Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson

skin deep cover

I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson.

Published on 15th June 2017 by Accent Press, Skin Deep is available for purchase in e-book and paperback through the links here.

skin deep cover

Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty, but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything and Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.

Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?

My Review of Skin Deep

Diana has had an emotionally abused childhood, but has she learnt from her experiences?

Not having read anything by Laura Wilkinson before, I had no idea what to expect from Skin Deep and hadn’t even looked at the genre and blurb as I began. Wow. I was sucked into the narrative by the fabulous quality of the writing from the very first word.

Skin Deep is a gripping social commentary on what makes us who we are, on society’s demands for us to conform physically and on the way we can manipulate others to our own ends, albeit sometimes unwittingly. Laura Wilkinson writes with such intelligence and skill that I was gripped throughout; rather like those who might stare at Cal, I found I couldn’t tear myself away in spite of myself.

I found the social and cultural messages about the obsession with the way we look so well handled. There’s no preachiness here and having reflected for some time on Diana’s behaviour, which I can understand perfectly, I still can’t make up my mind what I think about her. Indeed, the quality of characterisation is so good that I completely forgot I was reading a story and that Cal, Alan, Diana et al were not real people. I thought about them, wondering what was happening to them, when I wasn’t actually reading the book.

Having read Skin Deep, I feel quite disturbed. It stirred memories of teaching a child not dissimilar to Cal and the level of protection I felt towards him and it has made me wonder if I might behave exactly like Diana at her worst moments in the same circumstances. This is not a comfortable thought.

Whilst Skin Deep is a cracking story with a sophisticated plot that keeps the reader entertained throughout, it is so much more. Reading Skin Deep made me uneasy, made me question my whole belief system and make me thankful I am an ordinary person with an ordinary life. I loved Skin Deep and can’t recommend it highly enough.

About Laura Wilkinson

Laura Wilkinson

Liverpool born, Laura is a taff at heart. She has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories, some of which have made the short lists of international competitions. Public Battles, Private Wars, was a Welsh Books Council Book of the month; Redemption Song was a Kindle top twenty. The Family Line is a family drama set in the near future, looking at identity and parenting. Her latest is Skin Deep. Alongside writing, Laura works as an editor and mentor for literary consultancies and runs workshops on aspects of craft. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including the Frome Festival, Gladfest, University of Kingston, The Women’s Library and Museum in Docklands. She lives in Brighton with her husband and sons.

You can follow Laura on Twitter @ScorpioScribble and find her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Laura is also on Goodreads and there is more with these other bloggers:

Final tour poster

One Summer in Tuscany by Domenica de Rosa

one summer in tuscany

I so enjoy Domenica de Rosa writing as Elly Griffiths that I jumped at the chance to be part of the launch celebrations for One Summer in Tuscany as I haven’t read any of her women’s fiction before.

You can read my review of Smoke and Mirrors here, The Crossing Places here and The Janus Stone here.

Previously entitled Summer School, One Summer in Tuscany was published yesterday, 29th June 2017 by Quercus and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

One Summer in Tuscany

one summer in tuscany

Rivalries and romance in a Tuscan paradise. A relaxing writers’ retreat? If only! Perfect holiday reading from Domenica de Rosa, author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway series under the name Elly Griffiths.

Patricia Wilson’s carefully composed ads for the writers’ retreat she runs at her thirteenth-century Italian castle promise so much. But while the splendour of their surroundings and chef Aldo’s melanzane never fail to wow the guests, huge maintenance bills and bad news from the bank threaten to close Patricia down. It’s make or break time for the Castello.

Each of her seven aspiring authors arrives with the inevitable baggage alongside their unpublished manuscripts. But this August something is different, and soon lifelong spinster Mary is riding on the back of Aldo’s vespa, and smouldering odd-job man Fabio has set more than one heart racing.

As temperatures rise, the writers gossip, flirt and gently polish their prose by the pool. But with ghosts, scorpions, and some unexpected visitors to contend with, one thing’s for sure: neither the Castello, nor Patricia, has ever seen a summer like this.

My Review of One Summer in Tuscany

With the threat of bankruptcy over her head, Patricia really needs an injection of cash. Maybe one of her summer school guests can provide the answer?

Oh my goodness I enjoyed One Summer in Tuscany. What I really loved was the whole writing conceit. I enjoyed the pieces coming from the participants in the course that enabled me to see more of their characters and the whole idea of a writing retreat which transported me to the beautiful Italian countryside. There’s the fabulous joke of one hit wonder Jeremy teaching the others when he can’t write anything himself.

There’s a fantastic sense of place in One Summer in Tuscany and the smatterings of Italian lend an authenticity that transports the reader to Italy so that it’s impossible not to want to go there too.

