The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

The Devils Claw

My enormous thanks to Sam Eades at Trapeze Books for a copy of The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman in return for an honest review. I was so interested to read The Devil’s Claw as it’s set in Guernsey where I have landed 70 times en route to work in Jersey but have never got off the plane!

The Devil’s Claw is by Trapeze, an imprint of Orion, and is available for purchase through the various links here.

The Devil’s Claw

The Devils Claw

The six drowned girls stared up at them from the photographs. All young. All attractive. All dead. ‘It is a lot of dead girls. And it’s a very small island.’

Following a traumatic incident in London, Jennifer Dorey has returned to her childhood home in Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter at the local newspaper.

After the discovery of a drowned woman on a beach, she uncovers a pattern of similar deaths that have taken place over the past fifty years.

Together with DCI Michael Gilbert, an officer on the verge of retirement, they follow a dark trail of island myths and folklore to ‘Fritz’, the illegitimate son of a Nazi soldier. His work, painstakingly executed, has so far gone undetected.

But with his identity about to be uncovered, the killer now has Jennifer in his sights…

My Review of The Devil’s Claw

With a traumatic event in her recent past Jenny thinks returning to Guernsey will help her recover so peace and tranquility. She’s wrong!

Having worked in Jersey every six weeks or so for years I have a pretty good understanding of the claustrophobic and intimate nature of the Channels islands. Lara Dearman is pitch perfect in depicting EXACTLY what it’s like. There’s a shared history, especially of the recent past, and mysticism that threads through life that Lara Dearman understands and depicts in an almost visceral way. In The Devil’s Claw Guernsey isn’t a mere setting, but a character in its own right, lending depth, atmosphere and danger so that I could hardly breathe at times. The writing is so visual that I could picture every detail vividly. The Devil’s Claw drips with authenticity of Channel Island life.

The plot is wonderfully deft and totally believable. I think those who don’t know island life might find some of the events and relationships slightly incredible, but they would be wrong. I was so utterly convinced that I found myself googling some events and people just to see if they actually existed, because Lara Dearman weaves fact and fiction so perfectly. As the book raced towards it’s totally satisfying conclusion I was desperate to read on because I was so caught up in events.

I loved the characterisation too. Jenny has a vulnerability and a determination that make her a three dimensional figure. If I feel I’d like to know a character personally then they are a success and I’d love to meet Jenny. I’m thrilled that The Devil’s Claw is the start of a new series as I have been left wanting even more. Indeed, I feel I need to reread The Devil’s Claw to pick up even more clues about Jenny et al. There are some unresolved aspects that I don’t want to spoil for readers but they don’t detract from the read; rather they add to the mystery and future possibilities. Brilliant!

It took me absolutely ages to read The Devil’s Claw because life got in the way and I think it is testament to the outstanding quality of Lara Dearman’s plotting, writing and story telling that even with huge gaps between when I was able to read, the story didn’t miss a beat. I could remember everything going on and found the narrative and characters calling to me. This is a hugely assured and absorbing debut novel and I can’t wait to read more about Jenny  – and Guernsey.

About Lara Dearman

Lara Dearman

Lara was born and raised on the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey. She moved to the UK to study International Relations and French at the University of Sussex, after which she endured a brief career in finance before giving it up to be a stay at home mum to her three children.

A short course in Creative Writing at Richmond Adult Community College led to Lara studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, London. She graduated in 2016 with a distinction.

Having moved from Guernsey to Brighton to London to Paris to Singapore and back to London over the last fifteen years, she has now settled in Westchester, New York, with her family. The Devil’s Claw is her first novel and combines her love of Guernsey, myths and folklore with her obsession with crime fiction and serial killers…

You can follow Lara on Twitter @laradearman.

A Day in the Life of an Author on Social Media: A Guest Post by Anna Bell, Author of It Started With A Tweet

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As someone ever so slightly addicted to social media on my phone, I’d like to thank Emily Burns for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for Anna Bell’s It Started With A Tweet. I would also like to apologise for the fact that I fully intended to review for today too, but life simply hasn’t allowed it!

Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 7th December 2017 in e-book and from 28th December in paperback, It Started With A Tweet is available for purchase here.

It Started With A Tweet

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Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . .

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria. Soon, too, Daisy meets a welcome distraction there in Jack, the rugged man-next-door.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village?

And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?

A Day in the Life of an Author on Social Media

A Guest Post by Anna Bell

Social media is possibly the best and the worst thing to happen to authors. Writing can be an incredibly isolating profession and social media opens up a world of other authors and readers to chat to, making it all a little less lonely and a lot more pleasant. Yet on the other hand when you’re struggling to find motivation to edit and write, sitting down at your computer where the world is quite literally at your fingertips can be a very dangerous thing.

