An Extract from Before You Go by Clare Swatman


I’m so pleased to be part of the celebrations for Before You Go by Clare Swatman. Before You Go is published by Pan MacMillan on 9th February 2017 and is available for purchase through all good book sellers and the publisher links here.

To celebrate the publication of Before You Go I have a smashing extract to share.

Before You Go


When Zoe’s husband Ed dies, her world caves in. But what if Zoe can get Ed back?

You find your soulmate . . .

Some people stare love in the face for years before they find it. Zoe and Ed fumbled their way into adulthood, both on different paths – but always in the same direction. Years later, having navigated dead-end jobs and chaotic house shares, romance finally blossoms. Their future together looks set . . .

Then the unthinkable happens.

One morning, on his way to work, Ed is knocked off his bike and dies. Now Zoe must find a way to survive. But she’s not ready to let go of the memories. How can she forget all of the happy times, their first kiss, everything they’d built together? Zoe decides she has to tell Ed all the things she never said.

Now it’s too late. Or is it?

An Extract from Before You Go

I grab the windowsill to steady myself as a memory floats into my mind. It must have been about eighteen months before this day: our last day of university, and the last time I’d seen him. We’d got through to the end of the four years at university sharing a house, and I’d learned just to bury any feelings I had for him. He never had a girlfriend for more than a month and, although it broke my heart seeing him with other girls, I learned to close my heart to it, smother my feelings and stay friends with him. Friends, I decided, was better than nothing.

When we left university we all agreed – and meant it – that we’d see each other all the time. The trouble was, life got in the way. I’d had to move back home to Doncaster for a few months to earn some money. Living with Mum and Dad and Becky again had been fine, but I longed to make the move I’d always planned down to London.

Finally, a year ago, in March 1998, Jane and I had scraped together enough cash to make the move, and although we were skint, we loved every minute of it.

There was just one thing that had bothered me. I hadn’t heard from any of the boys since we’d left the house. In my heart I’d expected it from Rob and Simon – I knew what boys were like about keeping in touch, at the best of times – but the radio silence from Ed had been harder to deal with. Not having him in my life should have been easier, should have given my heart the chance to get over him and move on. And to some extent it had. But the truth was, I missed him. I missed his laugh, I missed his face and most of all I missed the way he teased me mercilessly.

‘Just ring his mum, find out where he is,’ Jane said when I told her how I was feeling. But there was no way I was doing that. I’d just have to hope that fate would bring us together again.

‘Fate?’ Jane rolled her eyes. ‘You make your own fate. Just ring him and stop being so lame.’

But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and so it’s now eighteen months since I last spoke to him, and I still have no idea where he is.

Except, I realize with a jolt, I do know exactly where he is. And I know exactly when I’m going to speak to him next. I glance at the clock. In just a few hours, if all goes the same as it did last time.

My heart leaps with excitement. But at the same time I feel a crushing sense of disappointment deep in my chest. Because if I’m right it means that, despite my best efforts to make a difference this time, nothing has changed at all; things are still exactly as they always were. Ed and I are still not together; at least, not yet.

I turn to open the fridge and pull some milk out. I sniff it. It seems OK and I splash some into my tea, squeeze the teabag out and go back to my desk. A girl I used to sit next to has arrived. As I walk across the office I try desperately to think of her name.

‘Morning,’ I mumble, sitting down at my computer, hoping she won’t drag me into conversation.

‘Hi, Zoe,’ she says. ‘You OK?’

‘Yeah, good, thanks.’ Then I remember to be polite. ‘You?’

‘Yeah, great. Bit of a late one, though, I need coffee.’ She grins. ‘Want one?’

‘No, I’m fine, thanks.’ I hold up my cup sheepishly. ‘Sorry.’ She grins, leaps up then mercifully disappears into the kitchen, giving me the chance to work out what I’m meant to be doing today.

The morning passes surprisingly quickly. I find what I’ve been working on, Madeline announces my new position, and everyone congratulates me. I make polite small talk without engaging in anything too deep and meaningful. And then it’s lunchtime. I need a sandwich but I’m also waiting hopefully for the phone to ring. I sit drumming my fingers impatiently on the desk.

And then it peals out and I almost fall off my chair.

I pick it up, my hand shaking.


‘Hello, could you tell me who I need to speak to about water coolers, please?’ The voice is deep and familiar and it sends a warm buzz down my spine. I try to stay polite, make the conversation seem normal.

‘I’m afraid you need to speak to Lizzie, the secretary, but she’s not here at the moment.’ My voice is wobbly but he doesn’t seem to notice.

‘Do you know when she’ll be back?’

‘Ed, is that you?’

He pauses, clearly suspicious.


‘Ed, it’s Zoe. Morgan,’ I add, just in case.

‘Oh my God, it’s you!’ he says. He sounds happy, at least. ‘I can’t believe it!’

‘Me neither. How are you?’

‘I’m good, really good,’ he says, and I can picture him, nodding his head as he speaks. ‘How about you? How have you been?’

‘Great. I just got a new job today.’

‘That’s brilliant!’

‘Thanks, I’m really chuffed.’ I stop, not sure what to say next. The silence stretches, waiting to be filled, and I’m sure he can hear my heart hammering from the other end of the phone line.

