believe them, or because they would be misunderstood.

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

The beginning is hardest. You need to start somewhere, and I always begin writing at the beginning with the knowledge that much of it will be ditched. After the meat of the book is written, it’s time to return to the beginning and rewrite. This can be challenging, particularly when it’s a sequel and the events of the previous book have to be summarised for events in the new book to make sense.

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

Writing gets done when time and tiredness allow. The best times are in the morning at the weekend or a couple of hours at night once the kids are in bed.

You’re now based in North Wales. How far has location impacted on you as a writer?

It probably influenced the setting of Ed’s farmhouse. As a writer (and teacher) having a place like North Wales on my doorstep is very important. I can be in Snowdonia and climbing a hill within an hour of leaving the house. Unfortunately my own family ditched the Welsh language a generation or so ago in the mistaken belief that it was a mill stone. Once a language is lost, its not so easy to regain, like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube.

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

Thrillers are best. Le Carre is king, but only his Cold War novels. Stieg Larsson has been a revelation. Quirky autobiographies; Boycott’s made me laugh like a drain recently. JRR Tolkien. Science fiction up to a point, if it’s internally consistent. Dean Foster’s rendering of the Alien movies are engaging. I like to dip into social history books, recently I read a book about the North Wales slate industry. The last heavy-weight book I read was Crime and Punishment.

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

One of my greatest joys is fly fishing for trout, particularly somewhere high and remote, several hours strenuous walk from road end. My mind empties and for several hours focuses on only one thing. Afterwards, ideas appear in my head.

Dead Man’s Gold has a very stark contrasting black and gold cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The book is dark. It’s about conflict, whether between geologists and engineers, Europeans and Africans, new and old religions, capitalism and organised labour…… But the lustre of gold obliterates bonds of kinships and at the same time sharpens rivalries between intractable foes. It’s impossible to represent that fabric within the simple patina of a book cover

(I’d say you’ve done so pretty well!)

Dead Man’s Gold is the first of your books featuring Edryd (Ed) Evans. How did you create his character? (I’m wondering if he’s based on you, someone you know, if you used a template or post-its, or produced an entire character profile for him etc)

Ed has a lot of me in him, but not entirely, he’s what I might have become had I not stepped aside and become a teacher. I needed somebody from a similar background so I could anticipate reactions to certain people and situations. He’s a bit of a lost boyo or a faithful old dog who has difficulty interpreting people, particularly women. Health and happiness are always just out of his reach.

If Dead Man’s Gold became a film, who would you like to play Edryd (Ed) Evans?  

Ed is riven by internal conflicts, prey to the whim of powerful interests, fighting internal demons. Rhys Ifans would be good.

What can we expect from Ed in the future? (Blog readers please note there are slight spoilers in this answer from Mendus!)

In The Wolf Man Approaches Ed returns to the mine after a plea for assistance from Allen. The loose ends from Dead Man’s Gold are tied up and Ed realises that there’s more, much more, going on behind the scenes than he previously suspected. We find out a lot more about Allen and his murky past thanks to the arrival of two new characters at the mine.

In Ice Bound Ed is persuaded by Lucky Lomax, owner of the Lomax Mine, to visit the Labrador Coast in Canada. When the exploration camp is hit by a storm and all lines of communication are cut, Ed begins to realise that he’s been set up. Even in this remote place, echoes of the events at Lomax Mine continue to reverberate.

With so many countries in Africa relying on gold why did you choose Ghana in particular for your setting?

I know Ghana. I did dabble with a fictional country, mainly because people who know Ghana might think they recognise the mine in the book. But on long reflection I decided that didn’t matter, so long as I changed the name and did not use any easily recognisable characters.

As a geologist in a previous life, how easy or difficult is it to get the right balance of geological reference in your fiction?

Very difficult. In the end I’ve plumped for as little as possible, just enough to give a ring of authenticity. On the other hand, I think the use of trilobites will intrigue readers.

(Oh – I have a trilobite myself bought as a present by my husband!)

I know gold mining in Africa is fraught with danger and corruption. How much was this a motivator for your writing?

Quite a bit. Huge wealth flows out of the Lomax Mine into the hands of rich City investors and only a fraction of a percent finds its way into the pockets of ordinary people in the town.  They live in conditions of squalor, in shacks next to open sewers.  It’s the dichotomy between extreme wealth and extreme poverty which fuels the greed that causes corruption and dangerous working practices.

