It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In by Mawson

mawson cover

When Mawson’s guardian got in touch and asked if I’d like to review Mawson’s book It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In I simply couldn’t resist as, despite approaching my 60s, I’m a real sucker for a teddy bear.

It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In was published on 22nd June 2017 by Obscura and is available for purchase through the links here.

It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In

mawson cover

Are you feeling a little lost? Got that ‘left in the spare room’ emptiness about you? Mawson does too.

He sits atop his cushion and ponders about baffling things.

The world is a funny place for a curious teddy bear to live in. Friends approach him about their own dilemmas. They seek instant answers that will make everything all right. Mawson does his best. But after he ponders deeply, most things remain for him just as baffling as they were before.

Take a moment out of your day to pawse with him and explore the world. For the many frazzled readers who feel, secretly, much the same, he offers the comfort that the world is a bright place to be.

My Review of  It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In

There really are so many things in life for a bear to ponder.

Right, a couple of things to get out of the way first. If, as I suspect many will initially think, this is a book for children then I would have criticisms because of the fairly random use of upper case letters and some of the bear-like spellings in the pictures which undermine my sense of what is perfect modelling for literacy. And It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In could easily be shared with children and their own bears to help them feel safe and loved.

However, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In is actually more a book for adults. Substitute the word bear for human or person and you have a book that provides solace in loss, friendship in loneliness and an understanding of what it means when someone you love is no longer with you.

I really liked this book. It is essentially a picture book for grown ups and I loved the quality of the photographs and the variety of bears included. I also really appreciated the emotional sentiments in the writing. Life is indeed very often baffling and I think we’ve all experienced ‘the aching sound of being searched for’ in our lives at some point.

It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In is a book about optimism, searching for new adventures and making the most of life and love. I can imagine a parent whose child is starting school or university sobbing over this book and I loved the concept that a bear can listen when no-one else will. It might sound ridiculous, but It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In brought a tear to my eye.

If you’re looking for a gift for someone who is struggling with life at the moment, I think It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In would make a wonderful present.

About Mawson

Mawson

Mawson used to be a Bear-About-Town. However, these days he sits on cushions and ponders about Baffling Things. he has a guardian to help him with the typing in his books as it’s rather tricky when you only have paws!

You can find out more about Mawson on his website and by following him on Twitter @MawsonBear where you’ll also find his guardian @BaffledBearBook.

 

 

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith

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I’m trying really hard not to accept new books to read as my TBR is enormous, but when Mary Smith told me I could read her collection of short stories, Donkey Boy and Other Stories, in the bath without becoming wrinkly I couldn’t resist!

Donkey Boy and Other Stories was published by King Street Press on 21st September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Donkey Boy and Other Stories

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Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

My Review of Donkey Boy and Other Stories

With under 80 pages, Donkey Boy and Other Stories can fit into any reader’s busy life.

What a little gem this book is. There’s a super variety of stories packed with atmospheric and entertaining writing containing both pathos and humour. Mary Smith manages to convey clear and distinct voices for each of her brilliant characters, from a Pakistani boy to an elderly Scottish woman. What I liked so much about every one of them is at I felt I knew them instantly and understood them completely but without the author imposing her own judgement on them as they make their way through life.

I loved the unifying themes across each of the stories too. Whilst each story has its own unique identity, Mary Smith explores themes that encroach into all our lives, from poverty in third world countries, through domestic abuse to mental health, grief, fear, love and disability. She does so with skill and finesse, never preaching, but conveying a wonderful sense of humanity for the misrepresented, lost and lonely and for those living unconventionally or outside social norms. I enjoyed every single tale, but especially the last in the book, The Thing in Your Eye, with its slightly supernatural undercurrent as Molly sees ‘Nasties’ in strangers’ eyes. The opening story, Donkey Boy, set in Pakistan also made me think about my own behaviour as I shall be travelling to India next year and will obviously be tipping those I come into contact with.

I really appreciated Mary Smiths wonderful craft in creating a sense of place, time and person so that although these are brief stories, each has a completeness and there’s real satisfaction in reading them.

I found Donkey Boy and Other Stories a moving, engaging and beautifully written collection that has the ability to touch the reader, make them thankful for their own life and to make them think. I’m delighted to have read it.

About Mary Smith

MAry Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

You can find out more about Mary and her writing on her website, on Facebook and by following her on Twitter.