‘Where are you?’

‘London. Brixton,’ he adds. ‘What about you?’

‘Camden right now. I live in Tufnell Park, though. With Jane.’

‘Do you now? Gosh, last time I saw her she was snogging the face off anything that moved.’

‘Jane never did that!’

‘She did do that. Oh, except not with me.’ He pauses, embarrassed. ‘Surprised she didn’t snog you, to be honest.’

‘Cheeky sod. No, Jane’s great, we love our flat. It’s fun living together and we love living in London too, even though it took us a while to get down here; but now it’s great and . . .’ I stop, aware I’m rambling, but trying to fill the silence.

‘Sounds terrific.’ Ed pauses and when he speaks again his voice sounds unsteady, unsure of himself for the first time. ‘I was thinking, maybe we could meet up? Go for a drink?’

Static crackles down the line and I can hear him breathing. The silence stretches out and I feel a throbbing at my temple.


‘Um, maybe, I’m sure you’re not free, but, well, how about tonight?’

I smile. He sounds terrified, so I answer quickly. ‘That would be nice.’


‘Yes, nice. What’s wrong with nice?’

‘Well, it’s just a bit – ’ he pauses – ‘tame.’

‘Well, OK then, that would be lovely. Smashing. Brilliant. Better?’

‘Yes, much.’

‘Good. So, er, where do you want to go?’

‘Soho any good?’

‘Perfect. How about seven?’

‘Seven it is. Meet you at the Shakespeare’s Head, at the top of Carnaby Street.’

‘OK, great. See you later.’ And before he can change his mind I put the phone down, my pulse racing. It was so good to talk to him that I feel like a teenager again, giddy with excitement and possibility. I still have no idea what’s going on but it seems clear I’m reliving days that involve Ed, or more specifically me and Ed: the day we met, seeing him with someone else after our first kiss – I never have any idea whether this will be the last day I get to see him, and so I have to make the most of it. There’s got to be something I can change.

About Clare Swatman


Clare Swatman is a journalist for a number of weekly women’s magazines. Clare was Features Editor for Bella and has written for Best, Woman’s Own and Real People. She writes for her local magazine as well as the travel pages for Take a Break. Clare lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two boys.

Before You Go is her first novel, and she’s busy working on her second.

You can follow Clare on Twitter and visit her website.

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Writing with Humour, a Guest Post by Ross Sayers, author of Mary’s The Name


It gives me great pleasure to welcome Ross Sayers, author of Mary’s The Name to Linda’s Book BagMary’s The Name is published by Cranachan today, 30th January 2017, and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Not only am I reviewing Mary’s The Name, but I am really pleased to have a guest post from Ross about writing with humour too.

Mary’s The Name


An eight-year-old girl and her granpa are on the run…

“When me and Granpa watched James Bond films, he told me not to be scared because people didn’t have guns like that in Scotland. That must’ve been why the robbers used hammers.”

Orphaned Mary lives with her granpa, but after he is mixed up in a robbery at the bookies where he works, they flee to the Isle of Skye. Gradually, Mary realises that her granpa is involved. And the robbers are coming after him–and their money.

Mary’s quirky outlook on life, loss, and her love of all things Elvis, will capture your heart. Full of witty Scots banter, Mary’s the Name will have you reaching for the hankies, first with laughter, then with tears.

Heart-warming and heart-breaking, this darkly comic debut is from a fresh voice set to become Scotland’s answer to Roddy Doyle.

Writing with Humour

A Guest Post by Ross Sayers

A couple of years ago, at a magazine launch, I read out a story about schoolboys dancing with girls from another school, and I was so pleased with the reaction. At points I had to stop to wait for the laughter of the audience to subside. Later, at another spoken word event, I read a more sombre story, one which didn’t raise many smiles. I knew which performance I preferred. I’m not saying I think I’ll bring the house down with every performance of Mary’s the Name, but I enjoy writing and performing so much more if I can be animated and try to make the audience laugh. It isn’t in my nature to write without trying to crack a few jokes.

Most readers will know this, but the writer doesn’t decide what goes on the back cover of the book. Cranachan described Mary’s the Name as ‘darkly comic’, which admittedly I hadn’t really thought about. I imagine it’s because, while some bleak things are happening in the story, I do my best to keep the reader smiling. This isn’t a deliberate choice on my end, I just think that’s how life is. I’m sure everyone out there has experienced some bleak moments of their own in life. Wasn’t there someone (maybe even you!) cracking a terrible joke at an inappropriate moment, keeping everyone going? I think Joss Whedon said it best: ‘Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.’ Couldn’t agree more with Mr Whedon.

I think Scottish people will particularly relate to the story, as hopefully they will recognise the kind of banter they have with their friends and family. If I were to pinpoint one key aspect of Scottish humour, it would be this: if we think you’re taking yourself too seriously, we’re very happy to slag you rotten. And they more we like you, the worse the slagging will be! (Although perhaps this is more of a British thing, having been raised on Only Fools and Horses, The Royle Family, Red Dwarf etc.)

A lot of the humour in the story comes from Mary herself. As a child, although she’s clever, there are things she gets wrong and doesn’t understand. This childhood innocence is a great way to stop the darker events of the book becoming too dark. My main aim was to entertain, not to depress my readers!