My day with social media begins when I’m having my morning coffee. I browse Twitter and Instagram to see what’s been going on whilst I’ve been asleep. I almost always find my next read on Twitter. I look at what the reviewers that review my books have been reading and the ones that they’ve loved. I also look at what books are creating a buzz on social media. I think as an author it’s important to see what other people are doing and watching trends – and Twitter for me is how I keep track of it. I then head off to take my daughter to crèche or I take my dog out for a walk and at that point I’m always looking out for an Instagram opportunity. My feed is full of pictures of the countryside where I live in rural France or it’s of cakes and pastries that I’ve treated myself to from the local boulangeries – which are definitely my weak spot.

When I finally sit down at my laptop, I then turn to Twitter. I usually like to write one or two tweets in the morning and it takes me ages to compose them. You’d think as a writer who writes 90,000 word novels that a tweet would be no problem, but I feel the pressure to write something dazzling and witty in 140 (or 280) characters. I then have a quick look at Facebook, mainly because I’m in some groups with other authors where we chat about all things writing – picking each others brains about how the industry works and sharing the frustrations of the whole writing process. I don’t tend to post a lot to Facebook, only because for me I find it too time consuming. I like Twitter’s short nature and easy to follow layout.

Once I’m happy that I’m not missing out on too much on social media, I switch off the internet and write. Or at least that’s the plan. Depending on how much motivation I’ve got or how stuck I am determines how much I switch back on my WiFi and refresh my feeds. Inspired by my latest novel, It Started With a Tweet, where the main character gets forced offline, I did a digital detox for three days and it was amazing how productive I was when I wasn’t constantly checking everything.

The absolute best thing about social media for me has to be the interaction with readers. There is nothing that makes me more happy then when someone tweets me to say that they enjoyed one of my books or that they loved one of my characters as much as I do. I love also getting to know readers and chatting about other people’s books too. Hearing from readers spurs me on when I’m writing another book, it reminds me why I’m doing it and that it is worthwhile!

Despite my horrible procrastination and the virtual rabbit holes I fall down when on Twitter, I would hate to be a writer without social media. For me it would lead to more self doubt and it would be a lot lonelier place to be.

(I think we’d all agree with you Anna!)

About Anna Bell

Anna Bell

Anna lives in the South of France with her young family and energetic labrador. When not chained to her laptop, Anna can be found basking in the sun in the summer, heading to the ski slopes in the winter (to drink hot chocolate and watch – she can’t ski) or having a sneaky treat from the patisserie – all year round!

You can find our more about Anna on her website, or follow her on Twitter @AnnaBell_writes. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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A Publication Day Interview With Katherine Pierce Chinelli, Author of Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets

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I’ve featured all kind of books on Linda’s Book Bag since I started blogging almost three years ago but today is a first – a choose your own romance book for adults! College Secrets is the second in K. P. Chinelli’s Choose Your Own Romance Series, after San Francisco and as it’s publication day today I just had to ask her a little bit more.

Published today, 19th December 2017 Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets

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From the author of the addictive, standalone books in the contemporary Choose Your Own Romance series for adults comes the newest book: Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets.

In the style of the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, this romance brings the fun of adventure to a new, more adult level designed for your busy life. You can skim through one heart-pounding path in twenty minutes, or sit back and luxuriate in deciding which of the six steamy opportunities you like best.

Have fun jet-setting around the world with the rich, gorgeous, playboy senior who sports sexy stubble and pressed dress shirts. Party with the charming, single “daddy” rapper who has an incredible physique and an alluring romantic side. Follow your heart when the tempting football hero from high school reveals his long-standing crush on you. Satisfy your urges to uncover the irresistible flirtatious side of the movie nerd in your class who has interesting surprises of his own. Feel free to explore the intense depths of your vulnerable art professor and his intriguing ability to make you want more. Or probe the mystery of your secretive, bad-girl roommate who persists in playing with your heart.

Never wonder “What If?” again. Don’t let someone else decide your fate. Pick up Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets now, and create your own epic happily ever after.