Extract and Giveaway: The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson

The year of the gun

You all know how much I love an historical novel and I’m thrilled that today, thanks to lovely Leah Grant at The History Press, I am able to share an extract from The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson with you. Not only that, if you live in the UK you can enter to win your own paperback copy of The Year of the Gun at the bottom of this blog post.

Published by The History Press on 1st September 2017, The Year of the Gun is available for purchase here.

The Year of the Gun

The year of the gun

1944: Twenty years after WPC Lottie Armstrong was dismissed from the Leeds police force, she’s back, now a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps.

Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan is now head of CID, trying to keep order with a depleted force as many of the male officers have enlisted. This hasn’t stopped the criminals, however, and as the Second World War rages around them, can they stop a blackout killer with a taste for murder?

An Extract from The Year of the Gun

Why are there suddenly so many Americans around?’ Lottie asked as she parked the car on Albion Street.

‘You can hardly turn a corner without running into one.’

‘Are you sure that’s not just your driving?’ McMillan said. She glanced in the mirror, seeing him sitting comfortably in the middle of the back seat, grinning.

‘You could always walk, sir.’ She kept her voice perfectly polite, a calm, sweet smile on her face. ‘It might shift a few of those inches around your waist.’

He closed the buff folder on his lap and sighed. ‘What did I do to deserve this?’

‘As I recall, you came and requested that I join up and become your driver.’

‘A moment of madness.’ Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan grunted as he slid across the seat of the Humber and opened the door. ‘I shan’t be long.’

She turned off the engine, glanced at her reflection and smiled, straightening the dark blue cap on her head.

Three months back in uniform and it still felt strange to be a policewoman again after twenty years away from it. It was just the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, not a proper copper, but still… after they’d pitched her out on her ear it tasted delicious. Every morning when she put on her jacket she had to touch the WAPC shoulder flash to assure herself it wasn’t all a dream.

And it was perfectly true that McMillan had asked her. He’d turned up on her doorstep at the beginning of November, looking meek.

‘I need a driver, Lottie. Someone with a brain.’

‘That’s why they got rid of me before,’ she reminded him.

‘Too independent, you remember?’ McMillan had been a detective sergeant then: disobeying his order had put her before the disciplinary board, and she’d been dismissed from Leeds City Police. ‘Anyway, I’m past conscription age. Not by much,’ she added carefully, ‘but even so…’

‘Volunteer. I’ll arrange everything,’ he promised.

Hands on hips, she cocked her head and eyed him carefully.

‘Why?’ she asked suspiciously. ‘And why now?’

She’d never really blamed him for what happened before. Both of them had been in impossible positions. They’d stayed in touch after she was bounced off the force – Christmas cards, an occasional luncheon in town – and he’d been thoughtful after her husband Geoff died. But none of that explained this request.

‘Why now?’ he repeated. ‘Because I’ve just lost another driver. Pregnant. That’s the second one in two years.’

Lottie raised an eyebrow.

‘Oh, don’t be daft,’ he told her. He was in his middle fifties, mostly bald, growing fat, the dashing dark moustache now white and his cheeks turning to jowls. By rights he should have retired, but with so many away fighting for King and Country he’d agreed to stay on for the duration.

He was a senior officer, effectively running CID in Leeds, answerable to the assistant chief constable. Most of the detectives under him were older or medically unfit for service. Only two had invoked reserved occupation and stayed on the Home Front rather than put on a uniform.

But wartime hadn’t slowed down crime. Far from it. The black market had become worse in the last few months, gangs, deserters, prostitution. More of it than ever. Robberies were becoming violent, rackets more deadly. Criminals had guns and they were using them.

And now Leeds had American troops all over the place.

‘Back to Millgarth,’ McMillan said when he returned, balancing a brown paper bag carefully in one hand. ‘If nothing’s come up while we’ve been gone, you can call it a day and get off home.’ Good, Lottie thought. The Co-op might have some tea left; she was almost out. She didn’t hold out much hope for the butcher by this time of day, though. At least it had been a bountiful year in the garden: plenty of potatoes and carrots and a decent crop of peas and marrows. One thing about all this rationing, she hadn’t gained any weight since it started. If anything she’d lost a little; clothes she’d worn ten years before still fitted.

She followed McMillan into the station and up the rickety wooden staircase, gas mask case banging gently against her hip. Why she bothered with one, she didn’t know; most people had stopped carrying them. On the landing a poster read Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases, the words so faded they were almost invisible. His office was the second one along a corridor where the old linoleum curled at the edges and the paint flaked under the fingers.