So if you’re looking for a book with humour as well as heart, I hope you’ll give Mary’s the Name a try!

(I have Ross and I loved the humour!)

My Review of Mary’s The Name

Eight year old orphan Mary lives with her Granpa, but when he’s involved in a robbery at the bookies where he works, life is about to change.

What a glorious creation Mary is! Ross Sayers has depicted childhood innocence in Mary coupled with a wisdom beyond her 8 years so that we have an individual it is impossible not to love. In essence, Mary’s The Name is about what it means to be a child growing up and making your way in the world. There’s a feistiness of character along with Mary’s attention to detail and the truth, her love of Elvis’s music and James Bond films and her pride in her bronze swimming certificate that makes her a delight to read about.

When books are described as humorous I’m usually disappointed, but I laughed aloud several times at Mary’s The Name, especially at the almost theatrical asides in italics. Those comments distilled so many typical sayings and aphorisms that I could hear them reverberating from my past and the very fabric of my upbringing. I found Ross Sayers used accent and dialect perfectly too so that there was an added layer of amusement. There was just enough to add colour to the direct speech without alienating the reader.

Mary’s The Name is an easy read because it is delightfully and charmingly written, but that is not to say it is lightweight. As well as the humour there is sadness and a wide range of emotions. Underlying themes are serious and thought provoking. Violence, childhood bullying, friendships, relationships, loneliness, theft and dishonesty and so on, all add depth and layers that make this tightly constructed plot so appealing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mary’s The Name because of the freshness and vitality of Ross Sayers’ style. I think he is a talented writer who deserves to go far.

About Ross Sayers


Ross studied English in his hometown of Stirling. Not content with the one graduation, he completed a Masters in Creative Writing the following year. His stories and poems have featured in magazines such as Octavius and Quotidian. Ross also tried his hand at acting in the university’s Drama Society, which gave him valuable life experience at being an extra with no lines.

One of his short stories, Dancin’, was used on West College Scotland’s Higher English course. He only found out after a student tweeted him requesting a copy of the story so she could finish her essay.

Ross mainly reads contemporary and literary fiction, and loves it when a writer remembers to include an interesting plot. He heartily endorses not finishing books which bore you.

While researching Mary’s the Name in Portree, gift shop employees excitedly mistook him for Daniel Radcliffe; Ross had to burst their bubble. But at a football match in London, he agreed to have his photo taken with a wee boy, who believed he was Harry Potter, to save any tears or tantrums.

You can follow Ross on Twitter and visit his website.

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Cover Reveal: The Woman Who Met Her Match by Fiona Gibson


It gives me great pleasure to be helping to reveal Fiona Gibson’s latest book, The Woman Who Met Her MatchThe Woman Who Met Her Match will be published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins, in e-book on 13th April 2017 and paperback on 20th April 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

The Woman Who Met Her Match


What if your first love came back on the scene . . . 30 years later?

After yet another disaster, Lorrie is calling time on online dating. She might be single in her forties, but she’s got a good job, wonderful children and she’s happy. This, Lorrie decides, is going to have to be enough.

That is, until she receives a very unexpected request from France. Antoine Rousseau, who had once turned a lonely French exchange trip into a summer of romance, wants to see her – after thirty years.

But Lorrie is a responsible woman. She can’t exactly run off to Nice with the man who broke her teenage heart . . . can she?

A wonderfully funny novel, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Joanna Bolouri and Milly Johnson.

About Fiona Gibson


Fiona Gibson is the author of ten novels, including the best-selling The Woman Who Upped and Left (Avon). She also writes under the name Ellen Berry – The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane is the first in a series of three new heartwarming novels sparked by her obsession with cookbooks, and inability to stop buying them.

Fiona grew up in a Yorkshire village called Goose Eye, before working on Jackie and Just Seventeen magazines. She went on to edit More! magazine where she introduced the infamous Position of the Fortnight. After having twin sons and a daughter, she started to write novels, usually at night with the house full of toddlers and builders. She was sleep deprived anyway so it really didn’t make any difference!

When she’s not writing, she’s usually drawing, painting or reading, or out walking or running in her home town of Glasgow with her collie cross, Jack.

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

An Extract from Uncoiled Lies by Liz Mistry


I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Uncoiled Lies by Liz Mistry. Part of the DI Gus McGuire series, Uncoiled Lies was published by Bloodhound on 26th January 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Today I have an extract from Uncoiled Lies for you to enjoy.

Uncoiled Lies


Murder. Love. Corruption. DI Angus McGuire and the team are back and have their work cut out.

Murdered prostitutes and a turf war between local gangsters takes the investigation into Bradford’s Immigrant communities where tensions run high.

To make matters worse McGuire is juggling an illicit relationship with his boss’s daughter and has fraught family relations.

Who is The Old Man?

What is the link between three dead prostitutes and a long forgotten murder?

Will McGuire and his team get the answers they want or is the uncomfortable truth much closer to home?