An Interview With K.P. Chinelli

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Katherine. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Hi Linda, thanks for having me. I’m a wife to a bodybuilder and pest control technician, a mother two to little ones aged 5 and 16-almost 17-months and an avid reader/writer. I’ve always written stories and devoured books since as far back as I can remember. I always have a book on hand. I’m a sucker for self-help books, especially. I used to be a massage therapist and own a small business in Berkeley, California. Now, since my husband is a bodybuilder and obsessed with everything nutrition, I am getting into that field as well. I’ve been gluten-free for two years. My newest diet focus is something I recently discovered called the stenogetic diet, better known as the circadian rhythm diet. It focuses on time-based eating in order to allow your organs to rest and re-set. The benefits include more endurance in your daily life. As a stay-at-home mom I jumped on that reason to start the diet immediately.

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

I realized I was going to be a writer in third grade when the book my teacher was reading felt too boring to keep me interested. It was then I decided to pen my own. I didn’t know I would publish until long after.

You have quite an eclectic range of books including Young Adult graphic novel and horror books as well as self help. Why do you write in so many genres?

When I started writing, I did so to release emotions that were tangled up inside me. Since the emotions varied, so did the books that came out. The graphic novel was drawn for my friends at school. We were all obsessed with X-Files, and drawing was a large part of the school curriculum. The horror books were based on my own teen angst, X-File obsession (still) and the desire to escape into a fantasy world where I could experience both romance and adventure. The self-help evolved as my emotions overwhelmed me and I was diagnosed as bipolar (which, oddly, has since been diagnosed as “in remission.”) I always felt like if I could read enough self-help, I could “fix” my issues. And then the desire was born to write my own self-help, and help others as I had learned to help myself. My method to this day continues to be based on writing to examine what’s on the inside. Whatever evolves will dictate that.

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

The easiest part for me is the daily writing routine which I love. I love organizing my writing time and sitting down and churning it out. I have completed Nanowrimo 3 times and The Three Day Novel Contest 7 times just for the sheer joy of creating. The hardest part is marketing my work, taking myself seriously as a paid author and believing that I deserve to earn money from doing what I love. For a long time I felt icky about marketing. But very recently I realized that I enjoy feeling pride from receiving royalties and supporting my family financially. I also realized that receiving royalties is a physical measure of whether I’ve succeeded in reaching my audience or not, the cornerstone of what it means to be a successful author. It took a lot of introspection to get here, but I’ve finally decided I don’t want to just write, I want to be a successful author.

(I think many, many authors find marketing a real issue Katherine!)

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

My writing routines consist of daily work, even on the weekends. Currently I write while my daughter is at school and my son is napping. I write at home on my desk with my computer because the thoughts come so fast it’s easier for me to get it all down. I would love to have more time to write (wouldn’t we all) but I currently have about two hours of quiet time. When my son stops napping eventually I’ll have to figure out something else. I’ve been training him to go play while I write standing up at the kitchen counter (so he won’t grab it) and that seems to be successful with repetition. I love a structured schedule, so right now I devote one hour to working on the next novel and one hour to requesting reviews. On the weekend I get a three hour window courtesy of my husband where I go to the local coffee shop with my computer to do promotion for my free kindle days.

Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets is reminiscent of the choose your own adventure stories many of us know from childhood. What made you decide to use this format?

I used to love those Choose Your Own Adventure books. And then I read the Twilight series and really wanted Bella to end up with Jacob. (My husband’s name is Jacob.) I was so frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t make her choose differently that I decided to write a book where you could. And so this series was born. And, if readers are curious, this is a series in name only. Each of the books is related in no other way than by title just like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books.

To what extent do you think we have the opportunity to choose our own romance in real life – or do you think fate plays a part?

I absolutely believe we have the ability to choose what we want in our life, especially when it comes to romance. I’m not sure to what degree fate plays a role, or if it’s kind of a sliding-scale, or even what “fate” is. I’ve recently read a lot of books that all point to our subconscious and thought patterns as being the main creators of our lives. I think if we can recognize this we have the power to change what we “get.” If we don’t recognize the influence of our subconscious and thoughts as being huge factors in our outcomes, our “destiny” will be chosen for us.

How did you manage the structure of Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets as it must have been tricky to organise?

I kept the structure of College Secrets deliberately simple because of that very reason. It ended up being six short stories, really, instead of the grand branching tree of options I had envisioned. I think with a bit more practice and some meticulous planning I could work out a novel that has more intricacy. As it was, for this one I used a large wall space and a lot of index cards to make the plot work correctly. The formatting in the book itself is also tricky. I had to learn hyperlinking within the ebook manuscript in order to allow the reader to jump to the next scene. Since I got feedback from the first novel that it was confusing to some readers (who expected to just go to the next paragraph to read instead of click to jump around) I kept the stories in College Secrets contiguous (with the option of jumping secondary) for fluidity of reading.

(That sounds like a nightmare of plotting to me!)