‘Quiet for once,’ McMillan said as he inspected his desk.

‘Close the door.’

‘Sir?’

‘Chop chop.’

She did as he ordered, then watched him reach into the paper bag and draw out two eggs. Real, fresh eggs. When was the last time she’d seen any of those?

‘Go on, take them. They’re for you. When I saw Timmy

Houghton he gave me four. Or don’t you want them?’

Lottie scooped them up carefully, swaddled them in a hand- kerchief and placed them in her handbag.

‘Of course. Thank you.’ She didn’t know what to say. He had a habit of doing things like this. A little something here and there. A pair of stockings, some chocolate. Even a quarter- pound of best steak once that tasted like a feast. In the three months she’d been working for him she felt spoilt. It was his way of thanking her.

At the bus stop she cradled her bag close, miles away as she dreamed of the eggs, maybe with a sausage and some fried bread. The kind of breakfasts they had before the war. So many things had changed after Chamberlain spoke on the radio. Most of all, her life: two days later Geoff was dead from a sudden heart attack at work.

He’d left good provision for her. The man from the Pru came and explained it all. Insurance would pay off the mortgage on the house they’d bought in Chapel Allerton. There was an annuity as well as a pension from his job as an area manager at Dunlop. She’d never want for anything.

Her life was comfortable. Even Geoff ’s death, even the war, couldn’t seem to shake her out of it. She was sheltered, numb. Lottie burrowed into it, hid in it. She was just too old to be called up for war work. Everything seemed easier that way. Until McMillan knocked on her door and turned her life upside down.

And she couldn’t remember when she’d been so grateful.

About Chris Nickson

chris nickson

Chris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, beginning with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. Since then Chris had enjoyed telling stories. Along the way came diversions into teenage poetry, and his other great love, music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

At 21, Chris moved to the US, and spent the next 30 years there, returning to England in 2005, and finally full circle to Leeds.

You can find Chris Nickson’s books here.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisNickson2 and visit his website. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

Giveaway – A Paperback Copy of The Year of the Gun

The year of the gun

For your chance to win a paperback copy of The Year of The Gun by Chris Nickson, click here.

UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes UK midnight on Sunday 1st October 2017.

An Interview with Patricia Dixon, Author of Over My Shoulder

over my shoulder

There are times as a blogger when I really wish I didn’t have over 900 books piled around my home awaiting reading. Today is one of those times as it means I haven’t yet had chance to read Over My Shoulder by Patricia Dixon. Over My Shoulder sounds just my kind of read. Still, I do have an interview with Patricia today so at least I get to find out a bit more about her and the book!

Published by Highfield Press, Over My Shoulder is available for purchase here.

Over My Shoulder

over my shoulder

This is a dark and gripping romance which tells of a nice young girl who met a very bad man. Sounds simple? Not really.

By the time the girl realised the depths of his wicked soul and a wiser, braver young woman was about to emerge, it was too late. His twisted roots had wrapped around her life, spreading rapidly, taking a firm hold of her confused head and fragile heart. There was to be no escape from the tangled mess unless it was on his terms and even then, once she was free and her life rolled precariously on, the seeds he had sown remained embedded deep within.

When she least expected it he would return and make good his promise, exact revenge and ensure she paid any price he felt owed.

Set in Manchester in the early nineties, Over My Shoulder is an intricate tale of blinkered love and obsession. This gripping psycho-sexual thriller with criminal undertones tracks the life of a young woman, from her carefree mid-twenties right up to present day.

Freya falls under the spell of controlling and manipulative Kane and soon, her life changes beyond her wildest imagination. When the luxurious life she craves gradually becomes intolerable, escape is out of reach.

This is a disturbing story of an affluent life, cleverly camouflaging the sinister underworld which funds it. And just when you think it is all over, there is a twist.
When will it end, can it end?

An Interview with Patricia Dixon

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

Hello Linda and thanks for having me on your blog. In answer to your first question I live in Manchester and have done all my life apart from the time I spent at Preston Polytechnic and then London. I am married with two grown up children and one grandchild. I originally worked in the fashion industry as the PA to a couture designer, it was a fabulous but hectic job and then I moved north where I travelled the UK producing knitwear. After our daughter was born I worked with my husband in his building company and now, with an empty nest, have the time to write which I’ve wanted to do for so long.

Why do you write?