An Extract from Uncoiled Lies

Angular but stooped, Bazza ‘The Bampot’ Green was of average height. He was in his fifties and bald and grey in equal measure. When he smiled, Alice noticed that his few remaining teeth were brown and jagged. His fingers were yellow as he beckoned them through and even from this distance she could smell his BO which vied with the smoke and grease that seemed to burst from the flat in a fetid cloud of filth.

With an exaggerated bow, he gestured for them to enter. Alice, wishing she’d thought to wear her old anorak rather than her new winter coat, marched in after him, her face impassive. The heavy, smoke-filled air and the fact that Bazza had already discarded one cigarette and lit up another confirmed Alice’s impression of a chain smoker. A wave of pity for Trixie rolled over her. Was it really worth the free rent to bed this disgusting creature?

Once in the small living room, Bazza gestured to a stained sofa and, whilst Sampson took advantage of the offer, Alice shook her head, wary of contaminating her clothing any more than was absolutely necessary. She began to wander idly round the room, taking in her surroundings. The conglomeration of cheap knick-knacks combined with the peeling, yellowing flock wallpaper and faded floral three-piece suite told her that Bazza hadn’t done any decorating since his mother died a few years previously. She wandered over and stood in front of the gas fire that was on full burn. ‘You heard about Trixie then, Bazza?’ she asked.

Bazza sighed. ‘Yes, very sad. One of your delightful little PC’s came with the news in the early hours of this morning.’ He shook his head. ‘Very sad indeed. A little cracker she was. Amenable.’ He glanced at Sampson and winked, ‘in every way.’

By the time he’d glanced over to her to gauge her reaction, Alice had banished the disgust from her face, replacing it with a disinterested expression as she walked over to the heavy wood sideboard that ran along the back wall behind Bazza’s chair. Objectionable little scrote, she thought taking a deep breath which she immediately regretted when smoke clogged her throat, making her cough. Damned if I’ll ask him for a glass of water, I’d rather choke to death than risk consuming anything in here. She waved a hand at Sampson telling him to take over, until she’d recovered.

‘I see you’re heartbroken,’ said Sampson, deadpan.

Bazza leaned back in his chair and flicked ash towards an overfilled ashtray. For a moment, he craned his neck to observe Alice who, having recovered from her coughing fit, was looking at the collection of tat on the sideboard. With a shrug he brought his attention back to Sampson. ‘No, not heartbroken. That would be a bit too strong a word. More like… dissatisfied.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Alice, standing directly behind him, forcing him to strain to see her.

‘She’s a business asset or, rather, she was. Now, she’s a loss. Causes me a lot of hassle you know? Finding a new girl and all that.’

‘You know pimping is illegal, don’t you, Bazza?’ said Alice, lifting a dirty ornament off the sideboard and looking at the ‘made in China’ label on the underside, ‘Nice stuff you’ve got here.’

‘Now, there’s no need to be nasty. I’m co-operating because I don’t like murder. I’m not a pimp. No. The girls come to me to be looked after and that’s what I do. Look at the flat I gave Trixie and Jessica. Rent free it was, though of course I’ll have to reconsider that now.’

‘Surely not completely rent free, Bazza?’ said Sampson ‘We heard there were conditions attached. You know, free rent for services rendered?’

Bazza lit another cigarette, threw back his head, and laughed. ‘Now, you’ve got that wrong son. Trix and me, well, we had a relationship. I treated her right. Took her to my penthouse, bought champagne and such like and we enjoyed ourselves.’

Alice muffled a laugh that had Bazza whirling round in his chair, ash flying from his cigarette as he moved. ‘That’s not the word on the street, Bazza. Word is that you got the enjoyment and she anaesthetised herself on the free booze to get through it.’

He screwed up his face and turned back to Sampson. ‘She’s got a nasty tongue in her mouth, that one.’

About Liz Mistry


Liz Mistry is a crime writer based in Bradford but originally from West Calder in Scotland. She studied at Stirling University and taught in Bradford inner-city Primary schools for many years. Liz writes gritty crime fiction drawing on the richness of Bradford’s diverse cultures and her writing is heavily influenced by Tartan Noir writers such as, Stuart MacBride, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. Unquiet Souls was her debut novel and she looks forward to writing many more featuring her main character DI Gus (Angus) McGuire and his team, with Uncoiled Lies out now.

You can follow Liz on Twitter and visit her blog. You’ll find her books on Facebook.

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Painting The Ice Bear by Mark Adlington


My enormous thanks to Helen McCuster at Booked PR for a copy of Painting The Ice Bear by Mark Adlington in return for an honest review. Painting The Ice Bear was published by Unicorn in partnership with John Martin Gallery on 16th December 2016 and is available for purchase in hardback here and from the Gallery here.

Painting The Ice Bear


Fascinated from the outset by all things wild, Mark Adlington has travelled the globe, seeking out, observing and painting many of the rarest, most breathtaking animals on the planet. Combining intensive on-site work and preparation with countless subsequent hours in the studio creating his images, Adlington has become one of the most popular wildlife painters working today.

This stunning quarter bound edition brings together more than one hundred of Adlington’s images of polar bears, following the world’s largest land predator from cub to maturity both above and below the water. The product of countless trips to wildlife reserves in northern Europe and the frozen expanses of the Arctic, these images are engaging and powerful in equal measure, as Adlington brilliantly conveys the many, and often contrasting aspects of this most charismatic of animal icons.