If you could choose to be a character from Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets, who would you be and why?

Since YOU get to make all the choices, I would be YOU. (Lol.)

What are you working on next?

Next up is a young adult contemporary fantasy. It’s about a girl who just wants to have her first high school love experience, but she’s also dealing with these superpowers that seem to get her in trouble.

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

I’m definitely what they call “addicted” to the self-help genre. I have read so many that I became disgusted with myself and told myself I wouldn’t read them anymore. I started going to the library and picking up some fiction. And then just recently, I couldn’t help myself and bought The Power of Now, which is fantastic, and Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within, which is still in the mail. I guess I have this nagging feeling like my life could be even more awesome than it is, and I feel as if there must be a secret in one of those books to reveal it. I definitely found some really simple but powerful secrets in The Power of Now, so I am satisfied I was correct in going back to self-help.

(I think many of us can identify with the need to be just that little bit better, no matter how successful we are!)

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Choose Your Own Romance: College Secrets should be their next read, what would you say?

You can get your new book boyfriend fix in twenty minutes. Buy coffee, start reading!

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Katherine and Happy Publication Day.

Thank you so much for interviewing me!

About Katherine Pierce Chinelli

Katherine Pierce Chinelli

After completing a three-inch binder containing illustrated family portraits and personal information for over one thousand made-up town residents at the age of sixteen, Katherine Pierce Chinelli knew creativity was undeniably her calling. She used that binder to get her foot in the door at Mills College, where she graduated with a B.A. in English. Since then she has gone on to self-publish nine books that include romance, YA adventure, screenplays and self-improvement. She has thrown away more books than she has published in the search for the perfect story, and continues to file ideas away for her next project.

You can find all Katherine’s books here and you can follow her on Twitter @authorkpc.

Grieving for the Living: A Guest Post by Marie Gameson, Author of The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased)

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I’m delighted to welcome Marie Gameson to Linda’s Book Bag today. Marie’s The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) is one of the books that has got away from me this year and I haven’t been able to read. However, I am thrilled to be part of the tour for The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) and to host a post from Marie today.

Published by Salt, The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased)

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The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) explores the painful themes of having to grieve for someone who is not yet dead, and trying to find one’s identity through an absent father.

Winifred Rigby follows a Zen-like path of serenity and detachment, whilst leaving havoc in her wake. When Fred, a stranger haunted by poltergeist activity, contacts Winnie, he insists that stories she wrote as a teenager hold the key to his supernatural problems, and she is forced to renew acquaintance with her younger self.

Where will it all lead?

Grieving for the Living

A Guest Post by Marie Gameson

The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) does have lots of humour, but the main theme is grief – not so much grief for the dead as for the living. The main character, Winnie Rigby, is exasperated that her conversion to Buddhism and attachment to the Orient are strongly resented by her family, who seem in perpetual mourning for the person she used to be. Needless to say, Winnie’s family don’t share her joy when she recounts that the best experience of her life was a moment of profound insight whilst on a mountain in Taiwan – an experience which has left her with no sensation of her head.

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Taroko Gorge, Taiwan (where Winnie ‘saw the light’)

I wrote this book to explore an issue which has long bothered me, and more so recently:  how do you cope when someone close to you has substantially changed? The reason could be because they have had some physical or mental trauma, joined a cult, become an addict, or simply because they have adopted a new political or spiritual belief system. Of course, in the case of the latter, the grieved-for person can be annoyingly positive about the change; most of us have come across a new zealot, and have good reason to avoid ‘born-again Christians’, or ‘born-again anythings’. But whatever the reason for someone changing, that person is still alive, still looks pretty much the same, and yet is no longer the person you remember.

Having been tricked back to the UK, Winnie’s only objective is to get back to Taiwan just as soon as she can figure out how to replace the funds that have mysteriously disappeared from her account – (on her instructions according to the Bank) – but which seem to have gone to a cause that sounds suspiciously close to her mother’s heart. Winnie feels alienated and out of touch with her old life; in fact neither her old neighbourhood nor her old acquaintances seem familiar, which is inconvenient, as people who insist they know her turn up with irritating frequency. Determined to resist her family’s attempts to make her remember who she used to be, Winnie’s resolve is compromised when an elderly man turns up on her doorstep begging her to stop the late Mr Gadd from haunting him. Winnie finds out that Mr Gadd meant something significant to her younger self – if she could only remember what. And then her next challenge: she has to find him.

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Many thanks Linda for giving me a guest spot.

(My pleasure Marie and what a fascinating premise for a book. I’m only sorry I haven’t had chance to read The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) yet.)