The reason why I write is probably very similar to why most authors do – my head is constantly buzzing with ideas and on so many occasions after finishing a book I thought ‘I could do better than that’. It truly is my dream job and when I receive lovely letters from readers who usually become friends, it makes all the hours I spend locked away worthwhile.

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

The easiest aspect is the actually writing of the book. I hate editing in the final stages because after the fourth or fifth time of reading it through it starts to drive you mad – and you go word blind in the process. And it’s getting easier to chop stuff out, I get very precious about a paragraph or even a sentence but sometimes they just have to go. The scariest thing of all though is the first time you get the manuscript back from the editor and open the file to see all the red amendments – but now I enjoy that part as it’s a learning opportunity and we do have a bit of a giggle over some of my mistakes.

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

I write in our dining room. It has a sofa for when I get a numb bum and from my writing chair I can keep my eye on my husband whose workshop is close by. I’m a bit of a clean freak so get up early to do my housework and sometimes prepare dinner – once I start to write I’m in another zone and often forget to cook. I usually start work around 10.30am and continue until 7pm, sometimes later if I’m on a roll but we both have a rule to stop work at 9pm.

How far do you think a previous career in fashion has helped give you an eye for detail in your writing?

I think attention to detail may stem from my design history and it was instilled in us to always have a notebook and write things down, anything you see or think that provides inspiration. I had a book in my bag which was stuffed with cuttings, photos, postcards, quotes, music titles, bits of fabric – all sorts of rubbish that meant something to me. This training produced a fanatical list writer – in fact I become very stressed if my mind is in disarray and even now I find that writing down jumbled thoughts or things I need to do and random ideas, calms me down.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Over My Shoulder?

Over My Shoulder is a very personal conversation between the main character, Freya, and the reader. From the outset I wanted it to feel as though she was confiding in you, baring her soul whilst confessing her mistakes and asking for your opinion. I’ve had many compliments from readers who enjoyed this fresh approach to story telling and felt as though they were experiencing Freya’s story along with her which then added to the tension in the book. I was very aware that had the reader not experienced any kind of abuse, be it mental or physical, that they may not understand her plight and therefore made a point of gently explaining the mindset of the abused. I also felt a great responsibility towards those who are victims to get it right and do them justice. Finally, I purposely held back in the scenes that are disturbing simply because I didn’t want to offend or really upset anyone so left lots to the imagination.

(This makes me even more frustrated I haven’t had chance to read Over My Shoulder yet!)

Over My Shoulder marks a bit of a departure from your previous novels. Why did you decide to make the change?

I’ll be very honest with you here – it was to exorcise a ghost. Last year I received a message via Facebook from the wife of a man who almost ruined my life. If you read the book you will see the almost identical message, one which made me fall apart. My dear friend Angela (who is also my book world guru) helped me through the shock and as always, gave me some sound advice and suggested I write about it. The next morning I got up extra early and wrote the prologue and sent it to her – the rest is history.

(Wow!)

Why did you choose the 1990’s as the era for Over My Shoulder?

I chose the early 90’s as it suited the storyline – my situation happened in the 80’s but for the purposes of the tale I needed an era where things were changing, like technology, people were making the transition from a simpler way of life to mobile phones and computers. I think women were less aware of the danger that surrounds them, these days the news and social media is full of horror stories and warnings regarding stalkers and how your life can be hacked into. I also wanted Freya to be less streetwise than women today, a little more naive perhaps. And in those days there were no laws to protect you from stalking and the domestic violence unit at the police station consisted of one or two officers, nowadays there is a whole department dealing with the problem.

To what extent do you think lives in today’s society are adversely affected by the desire for luxury that Freya has?

I think the desire for luxury and fame is a blight on our youth who seem to crave celebrity or an easy life. Maybe it’s a role model issue, or lack of community and extended family values that’s to blame, but whatever it is, today’s youngsters appear to admire people for all the wrong reasons. Like those who cruise around in cars with blacked out windows which were bought from the proceeds of crime, or women who behave badly on reality television or anyone who achieves notoriety for doing very little of worth. I really hope things change soon – fingers crossed the emergence of women’s sport might alter perceptions and raise expectations.

Kane is a highly manipulative character. How did he make you feel as you wrote about him?

I enjoyed writing Kane’s character. He was the culmination of so many men I have been told about or had the misfortune to meet. You’d be surprised how many women are married to or in relationships with men who control them, it isn’t always obvious, maybe it’s subtle, but it’s there and extremely dangerous. There are many layers to Kane, none of them remotely likeable and like all weak men the way he finds strength is in the subjugation of others. No matter what I wasn’t going to allow the reader to feel an ounce of pity for him and in doing so I allowed my mind run free and make him an extremely vile individual!!