In a sense, there isn’t a complicated plot, but that was one of the positives. This is very much character led writing with a well defined time frame of the two weeks at Patricia’s Castello. There’s a vivid feeling of what it would be like to be one of the participants, to write, swim in the pool, visit local attractions and eat Aldo’s wonderful food. I could so easily picture myself there as one of the less talented writers!

And speaking of Aldo – what a wonderful creation. He and Mary were my favourite characters, but I think it says something about the quality of Domenica de Rosa’s writing that I utterly loathed Cat who is so well named when we consider how cattiness is seen as unpleasant. I so wanted her to get her comeuppance but you’ll have to read One Summer in Tuscany to find out if she did.

I thoroughly enjoyed One Summer in Tuscany. It’s a smashing summer read – especially if you’re off to Tuscany on holiday.

About Domenica de Rosa

EllyGriffiths 1MB (c) Sara Reeve NNA

Domenica de Rosa was born in London. She is half Italian and half English and her books often reflect life in both countries. Her first book The Italian Quarter was shortlisted for the Pendleton May First Novel Award. She lives in Brighton with her husband and two children.

You can find out more about Domenica De Rosa on her website. You’ll also find more her writing as Elly Griffiths on the website, by following her on Twitter and finding her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

 One Summer in Tuscany blog tour poster

An Interview with Natalie Fergie, Author of The Sewing Machine

sewing machine

I have heard so many wonderful things about Natalie Fergie’s The Sewing Machine that, although I haven’t had chance to read it yet (it’s working its way up my TBR), I am thrilled to be able to interview Natalie on Linda’s Book Bag today.

The Sewing Machine was published by Unbound on 17th April 2017 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Sewing Machine

sewing machine

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents.  His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

An Interview With Natalie Fergie

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Natalie. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Sewing Machine in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you for inviting me.
I live near Edinburgh, which is one of the locations for the novel. I left nursing in 2007 and began a small business dyeing yarn for knitters and fibre for spinners. I love colour, although most of the walls in our house are painted white.

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

I would love to say I have a routine, but I don’t. Most of my writing is not done sitting at a computer, it’s done in my head when I am walking the dog, or sitting on a tram, or walking around Edinburgh. I work out the next part of what needs to happen and try it out. The dog is particularly helpful; he always listens and doesn’t mind if I say the same sentence twenty times in succession to get it right.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Sewing Machine?

Sewing machines like the one in the book were workhorses used by our mothers and grandmothers as an essential piece of household equipment. They patched the knees of school trousers, made wedding dresses, and in war time, turned sheets sides-to-middle to make them last longer. The novel follows one such sewing machine, a handcrank Singer 99k, from the day it left the factory in 1911, until the present, in 2016.

The story begins with Jean, a worker in the Singer factory, who is about to go on strike. Her story alternates with that of the first owner, Kathleen, and in 2016 we meet Fred, who has just inherited the machine.

(I think it sounds wonderful – one of my earliest memories is of my grandmother using one of these machines.)

The Sewing Machine seems to me to be more than just a novel as fabric and textile is so big a part of your life. Why did you decide to write it?

The story really found me, rather than the other way around.

I collect old sewing machines. I have nine of them now, dating from 1897 until 1963. In the drawer of the oldest one was a Singer catalogue from 1929 and it seemed that after thirty years of using her old machine, the owner was looking for a replacement, just as we might today.

Old catalogues are like catnip to a collector – we instantly want to complete the set! It’s true whether we collect Pokemon cards, or stamps, or pencil sharpeners. I realised that there were many gaps in my collection and I set about looking for a 99K.
I researched the history of it first and discovered that it was first made in 1911, and if you google Singer factory 1911, you find the history of the strike at the factory.

The Sewing Machine is receiving glowing reviews from bloggers. How does that make you feel?

There aren’t enough words for this feeling. It’s lovely that so many people are enjoying it, and heartwarming to know that part of that is the story, but also that many people are loving the connection with their own family history because they remember similar sewing machines being used as they were growing up.

Every single review is like a little piece of treasure and I appreciate the time taken to write them. it’s such a kind thing to do, to tell an author that you like their work.

How important is it to you to ensure the heritage of textiles doesn’t die?

It was an integral part of life, for women (it was mostly women) to ‘Make Do and Mend’ during wartime and rationing. I feel these everyday items are just as important as fine 18th century gowns. It’s what they tell us about everyday life which fascinates me.

What advice would you give to those who would eschew an item like the sewing machine at the heart of your novel as being too old-fashioned and better thrown away?

Everyone has something old they are interested in. People save seed catalogues, or collect mugs or fridge magnets from holiday destinations.

We even keep books after we have read them, and store them on shelves!
And you only have to look at the popularity of car boot sales (like the one in the book) and Gumtree and eBay, to know that things which are old-fashioned are sought after. One woman’s discarded powder compact is another’s treasure.