Dead Man’s Gold doesn’t shy away from the realities of life in African mining communities and I think some readers will be surprised by what they read. How far do you think it is the role of an author to educate as well as entertain?

People who like to read want to be transported from their own lives into another place, even if that place is less pleasant that their own. Life in a town surrounding an African gold mine is as detached from our own as its possible to get and still be on Earth. I think most people would see Lomax Mine and its town as a fantasy place.

If you could choose to be a character from Dead Man’s Gold, who would you be and why?

James Allen… Allen has led a charmed life. He is a man of experience who can read people. Rumours abound about his past and the Old Hands at the mine avoid him. He’s attractive because he’s an outsider, he isn’t swayed one way or the other by mere words and has enough internal resources to decide for himself.

As Dead Man’s Gold is the first in a series, how have you managed continuity and progression in your writing?

By keeping the number of characters and places to a minimum.  Although the third book, “Ice Bound”, takes place outside the Lomax Mine, its setting is an island where there is only four other people. Keeping the primary POV to Ed also helps to maintain the continuity, it forces discipline.

And finally, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Dead Man’s Gold should be their next read, what would you say?

Life and death at an African Gold Mine written by someone who knows.

About Mendus Harris

mendus

Mendus Harris has been writing conspiracy thrillers for the last ten years. His latest books are based in a fictional gold mine named Lomax and draw on his extensive experience as an exploration geologist.Very few people appreciate how a large gold mine in Africa functions and those that do may not be keen for the truth to be told.

His writing conjures images which are redolent with the sights and sounds of West African gold mines, the characters who inhabit them and the political conflicts which can threaten to rip them apart. Here is an author who has been there and seen that and has a view on what he has experienced.

You can find out more by visiting Mendus’ website and finding him on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Seven Secrets for Being a Souper Mum, a Guest Post by Kristen Bailey, author of Second Helpings

second-helpings

I’ve never been a Mum and think I’d be pretty useless at it too. Therefore, I’m rather in awe of Kristen Bailey’s guest post on Linda’s Book Bag today all about being a ‘souper’ mum! Kristen is celebrating her latest novel Second Helpings which was published by Accent Press on 17th November 2016. Second Helpings is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here. Kirsten’s first novel in this series Souper Mum is available for purchase here.

Souper Mum

souper-mum-cover

Souper Mum is the story of Jools Campbell, a stay-at-home mother of four, who becomes an unlikely foodie hero when she stands up to a pompous celebrity chef, Tommy McCoy on a reality show.  Armed with fish fingers and a severely limited cooking repertoire, we watch as she becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns some important life lessons about love, family and the joyless merits of quinoa.

Second Helpings

second-helpings

Exactly eighteen months after squaring up to a pompous TV chef, Jools Campbell finds herself back in the fame game as she becomes a judge on a family cooking show.  How will she cope being back in the limelight, juggling being a working mum?  What happens when she finds out her old nemesis, Tommy McCoy is her fellow judge?  The knives are sure to fly as ‘Souper Mum’ makes her triumphant return.