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring  Over My Shoulder  was realistic?

As I mentioned above, some of Over My Shoulder is written from experience and the rest is pure fiction. I did make sure I got my facts right about how domestic violence is on the rise and after advice from Beta Readers, added some statistics, just for the sceptics. This was the hardest thing to include as I didn’t want it to sound like an advice pamphlet so wove it into a chapter where I thought it appropriate. The best compliments I’ve had so far are about the believability of my characters and how Freya interacts with her family. Readers have commented that they can feel the warmth and bond, which I hope reflects the love of my parents and how I communicate relatable emotions.

Over My Shoulder has a cover that suggests panic to me. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

My cover is inspired by the latter part of the story and does convey panic – a word that aptly describes the final stages of the tale. I saw it on The Cover Collection which is where I get all my covers and knew instantly it was the one for me. Debbie the wonderful designer there did a bit of tweaking and produced this. I love it.

If you could choose to be a character from Over My Shoulder, who would you be and why?

Oh my!! I don’t think I’d like to be a character in Over My Shoulder, certainly not Freya but if I had to choose perhaps I’d be Lydia, her best friend. Maybe I’d try a little bit harder to prise Freya away from Kane and give her more support.

If Over My Shoulder became a film, who would you like to play Freya and why would you choose them?

If Over My Shoulder became a film I’d want Anna Friel to play the older version of Freya. Hands down she is perfect for the role.

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

I often read and review books by other author friends as we are all very supportive of one another, but really don’t have that much time although it is a great way to learn and get writing tips from your peers. I love Amanda Prowse because she has the knack of touching on everyday lives and making them interesting, her stories and characters are very relatable. Nick Alexander, Sue Fortin, Helen Pollard, Louise Mullins and Linda Huber are brilliant. My friend Emmanuelle de Maupassant writes erotica and I have read two of hers ( don’t even think about 50 shades) these are beautifully written and set in bygone ages and I promise are worth a try. I’m not keen on horror but have read two dystopian books recently. My favourite subject is the Second World War and love books set in this time, especially about The Resistance – it fascinates me.

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

15 words –

Hold Freya’s hand, be her friend, and experience manipulation at the hands of a master.

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

*I’d like to thank Linda for asking such brilliant and absorbing questions, I’m quite exhausted now – I’ll have to have a lie down on my sofa. I hope you enjoy the answers and if anyone would like to get in touch, please don’t be shy and contact me on the links below. Everyone is welcome. Bye for now x

About Patricia Dixon

Patricia Dixon

Patricia Dixon lives in Manchester. After a career in Fashion she swapped all things fabric for bricks and mortar, working alongside her husband where she ran his building company and now, with an empty nest, finally has time to write.

The All for Love series is set in the Loire where Patricia has a holiday home, a place to close to her heart and from where she gathers inspiration for her characters and tales of French countryside life.

Over My Shoulder is Patricia’s sixth novel, a darker, psychological tale told from the viewpoint of a young woman, reliving the past.

Patricia loves hearing from her readers and you can follow her on Twitter, @pbadixon and find her on Facebook.

You’ll find all of Patricia’s books here.

Broadcast by Liam Brown

Broadcast_High Res Cover (1)

I am absolutely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Broadcast by Liam Brown. It’s not a book I might have read had I not been asked to and I would have missed out on a fantastic read. I have a short extract to share from Broadcast along with my review today.

Broadcast was published by Legend Press on 15th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Broadcast

Broadcast_High Res Cover (1)

The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.

An Extract from Broadcast

David shakes his head. ‘But I don’t understand? If you’re not going to launch it then why did you invite me here this morning?’

Xan’s smile returns. He places the guitar carefully down beside the amp and then wraps an arm around David’s shoulder. He leans in, so close that David can smell the stale perspiration seeping from his t-shirt, the sour coffee on his breath.

‘Oh, I’ve got something more exciting to show you than this, David. Something much, much more exciting. And believe me, this thing really will rock your world.’

*

‘Explain to me what it is that you do, David. What is your job?’