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring The Sewing Machine was realistic?

I used the internet, and saved useful sites in Evernote so I could find them again. I kept the plot order in an old Filofax, because it meant that I could shuffle things around and flip through to make sure everything still worked.

There was an awful lot of arithmetic, to make sure that people weren’t still at school at twenty-five, or retiring at the wrong age, and I used weather records for all the different eras to find out whether it was hot or cold or snowing on a particular week.

I went to a wonderful museum in Edinburgh which is a reminiscence centre; you can pick up all the items and look at them closely – wind up a lipstick, sniff a tin of baby talc or look at things like grocer’s paper bags. That was where I discovered that Alf’s Thermos flask had a cork and not a screw top!

But the best research was done by talking to people in organisations. I spoke to the Royal Botanic gardens in Edinburgh about how to store seeds, to a jeweller about enamelling and to a housing organisation about tenants’ rights. Without fail, everyone was generous and they gave me insight I could not have got from a website.

(That sounds so interesting to do Natalie.)

Bearing all that research in mind, which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

I love the research and do ten times the amount which actually ends up in the book.
The hardest part is knowing when to stop editing. If you do too much, you take the energy out of the words and leave them dried up and lifeless on the page.

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


There is something about a new magazine, all those untouched pages and bright colours and ideas in short snatches. It’s like a tasting menu in a posh restaurant.

For books, I’ll read most things except horror, and that’s true of cinema too. I don’t like to be terrified, I guess I’m just a scaredy cat. I’m currently reading the debut novel, Wages of Sin, by Kaite Welsh, about a Victorian lady doctor-turned-detective.

(I have that on my TBR too!)

The Sewing Machine has a cover that reminded me of the Fates. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The cover was designed by Mark Ecob.
Unbound is unusual in involving the authors closely in the cover design. I’m told that generally in publishing, this isn’t the case.
I sent him an idea which was based on the idea of an Instagram image, where there are objects from the book arranged around the edges of a cover. He took that idea and created the cover. If you look closely after you have finished reading, you’ll discover that all the snippets of paper, the maps, the thread, everything appears in the novel. You can’t work the story out from looking at them though…

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

“Did your grandmother sew? Unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.”

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Natalie. I can’t wait to read The Sewing Machine.

About Natalie Fergie

natalie fergie

As well as loving writing, Natalie Fergie dyes and cooks and spends time walking Boris the dog!

You can find out more about Natalie on her blog, by following her on Twitter @theyarnyard and visiting her Instagram page.

Before You Go by Clare Swatman


I was lucky enough to be part of the hardback launch celebrations for Before You Go by Clare Swatman when I had an extract from the book that you can read here.

Out in paperback on July 27th 2017, Before You Go is published by Pan MacMillan and is available for purchase through all good book sellers and the publisher links here.

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?

My Review of Before You Go

A bang on the head after Ed’s funeral leads Zoe to hope she might be able to change history – but can she?

Oh dear. My tears started  on page 9 of Before You Go by Clare Swatman and that was pretty much it until the sobs at the final few pages. Admittedly there was some respite when I laughed along with Zoe and Ed too, but on the whole, Before You Go grasped my heart in a fist of emotion and didn’t let it go for the entire read. I’m not sure whether it’s because my own husband has had two life threatening illnesses in the last three years and the thought of losing him has been devastating, but this book held such a personal resonance for me that I adored every word.

The plot structure is so clever. Certainly a reader has to suspend their disbelief that it could happen, but that doesn’t matter a bit. Beginning with Ed’s funeral in the prologue, the narrative moves from when he and Zoe first met twenty years before to the present. I had several theories as to how the story might resolve itself and found the end of the book very satisfying but I’m not going to say more as I don’t want to spoil the read.

I loved both Zoe and Ed as well as the more minor characters, but it is the intimate study of a relationship that Clare Swatman has depicted to beautifully. She has crept under the skin of real people and understood their frailties so that it is impossible not to be swept along in the story. I simply put my life on hold to read the entire book in one sitting, so emotional was its appeal to me.

I found Clare Swatman’s style completely effortless to read because she writes so convincingly, so that it wasn’t as if I was reading a book, more observing two people I really cared about. I especially enjoyed the anchoring of events through the references to contemporary music so that there was a realism to the story. I loved the messages behind the text too. It really made me grateful for what I have and determined to make sure those I love know about how I feel on a regular basis. In this respect I’d even go so far as to say Before You Go is a life-changing read.

For readers looking for huge emotion, an absorbing story and a book that will stay with them long after they have read it they should look no further than Clare Swatman’s Before You Go. It is quite wonderful.

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.

You can follow Clare on Twitter and visit her website.

The Brazilian by Rosie Millard

the brazilian

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Rosie Millard’s latest novel The Brazilian which is a follow up to The Square.