My Review of Painting The Ice Bear

I’m obsessed by wildlife, having travelled from Africa to Antarctica with the Galapagos in between to see creatures in the wild, and encountering polar bears in real life is on my bucket list. Whilst I’m waiting, Painting The Ice Bear is the next best thing!

Predominantly a book of stunning images, there is a detailed foreword by the author that blends facts about polar bears with a personal approach and history so that Mark Adlington’s passion for his subject from his first early figurine gift, through watching a BBC documentary, to the fulfilment of his lifelong dream of seeing them in the wild comes across to the reader with enthusiasm and verve.

I learnt a lot about this magnificent creature, not knowing before that, when skinned, they share a similar structure to humans, for example. But I also hadn’t appreciated some of the other concepts the artist brought to my attention – such as the need to see animals in their natural situation, but not necessarily to paint them in that landscape because of the risk of representing a landscape containing an animal, rather than the animal itself. Obviously I’m no artist. I loved the historical, ecological and geographical facts presented too.

The only other text is a poem, Polar Bear, by J. Patrick Lewis that helps underline the importance of the polar bear to so many nations and its fragile hold in a threatened natural world. Coming after the images of the book, I found this simple poem very affecting.

The images that form the book Painting The Ice Bear are magnificent. Some are just a few sketchy lines and some fully developed paintings but all are evocative of the creature, its moods, power and vulnerabilities. I was astounded how a relatively constrained palette managed to underpin the qualities of the polar bear so successfully. I especially liked those images representing the bear in water as they are so balletic and fluid.

The paintings are of such quality that, whilst an expensive purchase at around £25, Painting The Ice Bear is worth every penny as it is a book that would make a perfect present for any animal lover, anyone interested in natural history and any artist. The rough sketches illustrate how less is more when it comes to capturing the essence of a creature and, along with the fully finished images, show those with an interest in art the processes Mark Adlington has gone through to produce such lifelike paintings.

I think Painting The Ice Bear is a glorious, sumptuous, celebratory book that I’m delighted to own.

About Mark Adlington


Mark Adlington is a London based artist who travels extensively in search of the wildlife which has been his principal obsession since early childhood. He works extensively on site before returning to the studio to try and recreate the immediacy of his responses to the animals using various and often mixed media. Mark exhibits regularly in London and abroad, and occasionally works to commission. He is represented by the John Martin of London Gallery in Mayfair, and by the Bridgeman Art Library.

You can find Mark on Facebook, and visit his website where you’ll see some of the stunning images from Painting The Ice Bear.

Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie


My grateful thanks to Clara Diaz at Little Brown for a copy of Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie in return for an honest review. Burned and Broken is published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown and is available for purchase directly from the publisher and on Amazon as well as from other retailers like Waterstones.

There’s a giveaway for UK readers to win a copy of Burned and Broken still running until midnight on 30th January 2017 by visiting my blog post here.

Burned and Broken


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

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

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

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

My Review of Burned and Broken

Burned and Broken is a fast paced police procedural crime thriller. It has many features lovers of crime fiction will recognise and adore. Sadly it wasn’t entirely for me, as at times I found it slightly old-fashioned and a little bit cliched, with corrupt police and DIs in stained and crumpled suits. I also felt as if the author had researched so thoroughly that he wanted to ensure the reader had even the smallest detail so that sometimes description got in the way of the events. There seemed to be an unremitting pessimism from the local settings to the language and characterisation that made me feel quite depressed as I read.

That said, the plotting is extremely well constructed, although I felt there are perhaps too many strands so that the tension didn’t come through as fully as it might. However, I didn’t work out what had happened until the denouement so I have to give Mark Hardie great credit for that. I also liked the structure with the Prologue and then the chapters leading back to the present day.

I didn’t engage with any of the characters very fully but did feel that Donna’s fragile mental state was very well depicted. Indeed, there are some interesting themes touched upon in Burned and Broken, with mental health, relationships, the care system and society’s ills all coming through strongly.

Whilst I felt a little underwhelmed by Burned and Broken, it may be that it came after a couple of books I have absolutely adored in completely different genres. I did enjoy the story and felt the quality of writing was good.  I think I’d like to read the next in the series to see how Mark Hardie’s style develops.

About Mark Hardie


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

You can follow Mark on Twitter.

A Day in the Life…, a Guest Post by Jacqueline Ward, author of Playlist for a Paper Angel


I’m delighted to be supporting Faye Rogers PR today in sharing Playlist for a Paper Angel by Jacqueline Ward. Playlist for a Paper Angel was published on 27th December 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book here. To celebrate Playlist for a Paper Angel, I have a guest post from Jacqueline Ward explaining a little more about what her protagonist jan Pearce gets up to!

Playlist for a Paper Angel


One child found, one child missing – what’s the connection?

DS Jan Pearce is still searching for her missing son. When she finds a little girl, Elise, alone in a pram in a busy town centre, she must unravel a mystery that takes her to the edge of her emotions. Then another child, Dara Price, goes missing.

Lisa Connelly, Elise’s mother, has been forced into a life of prostitution and has been leaving her little girl alone. Her gangland boss is holding her prisoner but she wants her little girl back.