David and Sarah are slumped on oversized beanbags in a tiny office that lies behind the guitar room. Like the other breakout areas, the room is bright and sparsely furnished, though here all the surfaces – ceiling, walls, floor – are mirrored, rather than transparent or frosted. The effect is mesmerising. While Xan speaks, David finds himself constantly distracted by his own reflection, both disturbed and excited to see himself from so many new angles. Every time he crosses his legs or readjusts his glasses or runs his fingers through his hair, an endless army of clones instantly mimic him. Everywhere he looks he’s there. There’s no escaping himself.

‘Um… I make videos?’

Beside David, Sarah is doing her best to retain an air of professionalism, despite lying almost horizontal.

‘I think what David is trying to say is that he is one of the top thirty independent content creators currently working online today. As a filmmaker, vlogger, and soon-to-be author, his good looks, fashion-sense and relatable, everyman charm have brought him a huge audience, particularly amongst the traditionally difficult to reach 14-17 demographic. Over the last three years alone he has amassed a loyal following of hundreds of thousands of regular viewers, not to mention over…’

Around the room, a billion Xans hold up their hands in unison.

‘Thank you, Sarah. I’m aware of the figures. Allow me to rephrase. What I’m trying to get at isn’t so much what you do, but what the purpose is. What is the point of you, David?’ Sarah opens her mouth to answer, then closes it again, stumped. She turns to David, who scratches at his stubble.

‘I guess the point… Well… People watch my videos because they care about what I think about… stuff.’

Xan beams. ‘Bingo! I mean, that’s it in a nutshell, right? You’re a commentator. A critic. You live your life and then you talk about it. Simple as that. And people go crazy for it. They know you. They like you. They value your opinion. Hell, most of them probably consider you more as a friend than an entertainer.’

The assembled Sarahs breathe a sigh of relief. ‘Absolutely, absolutely. In fact a recent poll indicated…’

‘Of course they do, dude,’ Xan continues, cutting her off.

‘It’s just so intimate, isn’t it? No middleman. No artifice. Just you and a camera. An open portal into your life. The ultimate reality show. I mean, forget TV. Video blogging is the real successor to Gutenberg’s press. You don’t need industry connections or years of drama school. Literally anyone can do it. Anyone can be a star. It’s almost a shame it’ll all be over in a couple of years.’

David frowns. ‘Over?’

‘Sure. Utterly finished. Within a couple of years, video blogging will be as dead as DVDs. Or the novel. Sure there might be a few enthusiasts who cling on for a while. Retro snobs. Hipsters. The same people who insist on buying vinyl rather than streaming music like everyone else. But in any meaningful way, video blogging is heading for extinction. There’s just no future in it.’

In every surface, Sarah and David exchange confused glances.

‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Sarah says, attempting to rearrange herself on the beanbag.

‘David is currently one of the most popular personalities on the Internet. Okay, so there may have been some natural settling of figures over the last six months, but he still drives hundreds of thousands of regular viewers to his channel every week. He has fans on every continent. And it’s not just him. I have seven other clients, all of whom are currently drawing a similar sized audience. Online video has never been more popular. Our projections show us making up seventy per cent of the total media market share by the end of the decade alone. I just don’t know how you can stand there and declare the bubble’s about to burst?’

Xan towers above them, smiling. All around them his reflection trails off into infinity. An army. A lynch mob.

‘Because,’ he says, grinning. ‘We’re going to kill it. Together.’

My Review of Broadcast

Vlogger David Callow cherished fame but he might rue the day he got involved with MindCast.

Wow! What a book. Stunning stuff! I must say something straight away about the overall quality of Liam Brown’s writing. He doesn’t waste a word. He knows exactly what sentence length, syntax and vocabulary to use to ensnare a reader so that they can’t stop reading. Breaks in the text are so perfectly placed and presented with mini cliffhangers and often terrifying brevity so that with a single word Liam Brown conveys absolutely everything he needs his reader to understand. I loved the fact that these breaks were also represented by an image of that irritating cog we all get as our computers buffer incoming information. Sheer genius. So too is the overall structure. I wasn’t initially sure why the narrative moved from the third to first person voice but when I understood I could only admire the technique completely.

I read much of the book with my pulse rate elevated because what Liam Brown presents is an only too realistic, horrifying, view of what we could become if we allow technology to take over our lives much further. I genuinely think this is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read because it is so plausible. We’re a blink away from the events in Broadcast as we spiral further into the online celebrity culture of the C21st.

The plot races along so that Dave’s life becomes a nightmare spectacle not just for those in the book but for the reader too.

Not only is Broadcast exceptionally well written and utterly entertaining and absorbing, it is a book that strikes fear into the heart and soul of anyone who has ever posted anything online. It has actually made me think carefully about continuing to blog and post to social media or instead just quietly disappearing from this online world.