The Brazilian was published on 14th June by Legend Press and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Brazilian

the brazilian

Following a sensational scandal at one of London’s most desired postcodes, Jane and Patrick decide to escape the gossip with a family holiday to Ibiza, their eight-year-old son George in tow.

Also on the island that week is a TV reality show involving an eccentric artist, a horny It Girl, a Brazilian footballer and a famous magician.

As hapless celebrities are picked off one by one, Jane is desperate to be on the programme, leaving childcare in the not so capable hands of a teenager.

One lesbian escapade and an explosive row over hair removal later, the contestants of Ibiza or Bust leave the island with more than sand in places they never knew existed…

My Review of The Brazilian

A holiday in Ibiza mixed with a reality TV event is going to give all the participants more than they bargained for.

Initially I didn’t think I was going to enjoy The Brazilian as I found the first character presented, Jane, totally vacuous and detestable. However, the more I read, the more I was sucked into what is a clever, witty and acerbic commentary on today’s society. As the tapestry of individuals increased I found all types were represented from the shy and retiring to the sexually prolific so that there is a person for every reader to respond to. By the end of the read I still hadn’t found Jane any better, but I really liked Grace, Bella and George. Similarly, the range of ages, gender and sexual proclivity all make for fascinating reading. I found looking at a reality television programme from the perspective of the producer, Simon, quite enlightening and his participation really appealed to me.

I wish I had read the first book to introduce all the characters, The Square, as I think that would have eased me in to the story more rapidly, but Rosie Millard has a deft touch in bringing her readers up to date so The Brazilian works well as a stand alone read.

The plot is well presented, with much of the action revolving around the reality television programme Ibiza (Or Bust) as well as the family dynamic of Patrick, Jane and George. However, it is the interplay of relationships that really brings the text alive – ironically just as the relationships are the lynchpin of such television programmes.

The stand out aspect of The Brazilian (alongside the dual meaning of the title!) is Rosie Millard’s devilish spotlight on today’s celebrity led society. She lays bare the contemptuous, the pathetic and the despicable as well as the admirable, the heroic and the realistic so that hers is a vivisection of how we have become obsessed with appearance and fame. So clever is the writing that I went from initially not much liking The Brazilian to thinking it was a perfect presentation of modern society. The Brazilian was a book I really enjoyed.

About Rosie Millard

rosie millard

Rosie Millard is a graduate of the University of Hull, London College of Communication and the Courtauld Institute. She has been a Trustee of the Carnegie (UK) Foundation, Home Live Art and Modern Art Oxford.

A journalist and author, Rosie Millard is Chair of Hull UK City of Culture 2017.

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

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Brazilian blog tour

Extract: One Punch by Keith Dixon

One Punch Final March 2017

I’m delighted to be sharing an extract from One Punch by Keith Dixon with you today.

One Punch is the second in Keith’s Paul Storey series after Storey and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

One Punch

One Punch Final March 2017

Paul Storey is an ex-cop looking for a job. Bran Doyle was a boxer but he’s now looking for a driver. And perhaps a little more.

Storey takes the job but soon finds himself involved in more than driving. There’s a murder. And conspiracy. And another murder.

And then the real trouble starts…

An Extract from One Punch

When Norton saw Storey walk into the bar he knew straight away the type of man he was dealing with: alert, cagey, possibly dangerous.

He was maybe six feet tall, had black hair curling on his collar and seemed restless. Norton noticed a couple of women turn their heads to take him in, as though he’d brought a different kind of energy into the place.

But Norton knew all that from the clippings he’d read about Storey before contacting him. He’d been plastered over the newspapers a few weeks ago—hero ex-cop, saving lives, foiling smugglers. Norton’s boss, Bran Doyle, liked that. Said Storey would be a good man to have on board now they’d got rid of Monks.

Norton wasn’t so sure, thought Doyle was buying into the hype. Look at the way Storey stood at the bar, smiling at the barmaid, struggling to get his wallet from his jacket pocket. Playing the fool, getting a laugh from the girl. He could have done with a shave and his jeans were faded, though he seemed fit: slim and broad in the shoulders, moved well, probably not yet forty.

He wore a brown leather jacket over an open-neck blue shirt, with a name on the pocket Norton couldn’t read, and his shoes were scuffed at the front, as though he’d been kicking stones.

He didn’t look at ease in this place—maybe it was too high class.

Which is why Norton had chosen it, give Storey a glimpse of what was coming if he took the job. Let him taste the atmosphere, the possibilities. Norton didn’t mind if Doyle wanted to hire Storey, but that didn’t mean he got an easy pass.

Now Storey had seen Norton staring at him and was walking over, pint of beer in his hand, looking down at the shiny table-top, glancing at the other people in the bar before speaking.


‘Yes, take a seat.’