Jan finds herself balancing her search for her son with finding Dara. Her right hand man, Mike Waring, is on another case so she and her temporary partner, profiler Damien Booth, must solve the puzzle and find Lisa before time runs out for Dara.

Playlist for a Paper Angel is the second in the DS Jan Pearce series of novels and is the sequel to Random Acts of Unkindness.

A Day in the Life of Jan Pearce

A Guest Post by Jacqueline Ward

Jan gets up early. She feeds the cat, Percy, grabs some toast, showers and dresses from her capsule wardrobe.

She arrives at work and goes through the previous day’s cases and any development.

At 10am she briefs the team and spends the rest of the day on cases, listening to her rock playlist on the way.

She checks her emails on her phone and answers the urgent ones immediately.

She leaves the department around 6pm and goes home to feed Percy and cooks pasta. Jan hates supermarkets and has her groceries delivered.

In the evenings she loves to watch box sets and films – on a weekend night she’ll go to the pub with Lorraine.

About Jacqueline Ward


Jacqueline Ward writes short stories, novels and screenplays. She has been writing seriously since 2007 and has had short stories published in anthologies and magazines. Jacqueline won Kindle Scout in 2016 and her crime novel, Random Acts of Unkindness, will be published by Amazon Publishing imprint Kindle Press. Her novel SmartYellowTM was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2016. Jacqueline is a Chartered psychologist who specializes in narrative psychology, gaining a PhD in narrative and storytelling in 2007. She lives in Oldham, near Manchester, with her partner and their dog.

You can visit Jacqueline’s website, follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

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Writing Through Emotions, a Guest Post by Morton S. Gray, author of The Girl on the Beach


I’ve met lovely Morton S. Gray, author of The Girl on the Beach, and so I’m delighted to be hosting a guest post from her today about emotions in writing. In common with many, neither of us had a good 2016 and I was interested how this might affect a writer after I blogged about its effects on me as a reader here. Morton explains in a fascinating guest post below.

The Girl on the Beach was published by Choc-Lit on 24th January 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Girl on the Beach


Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

Writing Through Emotions

A Guest Post by Morton S. Gray

How does what is happening in a writer’s life affect what they write? This was the question posed by Linda Hill when she suggested I write a guest post for her blog.

Life experiences inevitably feed your writing. I’m a writer who always carries a notebook. My car broke down and I sat waiting for the breakdown company writing about how I felt to be late for my appointment, how I felt about my car and how important driving was in my life and even about the relief when the AA man turned up. We won’t talk about the little character sketch I wrote about the man himself!

I’m the writer sitting in my surgical gown and stockings waiting to go down to the operating theatre whilst writing about how it felt when my husband walked back down the corridor after dropping me off for my operation, how my mind was reacting to impending surgery and about how I intended to help myself recover.

You may have guessed from the above that I’m a writer through and through and all emotion and experience in my life can be, and often is, used in a story. It is undoubtedly therapeutic to write about how you feel, even when faced with scary things, as it helps to rationalise those feelings and even make them seem one step removed from yourself. I also believe that exploring feelings at the time they occur allows you to write about them more convincingly for your characters when they face equivalent situations. I write books with a strong romantic element, even though they are usually not purely about the romance, manuscripts demand highs and lows of feeling and emotion. It is helpful if I can consult my many notebooks to help me to achieve this.

2016 was a difficult year for many people, myself and Linda included. I’m normally capable of writing through anything, but the stresses of 2016 built to such a level that even I struggled.

Linda has recently blogged about her awful year. Mine started a tremendous high, shortlisting for the Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for a Star competition in February and finding out I’d won in March. This was the culmination of many years work and a dream come true. I’d been writing seriously for eight years, been on the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme since 2012 and always admired the books published by independent publisher Choc Lit. The winning novel, now called The Girl on the Beach, is out as an e-book on 24 January 2017.

Funny how when you achieve a dream, you imagine everything will be perfect from then on, but of course, life doesn’t work like that. My win was closely followed by my mother suffering a mini-stroke, a dustbin lorry colliding with my house and car, various health problems of my own and my eldest son splitting with his girlfriend of eight years and moving back home. I’m normally quite resilient, but I think the juxtaposition of these, and other things I haven’t mentioned here, floored me. It wasn’t the events in themselves, but the anxieties and emotions associated with them. Despite all of this, I managed to keep up with the publishers edits for my debut novel, but only just…

I’m fighting back and, thankfully, 2017 already feels more positive. I’ve already taken revenge on the dustbin lorry, by writing it into one of my novels, out of the context of my own problems, but I know why it is there and I sure know the emotions associated with it, as they are all in my notebook!

Wishing everyone a great 2017, Linda especially, and hoping that the birth of my debut novel goes smoothly.

(And I echo Morton’s wishes and hope The Girl on the Beach is a huge success.)

About Morton S. Gray


Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K.

She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen, the plot of which closely resembled an Errol Flynn film. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.

She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in 2012.

After shortlisting in several first chapter competitions, she won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her novel The Girl on the Beach. This debut novel is published on 24 January 2017. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon.

Previous ‘incarnations’ were in committee services, staff development and training. Morton has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina Acupressure Massage and Energy Field Therapy.