Seven Secrets For Being A Souper Mum

A Guest Post by Kristen Bailey

  • Souper Mums operate on sleep. Where possible, sleep.  Of course, this is easier said than done so catch sleep when you can.  This may be in the day while you’re watching Judge Rinder in mismatched pyjamas with a chocolate Bourbon stuck to your forehead, or when you’re in the car waiting for the school gate to open.  If the blighters are up at 6am on a weekend, you have full permission to throw them all a brioche and put on Netflix, then crawl back into bed.  It’s why the world created Netflix.
  • Souper Mums’ Guide to Laundry
  1. No one ever died wearing an unironed school shirt.
  2. It’s mismatched socks or no socks.
  3. Also, totally fine to wear said socks two days in a row.
  4. Ribena/grass/paint stains come as standard. Wear them like nouveau fashion statements.
  • Souper Mum’s Guide to the School Run
  1. Lots of caffeine.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, it’s totally fine to do the school run in your pyjamas, just put your trackies and hoodie over the top.
  3. No one is looking at your hair bundled atop your head like a small mammal’s nest. Or the fact you don’t have any make up on.  Or a bra.
  4. Get the kids in and leave, making sure to avoid the mums with the clipboards, the ones gloating about spelling tests, the ones who look like they’ve come from the gym…
  • Cake Sales are the benchmark by which you can measure a Souper Mum. There will be some who send in perfectly risen cupcakes, iced within an inch of their lives and covered in glittery sparkles and shards of caramel.  There will be those who send in cupcakes that have been shop-bought but put in their own Tupperware to make it look like they baked them.  Others will send in a pack of Jaffa Cakes, others will forget…*whispers* none of it matters really because we all know kids just lick the icing off and never eat the cake anyway.
  • Souper Mums sometimes make a spag bol from scratch. Other days they will serve fish finger sandwiches with a packet of crisps that have to be eaten in the car or else everyone will be late for swimming.  There is nothing wrong with fish fingers.  They are endorsed by Captain Birdseye – a man with genuine naval expertise.  Level everything out with boxes of raisins, apples and a token bit of cucumber; all of which you’ll find in between the car seats three months later.
  • Souper Mums drink. Not in the day if possible but when you know you don’t have to get back in the car again that day, it is totally fine to open up a bottle and have a cheeky glass of something.  If your day has involved vomit, public tantrums, temporary traffic lights, toilet training, a lost remote control then up the stakes and hit the hard liquor.  Drink with other Souper Mums to console each other.
  • *whispers again* The seventh secret is that…there is no secret to motherhood.  Everyone’s winging it, and you’re doing just fine.  If any of the above sounds familiar though, I’d like to introduce you to my Souper Mum; Jools Campbell.  Her adventures in motherhood and modern life were published in June 2016 and the next instalment of her story, Second Helpings is out this month.  Both novels take a refreshing look at family, celebrity culture and the joyless merits of quinoa.  Both are gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians.

About Kristen Bailey

author-pic

Mother-of-four, gin-drinker, binge-watcher, receipt hoarder, hapless dog owner, enthusiastic but terrible cook.  Kristen lives in Fleet, Hampshire in a house overrun by Lego and odd socks.  Her debut novel, Souper Mum was released by Accent Press in June and its sequel, Second Helpings was released on 17th November.

You can find out more about Kristen on her blog about being a modern mother.  You can follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

tour-poster

 

For the Love of Shakespeare by Beth Miller

for-the-love-of-shakespeare

My grateful thanks to Lizzie Curtin at Summersdale Publishers for a copy of For the Love of Shakespeare by Beth Miller in return for an honest review. For the Love of Shakespeare was published on 13th October 2016.

Available from Amazon in e-book and hardback, you can also obtain a signed, dedicated hardbacked copy of For the Love of Shakespeare from Beth’s own website by clicking here.

For the Love of Shakespeare

for-the-love-of-shakespeare

Did you know…

• Shakespeare is the most filmed author of all time: he’s been credited on more than 1,000 movies and TV shows.
• ‘Obscene’, ‘gloomy’, ‘fashionable’ and ‘generous’ are among the countless new words that Shakespeare introduced. (Actually, ‘countless’ is one of his too.) It’s also because of the Bard that we say ‘catch a cold’, ‘naked truth’ and ‘green-eyed monster’.
• Almost all the moons of Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare, including Titania, Oberon and Puck?

For further fascinating insights, dive into this masterful miscellany and become a Shakespeare buff.

There’s never been a better time to take a fresh look at William Shakespeare’s eternal works. A treasure trove of wit, imagination and emotion, his plays and poems continue to surprise, inspire, console and delight us. Whether you’re a lifelong lover of the Bard or a curious newcomer to his world, this companion will lift the curtain on the unforgettable characters and stories of Britain’s greatest dramatist.

My Review of For the Love of Shakespeare

Everything you thought you knew about Shakespeare and an awful lot more besides!

I’d have thought that Shakespeare had been done to death and that there wouldn’t be much more to offer but Beth Miller has come up with a fresh and vivacious book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Divided into clearly defined sections, For The Love of Shakespeare is designed, as Beth Miller herself says, for the reader to dip in to and I must mention the lovely attached silk bookmark that allows this so easily. I began by flicking through and allowing aspects to catch my eye but then became hooked on the ‘In a Nutshell’ summaries of each play so I went back and read them all in order and before I knew it I was reading the whole book exactly as presented.