Storey sat in the chair on the far side of the table, still wary. He said, ‘Posh place, this. Your local?’

‘You think it’s posh?’

‘Fancy weddings and so on, isn’t it? Horse-drawn carriage taking the bride and groom away to a fortnight in Bermuda.’

‘We’re not here to talk about weddings,’ he said. Noticing Storey registered the rebuke but didn’t react. ‘We’ve got a proposition for you.’

‘So you said. You and your mysterious boss. I’ll drink this beer and listen to your pitch but I’m not guaranteeing anything.’

‘Understood. You should know this is completely legit, nothing dodgy. You’ll be on salary and some benefits.’

Storey was still staring at him. Then he said, ‘Were you in the services?’

Norton feeling himself drawing back, surprised. ‘Irrelevant.’

Storey shrugged, looking away, taking in the high windows of the bar, the well-toned young couples possibly discussing wedding plans. The talk was low, the surroundings refined. Norton could see the disapproval in his eyes.

Turning back to him, Storey said, ‘There’s something in your skin-tone, your hair-cut. The way you sit. You’re controlled. It was just a guess.’

Norton felt unnerved but before he could speak Storey was talking again.

‘You said it was something to do with security. What kind of security?’

Norton took a sip from his whisky and counted to five, steadying himself. He said, ‘My boss is a businessman, quite well-known in the city. He has a high profile, you might say. He needs someone to take him from place to place—’

‘Like a chauffeur?’

‘Well, more than that. There’d be some driving but other general duties.’

‘Standing around pretending to be alert but actually bored as shit.’

Norton felt himself growing frustrated, the other man seeming to enjoy being contradictory, pushing him. He said, ‘It’s not like that. It’s interesting work, lots of variety, working for a good family.’

‘Why me? You can pick up drivers at the Job Centre.’

‘Coventry isn’t teeming with people with your qualifications.’

Now Storey was grinning, as though Norton was suddenly comical.

‘You read my CV in the papers, didn’t you, and thought you’d get a thug for cheap. You’d be amazed the offers I had after that little event. TV interviews, book offers. A couple of women wanted to marry me, show their gratitude for my service to the city. I don’t know, you shoot someone and people either want to bury you under a ton of shit or make you the new pope.’

Norton shook his head. ‘I look at you and I don’t see anything special. Admittedly it took some balls doing what you did. But I suppose you’d done it before, shooting someone. I read you were a specialist when you were in the police. Firearms. Must have known what you were doing but still a risk. My job, I never took risks. Anything went wrong, you got a bollocking and maybe half a dozen men dead in the street, dogs licking their ears. Know what I mean?’

Storey looking at him again, his eyes still, like he was thinking something through.

He said, ‘When I went down to London I went for the excitement. Coventry was dead. Didn’t have all these students, this buzz it’s got now. I come back and the place is changed, like it’s had a transplant, something new in the bloodstream. I don’t know what it is and I don’t know whether I like it. You like it, don’t you? Makes you think you’re still back in Iraq or wherever the hell you were.’

‘It was—’

‘Well I don’t need that buzz any more. I had enough of it in London and now I’m back here I want to be still. I don’t want to wake up every morning with my head already pounding because of the noise I can hear in the background, a noise I don’t know whether it’s really there or not, or whether it’s just my imagination gearing me up to deal with the day.’

‘I think you’ve got the wrong idea of what we’re asking you to do.’

‘I don’t think I have. I know exactly what you want me to do. Drive a car, open doors, keep a straight face, say Yes, sir, No, sir.’

‘This place needs people like Bran Doyle—people with energy and vision, people who can get things done.’

‘I’ve never heard of him.’

‘He wants to meet you.’

‘So why didn’t he come in person?’

‘He wanted me to meet you first. Sound you out.’

‘First interview. See if I’ll spit on the carpet. So what do you think?’

‘I think you won’t last forty-eight hours.’

About Keith Dixon

Keith larger 300dpi

Keith Dixon was born in Yorkshire and grew up in the Midlands. He’s been writing since he was thirteen years old in a number of different genres: thriller, espionage, science fiction, literary.

During his career he’s been a proofreader for Rolls-Royce, an accounts clerk, a stock-control manager, a lecturer in American literature, an advertising copywriter, a creator of elearning courses  and a business psychologist. He’s still waiting to find out what the real destination is.

You can find Keith on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @keithyd6, or visit his website and blog. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

One Punch Blog tour poster

White Lies by Ellie Holmes

white lies

My enormously grateful thanks to the author Ellie Holmes for a copy of White Lies in return for an honest review.

White Lies is published today 27th June 2017 and is available in e-book here.

White Lies

white lies



Sam Davenport is a woman who lives her life by the rules. When her husband Neil breaks those rules too many times, Sam is left wondering not only if he is still the man for her but also if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.