She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

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

From Fiction to Fact, a Guest Post by Carol Browne, author of Being Krystyna


When I discovered Carol Browne, author of Being Krstyna, lives only three miles away from me and has written about an inhabitant in my nearest town, Peterborough, I had to invite her onto Linda’s Book Bag, especially as today is Holocaust Memorial Day and Being Krystyna is related to that very subject.

Being Krystyna was published by Dillie Books on 11th November 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book here.

Being Krystyna


In 2012 when young Polish immigrant Agnieszka visits fellow countrywoman Krystyna in a Peterborough care home for the first time, she thinks it a simple act of kindness. However, the meeting proves to be the beginning of a life-changing experience.

Krystyna’s stories about the past are not memories of the good old days but recollections of war-ravaged Europe: The Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and a death march to freedom.

The losses and ordeals Krystyna suffered and what she had to do to survive are horrors Agnieszka must confront when she volunteers to be Krystyna’s biographer.

Will Agnieszka be able to keep her promise to tell her story, and, in this harrowing memoir of survival, what is the message for us today?

From Fiction to Fact

A Guest Post by Carol Browne

When I volunteered to write the life story of local woman, Krystyna Porsz, I had no idea how to approach it. I am a fiction writer. I make things up. Putting a true story down on paper was a daunting prospect and I wasn’t sure I would do it justice. Although I had the facts of Krystyna’s life, they amounted to a few sheets of A4 paper—information Krystyna’s son had been able to jot down over the years when his mother had talked about her past—but  there was hardly enough material for a book. So I had to build a structure to hang those facts on, very much like creating a plot for a work of fiction. A friend of mine, Agnieszka, had visited Krystyna in her Peterborough care home on two occasions and I used her as a narrative device, so we see the story unfold through her eyes. This gave me much more opportunity to pad out the text while still being true to the available facts. I believe it also draws in the reader as the relationship between these two Polish women develops. Plus, it anchors the narrative in the present, making the contrast between that and the past even more compelling.

Doing research for the book was time consuming but very straightforward. There is a wealth of information in books and online. I read as much as I could to get a general overview of wartime Europe and also made sure that the dates of various events mentioned in the book were correct. When I read the personal accounts of women who had survived the death camps, I could see there were certain similarities and I could use these to add substance to the narrative in places where Krystyna’s own story was lacking in details. For example, Krystyna mentioned the awful roll calls the women endured when they were forced to stand outside for hours on freezing winter evenings. While my experience as a fiction writer helped me with scene setting to add further weight to Krystyna’s own description of these ordeals, I was also able to use the accounts of other survivors to add more detail to what was in the notes. Every account I read had similar horrors to report: women were starving and freezing cold, they had dysentery, and they were randomly beaten for no reason.

While the research was easy, embedding the structure of the narrative into it was not. It all had to flow and seem natural while everything that Krystyna had endured needed to be truthfully and sensitively told and in such a way that the reader would be able to follow the timeline. I used her words whenever I could. In fact I also used those she spoke when I visited her myself. I wanted the book to be as authentic as possible. In the end, I believe it worked really well and the underlying message of the story emerged naturally by the time I reached the conclusion of the book. Sadly, this message remains relevant today because the racism, intolerance and hatred that allowed the Nazis to persecute millions of people are still with us.

About Carol Browne


Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

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

An Interview with Liz Trenow, author of The Silk Weaver


I love historical fiction so I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The SilkWeaver by Liz Trenow.  The Silk Weaver is published today, 26th January 2017, by Pan Macmillan and is available for purchase in ebook and paperback by following the links here.

The Silk Weaver


A novel of illicit romance set against the world of the silk trade in London

Anna Butterfield moves from her Suffolk country home to her uncle’s house in London, to be introduced to society. A chance encounter with a local silk weaver, French immigrant Henri, throws her from her privileged upbringing to the darker, dangerous world of London’s silk trade. Henri is working on his ‘master piece’ to make his name as a master silk weaver; Anna, meanwhile, is struggling against the constraints of her family and longing to become an artist. Henri realizes that Anna’s designs could lift his work above the ordinary, and give them both an opportunity for freedom…

This is a charming story of illicit romance, set against the world of the burgeoning silk trade in eighteenth-century Spitalfields – a time of religious persecution, mass migration, racial tension and wage riots, and very different ideas of what was considered ‘proper’ for women.

An Interview with Liz Trenow

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Liz. Congratulations on your fourth book The Silk Weaver that is published today. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

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

I worked as a journalist with regional and national newspapers and on BBC radio and television news, before turning my hand to fiction rather late in life! I was born and brought up in Sudbury, Suffolk next to the mill which is the oldest family-owned silk weaving company in Britain and one of just three still operating today. I still live in East Anglia with my artist husband, we have two grown up daughters and, just this year, a granddaughter!

My first three books have also been published in a number of other countries and in translation: The Last Telegram, The Forgotten Seamstress (a New York Times bestseller) and The Poppy Factory.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Silk Weaver?

When her mother dies, eighteen year old Anna is sent from her native Suffolk to live with her aunt and uncle, a successful silk merchant, in Spitalfields, London so she can marry well to support her ageing father and disabled sister. She meets Henri, a Huguenot weaver who comes to her rescue when she first arrives in London. But she cannot socialise with him because he is of the wrong class.