I think Liam Brown’s Broadcast is utterly phenomenal and everyone should read it.

About Liam Brown

Liam Brown

Liam Brown is a writer, filmmaker and former-life model. His debut novel Real Monsters was published in 2015 and long-listed for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and two children.

You can follow Liam on twitter @LiamBrownWriter and visit his website. Liam is also on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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An Interview With Sandra Howard, Author of The Consequence of Love

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I’m so pleased to be part of the paperback launch celebrations for Consequence of Love by Sandra Howard.

Published by Simon and Schuster, Consequence of Love is available for purchase in e-book, hardback and now paperback through the links here.

The Consequence of Love

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Perfect reading for fans of Joanna Trollope and Elizabeth Buchan, this is a novel of lost loves, deceits and second chances.

Nattie is now happily married to Hugo and they have two beautiful children, but no one knows that her heart has never truly been hers to give.

The love of her life was lost to her years ago, or so she thought. Now Ahmed is back, and although he knows Nattie is married, he just can’t stop himself from making contact.

Torn between Ahmed and her family, Nattie ends up meeting him in secret. But will her lies cause more trouble than the truth?

An Interview with Sandra Howard

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

Thanks for having me, Linda! I’m a bit shy to say much about myself… hardly in my first flush as in my seventies now with five grandchildren. Two of the youngest were actually the inspiration for the children in The Consequence of Love. I was a photographic fashion model back in the 60’s which was an amazing time and my last book, Tell the Girl, set largely in that decade, is the only one of my books to be based personal experiences. Politics came into my life when my husband became an MP, though we don’t always share the same views!

(I bet that makes for a lively household!)

You’ve had a very varied life, being a model, journalist and married to a politician. How far do your own experiences influence your writing?

I think any writer draws on their experiences to some degree. I was told that it is good to have as your backdrop something you know a little more about than many others The characters are often a sort of kaleidoscope of people who have influenced you or you’ve loved, disliked or admired.

Why do you write?

It’s a passion. I enjoy every minute, the characters become part of the family and lead me just where they want to go.

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

It’s impossibly hard to start a new chapter quickly and move on. I like to get the first page just right, but it’s a mistake – much better to get on and alter it as necessary when the chapter is complete. I actually find the conversation between people in love the best and easiest bit of writing! You sort of know what they’re thinking and feeling.

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

I write anywhere, whenever I can but my head is clearest in the mornings and sometimes late evening too – I keep pencil and paper by my bedside in case an idea comes to me in the night (though it’s a struggle to wake up enough to turn on the light and write it down!)

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Consequence of Love?

The story really revolves around the dilemmas of the heart that people face and the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made. Nattie, the girl in the story, is deeply fond of her husband whom she has helped through an earlier drug addiction; she has two small children, a good job, but she secretly pines for the man to whom her heart truly belongs. Even seven years on, not knowing where he is or whether he’s even still alive, she cannot get him out of her mind. And then one day he makes contact…

(Ooo!)

Ahmed is a character from a previous book. How did he come to feature in The Consequence of Love

 The book was A Matter of Loyalty (you can read the first chapter at the end of the paperback of The Consequence of Love) After a bomb went off in a London cinema foyer Ahmed, a reporter on a national newspaper then and who had fallen in love with Nattie, went undercover trying to foil threats of a further ‘dirty’ bomb. He saved the day, became a hero, but had to leave the country for his own safety. I really wanted to know what had happened to him – as did a number of readers – so The Consequence of Love is the story of his return to find Nattie, the girl he still loves…

Many of your novels have deception in various forms as a theme and in The Consequence of Love Nattie has a seemingly normal life but soon becomes embroiled in a web of lies. How far do you think we all have the potential to behave in similar ways?

I’m afraid that falling passionately in love is all consuming and however good and kind a person you are it is all too easy to become embroiled while trying to avoid the hurt your actions would cause. Many people have said they have been there…

The Consequence of Love has a cover that suggests a woman looking for something out of reach. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The publishers chose it and I bow to their imagery…

If you could choose to be a character from The Consequence of Love, who would you be and why?

Possibly Nattie’s mother and I’d try to do things a little differently!

If The Consequence of Love became a film, who would you like to play Nattie and why would you choose them?  

Natalie Portman or Keira Knightly perhaps, I see Nattie as delicate-looking and both those could play the role sensitively I believe.