Actions, however, have consequences as Sam soon discovers when what starts out as an innocent white lie threatens to send her world spiralling out of control.

White Lies is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.

My Review of White Lies

A crash between Neil and Sam’s car and David’s motorcycle will have repercussions far beyond one wet night.

I really enjoyed White Lies. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and thought I might be getting a fairly lightweight story but there are so many layers to Ellie Holmes’s narrative that I think rereading White Lies several times would provide a reader with even more to contemplate.

In White Lies, Ellie Holmes explores the way in which one lie can lead to another until we are in such a tangled web that it is impossible to extricate ourselves. At the same time she weaves in themes of infidelity, family, mental illness, bullying, workplace pressure, reputation and financial strain so that what we have is a fascinating exploration of the dynamic of relationships on so many levels. Reading White Lies made me think and wonder what I might do in similar circumstances to Sam. I found myself thinking about it and wrangling with the ethical aspects even when I wasn’t reading White Lies.

Another aspect that really took me by surprise was how I was affected by the characters. I really didn’t much like any of the main characters David, Sam or Neil and yet I couldn’t stop reading about them and wondering what on earth they would do next to self-destruct. I think it must have been a bit the same way some viewers watch reality TV. And these were such realistic characters. Ironically, given the title, I believed every action they took was entirely plausible even when I thought they were behaving insanely. This is such skilful writing.

There’s a cracking plot to White Lies so that I could easily imagine it as a television series. Based around the dynamics of relationships, the action zips along and I kept thinking I’d just read one more chapter because I was sucked in to what was happening.

White Lies is a great story  – and one I think might make readers question their own relationships too! I really recommend putting it on your summer reading list.

About Ellie Holmes

ellie holmes

Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction and romantic cosy mysteries. If you like your books to have heart and soul with a dash of danger then Ellie is the author for you.

Ellie takes her inspiration from the beautiful Essex countryside and the sublime Cornish coast. Romantic and engaging, Ellie’s style of writing will draw you in and keep you turning the pages. Her heart-warming stories and compelling characters will stay with you long after you close her books.

You can visit Ellie’s website or find her on Facebook. You can also follow Ellie on Twitter at @EllieHWriter and visit her Pinterest page.

An Interview with Triona Scully, Author of Nailing Jess

Nailing Jess cover

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Nailing Jess by Triona Scully. I have a super publication day interview with Triona for you.

Nailing Jess is published today, 26th June 2017, by Cranachan and is available for e-book purchase and paperback purchase here.

Nailing Jess

Nailing Jess cover

Welcome to Withering, a small town with a big problem in modern, matriarchal Britain. Here the women wear the trousers, while the men hold the handbags. Literally.

There’s a serial strangler on the loose and the bodies of teenage boys are piling up on maverick D.C.I. Jane Wayne’s patch.

Wayne needs to catch ‘The Withering Wringer’, but it’s not going to be easy. Demoted for her inappropriate behaviour, she must take orders from a man—and not just any man—an ugly one.

Still, at least she can rely on her drug stash from a recent police raid to keep her sane…

Shocking. Funny. Clever. A gender-bending, Agatha-Christie-meets-Chris-Brookmyre, mash-up. Simply genius.

Scully’s debut novel takes classic crime and turns it on its head with a deliciously absurd comic twist.

An Interview with Triona Scully

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Triona. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Nailing Jess in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me, Linda, and for using the phrase ‘considerable humour’, which will be incorporated into my marketing, at the earliest opportunity.

I’m an Edinburgh based Irish writer. Nailing Jess is my first novel. I wrote the first draft in six weeks a few years back.

Why do you write and when did you realise you were going to be a writer?

Because I always have. I’ve always felt like a writer, but before Nailing Jess, I’d never written anything with enough commercial potential to pursue to publication.

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

I find it easiest to free flow words and ideas. I find returning and re-writing harder. Being edited, and having to incorporate other people’s opinions into the process, I find most challenging of all.

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

I write at home, in the morning, when Mikey is at school. I work at the living room table, by a window, over-looking my unkempt garden.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Nailing Jess?

Nailing Jess is a fairly gruesome crime novel with a very high body count and an ever narrowing pool of suspects. It’s also a tale of an unlikely friendship between two people from very different worlds. Lastly, it as a satire on both these concepts.

So often teenage girls are the victims in crime novels but you’ve chosen to make boys the victims in Nailing Jess. What made you decide to buck the usual trend?

Nailing Jess is set in a matriarchy but it is not so much a tale of female empowerment, as it is of male disempowerment. The women in the book don’t come off looking so good, but at least they are, for the most part, still alive. It was very important that the boys and men be victims, because I wanted to explore how that would look and feel and be for them. I wanted people to connect with the innocence and hope the boys shared. I wanted them to see those same boys, post strangulation, presented in a titillating fashion. Death itself an extension of the sexual act, leaving behind a sexual corpse. I wanted to show how that might feel like. Is a silk stocking still sexy, if the dead leg it’s attached to is male?