About Marie Gameson

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Marie is half of the mother and daughter writing team who published The Turtle Run as ‘Marie Evelyn’. Her latest book, The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) was published by Salt this summer and is available on Amazon.

You can find out more about Marie and her books at her website. You can also follow Marie on Twitter @MarieGameson.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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What’s in a Name? A Guest Post by Clare Littlemore, Author of Flow

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One of the reasons I began blogging is because I used to review KS3 books for Hodder and write teacher resources to go with them. As a result I discovered a whole world of children’s and young adult (YA) books. However, some of my reader friends tell me they don’t read YA books because they won’t be ‘good enough’! I know that is absolutely mis-guided so I invited Clare Littlemore, author of the YA novel Flow, onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me what she thinks on the subject. The only reason I haven’t read Flow is because my TBR pile is so high!

Flow is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Flow

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A world in tatters. A society where rebellion is not tolerated. A girl desperate to discover the truth.

Sixteen year old Quin lives in The Beck, a saviour society. Her community has risen from the ruins of a land shattered by Mother Nature. But Beck law is tough. Quin knows that the rules must be followed in order to sustain life in a place where floodwaters constantly threaten existence. A single violation could land her in Clearance.

But some laws are harder to follow than others. And as Quin discovers the horrifying truth, she knows she cannot stay silent forever.

Flow is the first in a series of books about a group of people struggling to survive after their world has been annihilated by devastating floods.

Warning: contains violence and some upsetting scenes. Recommended for a 13+ audience.

What’s in a Name?

A Guest Post by Clare Littlemore

I love Young Adult literature, and I’m proud to admit it. That said, it’s a difficult category to define. Unlike horror, romance or thriller, a YA book can be on pretty much any topic you’d care to imagine. The only thing tying books of the genre together is their target audience: teenagers between the age of thirteen and eighteen. And the fact that, in reality, they are read by many people outside that age range, yet many adults won’t admit to reading them due to their ‘YA’ name.

Let’s consider that. I know a ten year old who is mature enough to manage some YA books. And I know a few fifteen year olds who are possibly not. As for me, well, I’m forty one. And I’m far more likely to turn to a YA novel than I am any other genre, because I think a good YA novel is written with honesty, and with the harshest critics in mind.

Teenagers are nothing if not honest. When I began writing the first in my dystopian YA series, Flow, I wasn’t originally aiming at teenagers. The book is set at an unspecified time in the future, where the world is hugely flooded and the citizens living in my society are struggling for survival. Flow has been read and enjoyed by readers of both gender between the ages of eleven and seventy. But of all the people who have read it, the teenagers were by far the most inquisitive, the most engaged, the most interested my world, taking it not at face value, but digging beneath the surface, questioning elements of the nightmarish dystopian future I had created and demanding answers.

I recently ran a couple of creative writing workshops where the young adults in attendance made me consider things about the world of my novel which I had honestly never contemplated. Afterwards, when I went home and continued writing the sequel, their questions were ringing in my head, and made me consider the books in a different light. As a high school teacher, I should have known that teenagers would be engaged with the minutiae of the book in a way that adults rarely have the time or energy to be. That’s why YA books are so enthralling: they have to be.

I have had many adults read Flow and state ‘It wouldn’t be my usual genre, but I really enjoyed it.’ It made me wonder why they wouldn’t have considered a YA book before, but I suppose there is a kind of stigma to admitting as a fully grown adult that you enjoy YA books. I have stated myself in the past ‘I love YA books!’ and then followed it up hastily with ‘because I’m such a child!’ Yet why should I have been embarrassed to admit I was enjoying what was a truly brilliant book?

Because the title of the genre is very misleading. I was discussing this with a friend the other day, and she said she felt the YA genre was capable of bridging the gap between parents and their teenage children, encompassing books which could be enjoyed by both generations. Not books which parents read to young children when helping them learning to read, but books that are entertaining and engaging to both child and adult. This type of book often forges a connection at a time when teenagers might find it difficult relate to their parents.

Book are powerful. I have always felt this. A good book can stay with you throughout your entire life. And the shared experience of a book can be magical. The ten year old I was referring to earlier is my son. He has just begun to read suitable YA books which I have enjoyed in the past, and in discussing their contents we have discovered a whole new side to our relationship as the shared experience brings us closer together. He questions parts of the books I never did, and in a way which only a young adult could, and that’s what I love about the age he is entering.

That’s why I’m proud to say that I read and write YA fiction. And I’m really looking forward to the day he recommends a YA book of his own for me to read.