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

Literary fiction, biographies sometimes, book clubs are great for widening the scope.

So, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Consequences of Love should be their next read, what would you say?

It is a story of the dilemmas of the heart and pulls of loyalty.

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

About Sandra Howard

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in the l960s, Sandra Howard was one of the UK’s leading fashion models. Sandra has quickly established herself as a highly successful commercial novelist. Married to the former leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, Sandra lives in London and in Kent.

Sandra is actively involved with two national charities, Addaction, a charity helping people to fight drug and alcohol addiction, and as a vice president of Youth Epilepsy. Sandra also supports First Story, a charity that provides funds to enable well-known writers to hold creative writing classes in inner city schools.

You can follow Sandra on Twitter @howardsandrac and find out more on her website.

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The Perils of a Kindle Virgin: A Guest Post by Peter Liney, Author of Beauty

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One of the rationales for Linda’s Book Bag that has emerged since I began blogging is to support authors who don’t always have a huge marketing team behind them. Previously conventionally published, Peter Liney is self-publishing his latest novel Beauty and I was interested to know how his promotion of the book was going. He agreed to come on to my blog and tell me more. I think his guest post will resonate with a great number of other authors!

Beauty is available for purchase in e-book here.

Beauty

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When cosmetic and transplant surgery get together and beauty becomes a commodity that can be bought and sold, the Rich become more beautiful, the Poor less. But if something can be traded, it can also be stolen – brutally, violently, by the feared face-stealers, and to a point where the rich finally cry ‘Enough! . . . Enough. Make us plain; make us ordinary.’ Now there is no beauty left, not as we once knew it, only photos, videos, exhibitions. And yet . . . you still hear the occasional rumor.

The Perils of a Kindle Virgin

A Guest Post by Peter Liney

I had a little lull in my writing. The film company extended their option on The Detainee for another year, I needed something ‘happening’, and I thought, ‘Why not try self-publishing on Kindle?’ I mean, why not? It looked easy enough.

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First I chose a novel of mine that hadn’t caught the eye of any conventional publishers. Beauty is a futuristic, page-turning thriller, but with a lot to say about social attitudes, particularly when it comes to men and female beauty. I’d already edited it a hundred times, of course, but I still went through it once more just to check there were no mistakes (I missed one – have fun looking. I should’ve made it a competition). I bought an image for the front cover that I really liked, wrote up the titles and a blurb, and there it was – my new book. Wow! In a matter of hours! Kindle publishing is remarkably easy. Really, I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it.

Ah, but you see, that the problem, everyone does do it – or so it seems. That’s where this venture become a whole lot more difficult. There are millions of books out there, a whole ocean, how do you attract people to yours?

You have to remember, I have a conventionally published trilogy on the bookshelves (The Detainee, the first book of which is to be made into a Hollywood movie) another script optioned, and a YA trilogy set to go. You might think that would give me some kind of advantage? Well, if it does, I haven’t spotted it yet. I’m just swimming around out here, waving at whoever I can, however I can, the same as everyone else.

I’ve tried Internet PR people in the past, though not with a great deal of success.  The thing about publishing on Kindle is that you can get absolutely accurate sales figures, so it’s not long before you discover what’s working and what’s not. I used Facebook ‘boosts’ – at a cost that was ridiculous for a 99p book – but found them no more successful than regular posting. A campaign on Twitter was much the same. I even considered getting one of those magnetic signs made up that go on the side of your car. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that probably the self-publishing writer’s best tool for getting their book into the public domain is the blogger (like Linda’s Book Bag). That it’s very often them who’ll get the ball rolling, and once they do, well, who knows?

So, if you happen to spot Beauty somewhere on the great Amazon ocean, do give it a try. Meanwhile, I’ll be out here, treading water, doing what I can to attract the attention of passers-by: waving but not drowning.

About Peter Liney

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Peter Liney is the author of Beauty, the Detainee Trilogy (The Detainee, Into The Fire, and In Constant Fear, published by Jo Fletcher Books), and has two movies (The Detainee and Honeyboys) in production in 2018.

Peter was born in Wiltshire, UK, though he has spent a lot of his life travelling. He has been everything from an English teacher to spending two days as a trainee stuntman (he gave that up because it was too dangerous). He loves photography, music – both listening to and playing, and is a great movie lover. If he wasn’t a writer, Peter would have loved to have been an opera singer.

You can follow Peter on Twitter @lineypeter and visit his Facebook page.