Beth Miller has such a natural and lively writing style that she made me laugh out loud on several occasions with her wry and witty comments. I loved the description of Sonnet 73 as wise, ‘If a bit gloomy…’ As well as being massively entertained I was also educated. I studied English at University, I’ve taught Shakespeare to A’level in schools and to adults in college and I still learnt all kinds of things from this smashing book. I had no idea Richard Burton was so put off his Shakespearean performance by Winston Churchill! When reading bits aloud to my husband he said in a tone of awe, ‘That must have taken some researching. I don’t know how people do it.’ And he’s right, the depth of research is outstanding, but never pompous or dry in its presentation. And one of the joys of For The Love of Shakespeare is that it is a book you can share with readers of all ages. I’m sure younger readers will be entranced by the body counts at the end of the play sections , for example.

For The Love of Shakespeare is certainly an erudite, educational and entertaining book about Shakespeare with a Foreword by the eminent Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Professor Michael Dobson, but it is so much more besides. It’s partly an autobiography of Beth Miller as we gain a real insight into how her passion for Shakespeare has evolved from that first live performance of Richard 111 to sniggering at Bottom’s name in  A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s partly a social history and a literary one. It’s partly a joke book and an insight into modern media of stage, film and television. But most of all, For the Love of Shakespeare is an absolutely brilliant read and I loved it and yes, there is more faith in me ‘than in a stewed prune’!

About Beth Miller

beth-miller

Beth Miller’s varied career has included roles as a sexual health trainer, journalist, psychology lecturer, PhD student and inept audio-typist. She is the author of two novels, When We Were Sisters and The Good Neighbour, as well as For the Love of the Archers.

You can follow Beth on Twitter and visit her website.

An Interview with June Taylor, author of Losing Juliet

losing-juliet-final-cover

Oh, I love a good twisty psychological thriller so I’m delighted to welcome June Taylor to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a little about her debut thriller Losing Juliet.

Losing Juliet will be published on 25th November 2016 as part of Harper Collins’ Killer Reads and is available for e-book pre-order on Amazon and by following the publisher links here. It will be released in paperback on 12th January 2016.

Losing Juliet

losing-juliet-final-cover

You can’t escape the past…

Juliet and Chrissy were best friends until one fateful summer forced them apart. Now, nearly twenty years later, Juliet wants to be back in Chrissy’s life.

But Chrissy doesn’t want Juliet anywhere near her, or her teenage daughter Eloise. After all, Juliet is the only person who knows what happened that night – and her return threatens to destroy the life that Chrissy has so carefully built.

Because when the past is reawakened, it can prove difficult to bury. And soon all three of them will realize how dangerous it can get once the truth is out there…

An Interview with June Taylor

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

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

I’m a writer from Leeds, and a very proud Yorkshire lass! I’ve done many jobs from selling cream cakes to teaching English as a foreign language, and I love to travel, see new places, experience new things.  I’ve written short plays and had a full-length play produced.  In 2011, I was runner-up in the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition with a YA novel.  But I finally found my niche writing adult psychological thrillers.  I’m on the Board of Script Yorkshire and help out with Leeds Big Bookend.

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

Well I’ve been writing ever since I realised that, in my imagination, I could do anything, be anyone, and go absolutely anywhere.  I was a quiet kid at school, growing up in the “should-be-seen-but-not-heard” era, so the written word became my means of expression.   I had a brilliant English teacher at my middle school, Mr Coulthard.   I have a lot to thank him for.  He got me over that, I suppose initial embarrassment of writing and sharing it with others.  You can feel very vulnerable.

(I’m rather fond of English teachers myself June!)

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

I used to be a TV promos writer/producer in a previous life.  It was a brilliantly creative job that kept me going as a freelancer for many years.  I was so lucky in that respect.  I suppose if I hadn’t become an author I’d still be doing that, or something very similar with words and images.  But I’m not very good at art or making things with my hands, so it would never be anything along on those lines.

How do you carry out the research for your novels?

So far I have written contemporary fiction, or at least set within the last few decades.  The locations I’ve used I go and recce, or are places I’ve been to before.  For any factual stuff I use Google – but carefully! You have to remember that Google is not god.  Also, I ask people if they can provide some backdrop to a location or a particular time period.  There’s usually someone who can help.