At the turn of the 18th century Spitalfields was a social and political melting pot into which thousands of Huguenot Protestants had arrived, fleeing religious persecution in France. Henri needs an original and eye-catching design for his ‘master piece’, a showcase fabric which will earn him the title of Master Weaver so he can set up in business on his own. He is intrigued by Anna’s striking flower paintings and asks if he can use them for his design.

Then disaster strikes: Henri is caught up in a riot by weavers protesting against low wages. He is arrested and imprisoned, and must prove his innocence to avoid the death penalty.

I know you come from a family where the silk industry has been important.  How has writing about that industry impacted on your appreciation of your own heritage?

My research has definitely made me feel more connected to my ancestors and my family’s history, as well as giving me a greater appreciation of the remarkable fabrics they have created all these hundreds of years – as I said in The Last Telegram, it really is a kind of alchemy, turning the raw silk into those beautiful, shimmering, sumptuous designs.

But although I now know a little more about how my ancestors lived, their personal lives and personalities are still a mystery. What I do know is that like many craftspeople of the time they were religious non-conformists, very hard-working and plain living. But I think it was this practical, no nonsense approach that helped the company survive for so many generations. As my family’s company 300th anniversary I am very proud to be connected with that heritage.

You recorded interviews with your parents that provided some stimulus for writing The Silk Weaver too. How important do you think oral narrative is for writers?

I don’t think I can overstate how important that oral narrative has been for me, both on a personal level and as an author. I am always exhorting friends to talk to their loved ones and if possible to record them, before it is too late. Sometimes I just open the sound files and listen to my parents talking. Even though they died some years ago now, it brings them right back to me. And as a writer, the things they mentioned have given me such a rich seam of material to draw on. There are several other stories yet to be told!

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

Reading factual books and relevant fiction, visiting places, watching tv programmes and films. I love going to places like the British Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum to research.

Women are at the heart of your narratives. How difficult is it to research their stories when much of history is male dominated?

That’s a very interesting question and of course it is much harder researching the stories of women. You can only make assumptions about their lives from the evidence you can gather: what their fathers did and where they were born, what their husbands did, how many children they had, what street they lived in and what was happening in the broader social scene. If you’re lucky, you might have a diary or letters, but this is unusual. Recently, historians like Lucy Worsley and Amanda Vickery have thrown important light on the lives of Georgian women and I found their books invaluable.

To what extent has your background in non-fiction writing helped or hindered your fiction writing?

Ha, another interesting question. Journalism is very different from fiction writing. What being a journalist has meant is that I have no fear of a blank page or of deadlines, I feel quite comfortable with positive criticism and have a love of language and a facility with words and grammar. What I have had to learn (and am still learning) is how to allow my creative brain to work, to allow breadth in my descriptions, my characters and the way their emotional lives develop.

Had you been alive in Anna’s era of The Silk Weaver, how do you think you would have fared?

The lives of working class women were very hard, so that’s a no go. Equally I’d probably have been very bored as a society lady with little to do. I’d have loved the frocks, but that’s about all.

I understand that you use photographs and magazine clippings to help stimulate your writing. Please could you tell us more about how you created the characters of Anna and Henri in The Silk Weaver?

I always try to visualise characters beforehand, poring through Pinterest and other web sources for inspiration. I also look at paintings of the time; happily my artist husband has a library of art books. But to be honest the real characterisation and visualisation only really begins once I start to write and the voices (spoken and internal) come into my head. I am not a disciplined planner, but I do use photos, post-its and other printed things, pinned to my whiteboard. My daughters often add their own random comments which make me laugh!

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

When I got ten out of ten for a short story, aged 10. The teacher asked me to read it out and everyone clapped!

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

I would love to have been a musician. Singing in choirs is my other creative outlet.

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

I always write in my study, at home. I try to write for several hours each day when my imaginative brain is fresh, until I have done around 1,000 words.

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

Fiction, mostly, often historical. The only fiction I don’t really get is fantasy and sci-fi.

The Silk Weaver has a very sumptuous cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Covers are always initiated by the publisher, based on the plot but with a very clear eye on what will make the book leap off the shelves, but they always consult the author and will make changes to things they really disagree with. I love the cover of The Silk Weaver not only because it is beautiful and eye-catching but also because it is historically accurate and really evokes the way that Anna feels trapped by societal expectations.

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

After Anna, obviously, then Miss Charlotte. She’s had a tough life but she’s found a way of living independently.

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

Think Romeo and Juliet in a sumptuous silk setting and no tragic ending.

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

It’s been a pleasure.

About Liz Trenow


Liz Trenow is the author of three previous historical novels: The Last Telegram, The Forgotten Seamstress and The Poppy Factory. Liz’s family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years, and she grew up in the house next to the mill in Suffolk, England, which still operates today, weaving for top-end fashion houses and royal commissions. This unique history inspired her first two novels, and this, her fourth novel.

Liz is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in East Anglia, UK, with her artist husband, and they have two grown-up daughter.

You can visit Liz’s website, find her on Facebook and follow Liz on Twitter.

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