(Fabulous Clare. I agree with every word and as an adult approaching 60 I love YA fiction!)

About Clare Littlemore

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Clare Littlemore was born in Durham, in the UK. Her parents were both teachers, and she grew up in a world surrounded by books. She has worked for most of her life as a teacher of English at various high schools in England, where she has shared her passion for books with hundreds of teenagers. In 2013 she began writing her own fiction. Clare lives in Warrington in the North West of England with her husband and two children.

You can find out more by visiting Clare’s website, finding her on Facebook or following her on Twitter @clarelittlemore.

A Publication Day Extract from The Season for Love by M.W. Arnold

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With Christmas just around the corner, what better time to turn to love as a theme? I’m thrilled to be hosting an extract from The Season for Love by M.W. Arnold on Linda’s Book Bag today because I think we could all do with a bit of love in our lives.

The Season for Love is published today, 16th December 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Season for Love

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Believing she was responsible for the death of her husband, Chrissie Stewart retreats from all those who love her. A chance meeting with mysterious stranger, single-parent Josh Morgan and his bewitching young daughter Lizzy, breathe new life into her and gradually, she feels able to start to let go of the memory of her lost love.

Unexpected links are revealed between the two families that strengthen the growing bonds she feels to this man and with the encouragement of her best friend Annie, herself hiding a hidden conflict from Chrissie, she battles with her demons to believe in her ability to trust and love again.

Everything comes to a head on Christmas Day; which all goes to show that this is truly The Season for Love.

An Extract from The Season for Love

Chapter One

You never get over a broken heart. You just paper over the cracks and try to keep going.

Goodnight Richie. I miss you.

Pressing a kiss to the picture she kept on her bedside table, she placed her diary down and turned off the light. Staring into the darkness, Chrissie could do nothing but wait for the tears to start. It had been the same routine each and every night since that terrible day eighteen months ago and tonight would be no different. So, drawing the duvet tighter, she succumbed to reliving the day that her husband had been killed. Drawing her knees towards her chest, she let the guilt and tears flood out until exhausted, she collapsed into the usual haunted slumber.

The next day dawned way too early and through bloodshot brown eyes. Swinging her feet out of bed, Chrissie shuffled into the tatty pair of her husband’s slippers, tugged on her old fluffy white dressing gown and reluctantly made her way to the bathroom. She shrugged her shoulders and slid the mirror on the bathroom cabinet sideways. Looking at her reflection was not something that she wanted to deal with that morning. Ten minutes later, she’d tied her shoulder length auburn hair back into a pony-tail and pulled on a pair of black jeans, matching pullover and a pair of yellow Doc Martens that clashed horribly with the rest of her outfit. Everyone at school had been nagging her to add a bit of color to the predominantly black she’d taken to wearing and she’d found that Richie’s old boots fitted her perfectly; so long as she wore a thick pair of socks.

Working in the school’s IT Department had been her first job after she’d left university and it was where she’d met Physical Education teacher Richard Stewart. It so happened that they’d been starting on the same day and consequently, they’d spent the whole day trawling through the usual endless orientation and paperwork and found they’d gotten on like the proverbial house on fire. When they’d been introduced and he’d said, ‘call me Mr. Fit Guy or MFG for short,’ and she hadn’t either laughed out loud or slapped his face, an unspoken understanding had flashed between them and, as they left the premises later that afternoon, they’d wandered off to the nearest pub and spent until closing time talking about everything and nothing and loving every minute.

Grabbing her bag, Chrissie locked the car and trudged up the steps of Parkway Grange Primary School, through the still empty atrium and down the corridor towards her shared office. If she was lucky, she’d be able to settle at her desk before her boss got in. She loved Annie Suso, but though they were best friends, she was getting a little tired of starting each day by being asked how she was doing? Annie wasn’t saying the actual words these days, but Chrissie was finding it very annoying at how much you could put into a raised eyebrow!

As the door opened, she knew her luck was out, so she plastered on her most convincing smile and looked up into her friend’s emerald green eyes. The daily routine followed its expected course. Annie didn’t need to know that she’d rushed out of her cottage that morning because the stupid radio DJ had insisted upon playing “their song”.

Picking up the To-Do list, she scanned down it for the most mind-numbing job, quickly locating a teacher who’d been using his DVD tray as a cup holder. Grabbing her diary from her bag, she told Annie where she was going and that she’d see her later. One of the benefits of working with her best friend was that she had the freedom to do pretty much what she wanted, it being just the pair of them in the whole department. The children were just starting to arrive so hurrying along the corridor she nipped into the staff toilets, opened a cubicle door, sat down on the seat and took out her diary.