I greatly admire those who write historical fiction because I don’t think I have the stamina to carry out that type of research, nor the imaginative prowess to bring it to life.  Including Sci-fi, actually, where you’re inventing a whole new world and set of rules.

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

Good question! Well I come from a scriptwriting background, so transferring that discipline across to novels has been interesting for me, and a steep learning curve.  When you write a script you do minimal stage directions and scene setting.  Someone else has to worry about that.  So it’s these bits I find hardest to write.  Plotting and dialogue tend to flow more easily.  I then go back and embellish the descriptive parts.  There certainly won’t be much of that in the first draft.

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

I’m jealous of people who say they get up at the crack of dawn and start writing, because I am just so not a morning person.  I use the mornings for admin, chores, any other work I have to do.  Afternoons and evenings are for writing.  I work in a very small and incredibly untidy office.  I like the fact it’s compact because I feel hidden away.  The untidiness I seem to need for some reason because if I have a neat desk, orderly notice boards, I fail to concentrate.  I suppose it feels a bit too sterile.  So I’ve learned to work with this; it’s just who I am!

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

I like to read what I love to write actually – psychological thrillers.  Generally ones not too ‘in the genre’, but more the twisty, “gets under your skin” type.  Like Rebecca, Room, Notes on a Scandal, The Lovely Bones, The Sick Rose.  I prefer the criminal mind, so I love Patricia Highsmith novels.  But that’s not to rule out crime fiction, or any other sort of fiction for that matter if it’s good.  I think you’ve got to take a punt sometimes and read outside your comfort zone, pick up recommendations from those you trust.  I’m a terribly slow reader though.

If one of your books became a film, which would you choose and why?  

This is my first book to be published, so this one! It’s pretty filmic and set in some great locations.  Because of my scriptwriting training I always write very visually, in scenes rather than in chapters.  My style of writing is therefore quite filmic, I would say.

How important do you think social media is to authors in today’s society?

Very.  It’s a wonderful thing for putting word out there about your work.  But there are things I really don’t like about it.  It’s very time-consuming and there’s such a lot of hype goes on.  We’ve always had that of course, but these days it’s so much more exaggerated.

However, social media is a lovely way of connecting with other writers, bloggers, reviewers, readers.  There’s a huge community of people out there who just love books.  This is an amazing thing, and certainly makes up for the negatives.

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?

No, but I would like to say thanks for having me on here, Linda.  And thanks for reading this, if you have actually made it to the end!

My pleasure to have you June. Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

About June Taylor

026

June is a British writer from Leeds and proud of her Yorkshire heritage.  Writing mainly psychological thrillers and YA fiction, as well as plays, in 2011 she was a runner up in the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition with Lovely Me, Lovely You.

June has worked in many arenas from being a TV promos producer to EFL and French club teacher, as well as a volunteer with Childline and the Refugee Council.

June is on the Board of Script Yorkshire and a big supporter of Leeds Big Bookend.

You can follow June on Twitter and visit her website.

Norway, An Authentic Setting, a Guest Post by Adrian Hyde, author of Kingmaker

kingmaker-cover

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Adrian Hyde to Linda’s Book Bag today. Adrian’s novel Kingmaker was published by Three Assassins Press on 27th September 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here. Kingmaker is set in Norway, a country I’m desperate to visit, so I asked Adrian to tell me more about why he chose this particular setting for his writing.

Kingmaker

kingmaker-cover

Kingmaker: A Harry King Thriller

Wealth. Power. Glory. Revenge.

When the world is against you, who do you trust?

April 1940. Norway has fallen under the Nazi Blitzkrieg. Only a small British force now stands between Hitler’s SS and the ultimate prize…

Lieutenant Harry King is in trouble again. Haunted by his past and consumed by alcohol, he is saved from his fate by a mysterious senior officer. When he is sent on a seemingly simple errand, he stumbles into a conspiracy that could change the course of the war.

Dragged into a hair-raising world of murder, mystery and betrayal, King must choose between his duty, love and revenge. In a heart-pounding race across the frozen tundra, mountains and fjords, can he survive against the odds and uncover the traitor at the heart of his world?