(Oh – good question! I wonder what blog readers think?)

Nailing Jess is decribed as ‘The most shocking book you’ll read this year’. How far was shocking the reader a deliberate intention in your writing.

I’m not sure how much it featured in the creative process. I was very conscious of having an over the top plot, that would enable me to present the female characters at their very worst, and the male characters at their most vulnerable. More than anything else, I wanted woman as subject, with all the best action and dialogue, and man as object, however pretty, destined for background.

I know you often torment yourself in the middle of the night with ‘What if..?’ questions. Why do you do it and how do you deal with this?

Now, If I knew why Linda… I think it’s just part of the tortured artist psyche, that I can never completely lose. Motherhood, for me, was an amazing leveller. It allowed me to live in the now, in a way I’d never been able to master before. It forced me to be positive, because children do that, and it enabled me to kick a life-long habit of over thinking, over analysing and over sharing. Writing a book, and putting it out there, taps into a base human fear of rejection. For reasons varied and complex, that matter little to anyone but me, I have an acute fear of rejection. It’s ironic, because I’ve never been a mainstream thinker.

Nailing Jess has considerable humour. How did you manage incorporating humour into a story about a psychopath?

‘Considerable Humour’. That will be tweeted later. Many thanks, Linda, because that was my absolute intention. One of my favourite movies in my teenage years was ‘Serial Mom’. It featured the out-standing Kathleen Turner as a suburban mother, who, when she wasn’t either making cup-cakes or folding laundry, was killing people in ever more gruesome and absurd ways. Best of all, she got away with it! Not for her the tortured ramblings of Lady Macbeth, post-kill, she’d mop up the blood in a pair of kitten heels, whilst slow cooking a roast in the oven. I’d never seen a woman portrayed in this way. It should have been shocking, but I found it hilarious. The killer in Nailing Jess isn’t a funny character, nor are the killings. But, everything surrounding them is. People are more receptive to ideas, if they can find humour in them.

Your protagonist DCI Jane Wayne has a man’s name as her surname. Was there a particular message you wanted to convey in naming her this way?

John Wayne is to me a perfect archtype of masculinity. Of course, he’s a bit dated, but so too is masculinity, and yet… I wanted Jane Wayne to have all the gravitas that this name holds.

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

Crime, mostly. Though I’ve just finished a Marian Keyes, which I guess would be chick -lit. Only that’s just a lazy term for almost all women’s writing coined, we must assume, by the patriarchy.

(Interesting point – I’m not sure where the term originated.)

If you could choose to be a character from Nailing Jess, who would you be and why?

Wayne, I’d love to be Wayne. She’s so irreverent. I’d love to be that rude. Always. Sometimes, I’m a little rude, like I might mumble ‘thanks’, or if you’ve really provided bad service, I might with-hold thanks, but there’s very little gratification in it. I don’t think I’m a naturally polite person. I am very polite, but I’ve been socialised and conditioned to be this way, so who can tell? I could perceive it as a virtue, and that’s how most women sell it to themselves, but I’m not sure it is.

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

It’s a cracking crime caper and a wry observation of gender politics.

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Triona and happy publication day.

Thank you Linda.

About Triona Scully


Born in Ireland Triona now lives in Edinburgh where she enjoys writing, current affairs and heading out for long walks on the beach. Formally neurotic, motherhood has changed all that!

You can follow Triona on Twitter and visit her blog. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

nailing jess poster

Cover Reveal: White Silence by Jodi Taylor


It always gives me a bit of a thrill to see the cover of a new book in advance of publication and I think the cover of White Silence by Jodi Taylor looks stunning.

White Silence will be published by Accent Press in e-book on 21st September 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

White Silence


*The first instalment in the new, gripping supernatural thriller series from international bestselling author, Jodi Taylor*

“I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I am.”

Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.

What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control.

When her husband dies, Elizabeth’s world descends into a nightmare. But as she tries to piece her life back together, she discovers that not everything is as it seems.

Alone in a strange and frightening world, she’s a vulnerable target to forces beyond her control.

And she knows that she can’t trust anyone…

White Silence is a twisty supernatural thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

About Jodi Taylor

Author photo Jodi Taylor

Jodi Taylor is the author of the bestselling Chronicles of St Mary’s series, the story of a bunch of disaster-prone historians who investigate major historical events in contemporary time. Do NOT call it time travel!

Born in Bristol and educated in Gloucester (facts both cities vigorously deny), she spent many years with her head somewhere else, much to the dismay of family, teachers and employers, before finally deciding to put all that daydreaming to good use and pick up a pen. She still has no idea what she wants to do when she grows up.