‘Hi Richie. Well, things are still the same as yesterday, and the day before and the day before that. You know, I visualize you watching over me, it’s the only comfort I have. Oh, I could sit here all day and talk to you, just like we used to in the common room. Do you remember how many times we were called in to see the Headmistress because I’d made you late for your classes? Felt very much like a kid, but I miss those times so much.

Right, sorry, got to go and see some idiot about a computer now.

Love you babe. I miss you.’

Driving home that night, Chrissie wondered for the thousandth time why she didn’t change jobs and move away. Truth was she didn’t want to be too far from Richard’s grave. He’d grown up in Parkway Grange, been educated in the same Primary school, then the neighboring village’s Secondary and finally the College in the nearest town five miles away. He’d only been away to University to get his Physical Education Degree and then hot-footed it back when he’d lucked out with the offer of Physical Education teacher at the Village’s Primary school. Then, he had died in the village.

Automatically, she took a left turn before her cottage and parked up outside the cemetery. It was a typical late November evening so sighing resignedly she put up her umbrella as she got out of the car and, shielding her face as best she could from the rain, pushed open the gate and strolled down the pathway to the shade of an ancient beech tree. Sitting down on the bench, she leant forward, ignoring the dripping of the rainwater down her neck and brushing some leaves off the small granite headstone, focused on the most important words in the world:

See you in my dreams Richie. Forever, Your beloved Chrissie.

About M.W. Arnold

Mick

M.W. Arnold (Mick) is a hopeless romantic who was born in England, and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elisabeth II in the Royal Air Force, before putting down roots, and realising how much he missed the travel. This, he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and writing a regular post at the www.NovelKicks.co.uk blog site.

Mick’s the proud keeper of a cat bent on world domination, is mad on the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humouring his Manchester United supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, with the forthcoming publication of this, his debut novel, The Season for Love.

You can follow Mick on Twitter @Mick859 and find him on Facebook.

An Extract From The Stories She Tells By L K Chapman With Guest Post

The Stories She Tells

I’m frequently approached these days by new and aspiring authors asking me how best to go about getting a book published. I’m afraid I don’t have the answers so I’m delighted to welcome L K Chapman, author of The Stories She Tells to Linda’s Book Bag today to describe some of her route to publication. I also have an extract from this fabulous new psychological thriller to share.

The Stories She Tells is available for purchase here.

The Stories She Tells

The Stories She Tells

When Michael decides to track down ex-girlfriend Rae who disappeared ten years ago while pregnant with his baby, he knows it could change his life forever. His search for her takes unexpected turns as he unearths multiple changes of identity and a childhood she tried to pretend never happened, but nothing could prepare him for what awaits when he finally finds her.

Appearing to be happily married with a brand new baby daughter, Rae is cagey about what happened to Michael’s child and starts to say alarming things – that her husband is trying to force her to give up her new baby for adoption, that he’s attempting to undermine the bond between her and her child, and deliberately making her doubt her own sanity.

As Michael is drawn in deeper to her disturbing claims he begins to doubt the truth of what she is saying. But is she really making it all up, or is there a shocking and heartbreaking secret at the root of the stories she tells?

My Self-Publishing Journey

A Guest Post by L K Chapman

My journey towards being a writer started quite early – I wrote my very first novel while I was at school, and another while I was at university, but it was 2012, not long after I got married, when I first decided to try to write “seriously” with the aim of getting published. I initially tried to rewrite and work on the sci-fi novel I wrote while at university, but in the end I abandoned that and worked on a new idea instead, after taking a bit of time to focus on learning more about writing and editing and how to structure a book. It took me about eighteen months to write my first “proper” novel, then I approached a few literary agents, but I didn’t pursue that avenue for long and decided I would self-publish instead. My first novel Networked was released in 2014.

Networked

Initially I used a self-publishing company to format and publish the paperback version of my book and I also had a cover designer, but unfortunately this strategy didn’t work out well for me as I ended up not liking my cover and on top of that the self-publishing company went bust just a few months later and I never received my royalties from paperback sales. I never even found out how many copies I sold. That was a real low point for me, and it cost me a lot of money for things that I never even used as I had to re-publish the book myself, but it did push me to learn a lot of new skills. Now I publish my e-books using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and independent publishing platform Createspace for the paperback. Self-publishing was daunting to start with as I’m responsible for every aspect of my book – the cover, the contents, the formatting and the marketing, plus about a hundred other things! But it is possible, as I was amazed to discover when I first managed to do it! Publishing the paperbacks is really interesting – I don’t have to have a big stockpile of books in my house to try to sell (which is the vision I used to get when I thought about self-publishing!) Instead, copies of the book are only printed when somebody buys the book online. The book is printed in the country it is ordered and sent out to the customer, which is called print-on-demand. I didn’t know about any of this until I set about publishing a book myself, so it was a lot to take in!