Norway, An Authentic Setting

A Guest Post by Adrian Hyde

When I started to write my book, Kingmaker: A Harry King Thriller, I wanted to write a mainstream thriller (as that is what I mostly love reading at the moment), but as a new author I knew that I needed something different so I decided to set it in Norway at the start of World War 2. I was unsure about this at first as I know that the typical “military” books reader is very different from the more mainstream thriller reader, so I had to make sure that the background supported the main plot, rather than the other way around. It must have worked because lots of readers have already said how much they enjoyed reading Kingmaker and were surprised at how unlike a traditional “war story” it is. I think the landscape really helped me to achieve my target.

So why did I choose Nazi-controlled Norway in 1940? Well, firstly, I have always been fascinated by the war – as were most boys of my age, growing up in the nineteen-eighties surrounded by war movies on the television at Christmas, and this was increased by tales of my father’s own military experience in the fifties. As a result of this, history has always been a passion of mine, so over the years I started to read more about both World Wars in order to better understand what happened. I was particularly drawn to those events that didn’t go as planned and were consequently swept under the carpet by history and establishment alike. The British failure to stop Hitler’s invasion of Norway was largely ignored and overlooked by Britain at the time, desperate to focus instead on the miracle of Dunkirk and the success of the Battle of Britain. Despite this, I felt it was a fascinating story of bravery and plucky resistance against overwhelming odds, and I decided to use this reflection of my similarly confused, misunderstood and underestimated protagonist. Harry King is a British Lieutenant with a haunted past and a drinking problem despite his responsibility. He is falling to pieces but nobody wants to listen, mainly because the world was far less understanding of mental health issues at that time and King’s torment is lost in a sea of old-school authority and the British stiff upper lip. As part of the joy of discovering and developing King, I wanted to see how he coped under pressure by placing him out of his depth in a foreign country, and then throwing him in at the deep-end by dragging him into a world of conspiracy, murder and treason. Despite his many problems and imperfections, King is surprisingly resilient and heroic, and wins through in the end by forgiving himself and gaining redemption. The frozen landscape helped cleanse him of his past and give him a clearer vista of his future.

Secondly, the stark, barren winter landscape of Norway in the early spring has a mythical, surreal quality to it that offers a stark contrast to the usual depictions of the chaos of war. It felt refreshing to use the snow-covered valleys, mountains and fjords as a character of their own, no less deadly than the man-made weapons carried by King’s enemies. He feels isolated at first, a theme echoed in the silent landscape, and his own pain begins to thaw as the snows also finally start to recede and he uncovers his past. There was also a timeless purity of the still wintry landscape that even the horrors of war couldn’t sully, and I found that King had much in common with this as he initially seems as hard as the mountains themselves, but then he shows a hidden warmth and humanity that is only unlocked as his feisty local companion Anja helps him to face his demons and find love again. I felt that it was important to include a strong female character, as too many books set in this period tend to forget that the vital role that women played in winning the war.

And finally, I also loved the landscape because it conjures-up another, almost magical dimension with its mythology of ancient kings, lost treasure and dark secrets that nicely overlapped the background narrative of the later war. The more that I read about the Norwegian side of the story, the more I just fell in love with the country and I knew that had to try to write something worthy of those unlucky few who were there at the time and faced death in Norway’s magical scenery. I hope that people will enjoy reading Kingmaker as much as I enjoyed writing it.

About Adrian Hyde

adrian-hyde

Adrian Hyde is a thriller writer, history nut and citizen of the world. He was born in the city of Derby, England in 1975, the son of an ex-soldier. He grew up on the doorstep of the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District, and his father’s military service and an interest in local history inspired him to write from an early age.

Educated in Derby and Heanor, he studied Politics at the University of Reading, Berkshire. Adrian then had a successful career in sales, marketing and product management, mainly in heavy engineering and construction equipment companies, where he travelled extensively throughout the world.

All this was to change when his wife was diagnosed with dementia, and Adrian became a full-time single parent and carer, however the experience spurred him on to return to writing full-time. He still loves Derbyshire but now lives in Burbage in neighbouring Leicestershire with his two children and Ben the Labrador. His first novel – Kingmaker: A Harry King Thriller – was published by Three Assassins Press in September 2016. He is currently working on the sequel.

You’ll find Adrian on Facebook. You can follow him on Twitter and visit his website.