You can follow Jodi on Twitter @authorjoditaylo and find her on Facebook. Jodi also has a blog.

My Pen is My Gun: A Guest Post by Khaled Talib, Author of Incognito


I’ve spent my life encouraging others to read – from when I was a teacher to now I’m in a U3A reading group. Consequently, I’m delighted to welcome Khaled Talib to Linda’s Book Bag today. Author of Incognito, Khaled sums up exactly what I’ve been trying to tell non-readers and readers alike about the value of books.

Published by World Castle on 17th May 2017, Incognito is available for purchase here.



Pope Gregoire XVII was last seen waving to the crowd at Saint Peter’s square from the famous Apostolic Palace window. Despite several layers of tight security, neither the Gendarmerie nor The Entity (the Vatican’s secret service) or the Swiss Guards claim to know anything about his sudden mysterious disappearance.

As the world mourns for the pope, a frantic search begins in Italy and beyond its borders amid speculation that the Holy See may know more than they are telling.

Ayden Tanner, a former British SAS commando officer — who is officially dead — is dispatched with two other crew members to find the Supreme Pontiff by The League of Invisible Knights, a covert division of Anonymous that aims to bring about the triumph of good over evil.

A secret arrangement is made for Ayden to meet Rafael Rabolini, the Papacy’s press secretary, in Geneva, who might be able to tell him more. But trouble unexpectedly starts from the moment Ayden arrives in the city that winter day…

The story unfolds to reveal an insidious plot by Willem Van Der Haas, a ruthless Dutch senator who has aligned himself with a world power bent on its own global ambitions.

In a gasping chase that races from the snowy mountains of Switzerland to the secret passages under Saint Peter’s Basilica to the hilly terrains of Istanbul to the harsh desert air of Egypt, Ayden and his crew are forced to match wits with lethal assassins as they struggle on a desperate quest to prevent a terrifying tomorrow.

A tumult of intrigue, action, suspense from the author of Smokescreen.

My Pen is my Gun

A Guest Post by Khalid Talib


When my first novel, Smokescreen, was about to be published, a magazine editor in Singapore, cautioned me not to expect many readers here.  She described Singapore as not being a reading society. She was telling me something that I already know.

Our observation was confirmed by the local media when it ran an interview questioning the public about their reading habits. Most people admitted they don’t read, citing the lack of time. Tell that to the person reading a book in the New York subway or the London underground as he goes to work and back.

I don’t want to speculate the real reasons why people here don’t read. As it is, I am not relying on them to share my enthusiasm. The world is my oyster. If only they knew the value of writers.  After all, they didn’t give world acclaimed authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Naguib Mahfouz the Nobel prize for nothing.

Sometimes, an author’s novel makes you see the bigger picture by starting with a speck. If you don’t read, you might be inside that speck and not know it until it’s too late. Even if the author writes commercial fiction, there is value in his work because he is still inviting you to discover more about life through adventure or a situation. In that process, you might even discover more about yourself.  When you laugh, smile, get excited or angry as you read a passage, that is the author evoking your emotions.

I recall reading an eco-thriller by Jon McGoran. It tells you about the dangers of agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology. Yes, I’ve read newspaper articles about Monsanto. However, by reading novels, I learned about greed and the lack of empathy for humans that make giant companies do what they do for profit.

George Orwell’s 1984 wasn’t just a work of fiction. It was a warning. Look at the world today. Political austerity. His warnings came to pass.

Even romance novelists offer meanings in life.  Such authors teach you to be gentler, acquire finesse, be humbler. Who else is going to remind you to hear the birds chirp? Stories of romance also take you to various places that increases your general knowledge about people and the world. Is that not an education?

Many years ago, I recall reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, a children’s novel written by Scott O’Dell. It moved me. The story tells of a young indigenous American girl stranded alone for years on an island off the California coast. As a kid, all I knew about the native Americans is what I see on TV.  Cowboys and Indians: the former were savages and the cowboys were heroes. That book changed my perspective from the eye of the protagonist, a girl named Karana, who narrates her experiences. More importantly, all praise to the author of the book for opening my eyes. He made me more emphatic.

Authors try to stretch their imagination as far as they can go. His or her pen might take you on a serious or funny journey, but there’s always a message. A society without writers and artists is like having pasta without sauce. Don’t you agree? So how do you want to live your life? Colourful or bland?

About Khaled Talib


Khaled Talib is the author of the political thriller, Smokescreen, and the recently published Vatican thriller, Incognito. His third thriller, Gun Kiss, will be published this year by Imajin Books. Khaled is a former magazine journalist with local and international exposure. He is a member of the UK Crime Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers. He resides in Singapore.

You can find out more about Khaled on his website, on Facebook and by following him on twitter @KhaledTalib.