Anything for Him

One really hard thing about self-publishing is that it’s difficult for your book to get any visibility or any sales. I went for weeks on end sometimes without a single sale, and it wasn’t until 2016 that things started to turn around for me with my second novel, psychological thriller Anything for Him. The sales of that book enabled me to invest some money in publishing my latest novel The Stories She Tells, so I had the book professionally copy-edited and had a cover designed.

This time I followed a recommendation from a highly successful independent author to find my cover designer and that worked out a lot better for me than my experience with my first book! I’m so pleased with the cover my designer produced for The Stories She Tells – I gave him a blurb for my book and a small list of existing book covers that I liked and felt were comparable to what I wanted in my cover. He then came back to me with a few initial designs and I picked my favourite. I loved the initial design so much I didn’t ask him to change anything! I think the overall atmosphere of the cover is almost more important to me than what is actually on it – I think the cover needs to be representative of the genre and give some hint of the mood of the book – is it fast and thrilling or slower paced and thoughtful? Friendly and bubbly or dark and creepy… I felt that the cover for The Stories She Tells captured the way that one of the characters is in quite a controlled, almost sterile environment that is suddenly shattered, like the wine glass on the cover.

I get lovely reactions from friends and family about my books – they are all very happy and pleased for me. I think being an author is one of those careers where if you say you want to do it you get a lot of people basically telling you that you can’t, but with how relatively straight-forward it is to self-publish books there aren’t so many barriers any more. It’s not been a particularly easy road, and when I look back now it’s amazing how much I’ve learnt and how much I continue to learn, but I’m hoping to publish many more books in the future!

(We hope so too! Thanks for this fascinating insight into your publishing journey. I’m sure readers can’t wait to look at the extract from The Stories She Tells that now follows.)

An Extract from The Stories She Tells

‘Not again,’ Sadie said, ‘please, not again.’

Michael looked down at the pregnancy test in her hand, and saw that it was negative. He sat down beside her on the bathroom floor, and put his arm around her awkwardly. ‘Sadie…’ he said.

‘No!’ she shouted, the suddenness and loudness of her voice taking him aback. She shoved his arm away. ‘No,’ she said again quietly.

Michael gave up. He knew how desperate she was for a baby and never had a clue what to say when she got a negative result. When he tried to talk to her he usually ended up putting his foot in it and making things worse. Sadie put the test down on the floor and rested her forehead on her knees, her hair falling forward and brushing her bare legs. It was six-thirty in the morning and she’d done the test the second she got up, so she was still wearing a baggy old t-shirt of his that she wore in bed. When she’d called him into the bathroom to wait for the result she’d looked glazed with sleep. He watched her as she slowly lifted her head again, took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. ‘I’m all right,’ she said. ‘I’m going to be all right. Just… just give me a minute.’

Michael left her and when she appeared half an hour later she was dressed and ready to go out. ‘Come on,’ she said when she found him in the living room eating a bowl of cereal in front of the TV, ‘we’re going to the shop today, aren’t we? You wanted to go in early before it opens―’

‘You don’t have to come,’ he said. ‘If you can’t face it I can go on my own―’

‘What would I do here? I don’t want to rattle around the house all day. I want to be busy.’

About L K Chapman

L K Chapman

Louise Katherine Chapman was born in Somerset, UK, in 1986. She studied psychology at the University of Southampton and has worked as a psychologist creating personality questionnaires for a consultancy company. She has also spent some time volunteering for mental health charity Mind.

L K Chapman loves to write because she loves learning about people and she loves stories. A major turning point in her life was the day she realised that no matter how strange, cruel or unfathomable the actions of other people can sometimes be, there is always a reason for it, some sequence of events to be unravelled. Since then she is always asking “why” and “what if” and she is fascinated by real life stories capturing the strength, peculiarities or extremes of human nature.

LK Chapman’s first novel, Networked, was a sci-fi thriller but now she’s turned her attention to writing psychological suspense. Her first psychological thriller, Anything for Him, was published in 2016, and her new novel The Stories She Tells was released in October 2017.

LK Chapman lives in Hampshire with her husband and young family. She enjoys walks in the woods, video games, and spending time with family and friends.

You can follow L K Chapman on Twitter @LK_Chapman and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.