Staying in with Ralph Webster

One More Moon

With Jewish History Month approaching, I’m delighted to welcome Ralph Webster to Linda’s Book Bag today to talk to me about his inspiration for one of his books that I think will be perfect for those looking for a suitable book to read this coming month.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me and tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Ralph Webster

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

First, Linda, thank you for allowing me to be here.  I am grateful for the opportunity to tell you about my new book, One More Moon.  The subtitle reads Goodbye Mussolini!  One Woman’s Story of Fate and Survival.  This is the true story of my grandmother’s desperate journey from her comfortable life at the Pensione Alexandra in Naples, Italy to America – after Mussolini and the Fascists joined with Hitler – and as countries across the world closed their doors to Jewish refugees fleeing the spread of Nazi evil.  Amazon releases One More Moon tomorrow.

Sounds fascinating. What can we expect from an evening in with One More Moon?

I am sure that, like most authors, I hope my storytelling will keep you up late, well past your bedtime.  I know I want books I read to take me to special places that I never expected to find.  I want a book to touch me in a way that makes me feel that I am living within the story.  I hope One More Moon strikes that chord with my readers.   That’s what you should expect.  Whether that expectation is fulfilled is something for you to decide.

(This sounds a perfect reason for writing to me Ralph.)

There is a purpose to my writing, a backdrop, a story behind the story.  I hope that will help make your decision.

(Oo – sounds intriguing. Tell me more.)

A little more than two years ago my wife, Ginger, and I spent eight weeks in Europe traveling.  At our stage in life we have the luxury of being able to take off for big chunks of time.  This was a pleasure trip.  We were taking trains, backpacking, hiking, biking, and celebrating the good life.  We started in France and ended in Stockholm for a jazz festival.

Ironically our trip coincided with the rapidly growing refugee crisis in Europe.  Refugees in large numbers were searching for safety, security, and economic opportunity.  They were fleeing Syria and other areas under siege.  At night we watched the news reports on CNN and BBC.  And, by day, we encountered groups on trains, at train stations, in cities, in small towns, and at border crossings.  Right before our eyes we watched mothers, fathers, children as they struggled with their difficult journey.   Indeed, they were strangers in a strange land.  We saw conversations and confrontations with authorities – some civil, some heated.  We saw people being removed from trains and taken away by the military and police.  And, we recognized the difficulty and frustration when trying to communicate across the medium of different languages.  It was easy to see that these were people looking for a hand up, not a hand out.

This sober reflection of humanity touched our hearts.   How can we not all feel compassion for those forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own?  Yet, the reality is that the issues surrounding refugees and immigration are complicated and not easy to resolve.  These are not new.  They are generations old.  And, I suspect as long as we live in a world where some have more and some have less, many of these difficult issues will continue.

I was born into a family of refugees and was raised to believe in an America that embraced the value of opportunity for everyone willing to put in a hard day’s work.  Watching this silent procession of mothers, fathers, and children made me realize that this is what my family must have experienced.  It may have been a different time, a different circumstance, and a different generation.  But, I am certain that the feeling was much the same – the anguish, the loss, the confusion, the uncertainty, the isolation, the fears, the unknown.

That is what inspired me to write my books and to tell my family’s story.  I am afraid that far too often, refugee and immigration issues have become involved in the politics of fear.  Storytelling is my way to try to shine a light on these issues.  I want others to understand the personal depth of this humanitarian crisis.  Mine is not a plea for money.  It is a plea for compassion, respect, and dignity.

(What an incredibly moving background to your book, and indeed your life Ralph. Thank you for explaining it so eloquently.)

What else have you brought along and why?

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I have brought two 1920’s pictures to share with you.  These are my reminders.  The first is a photo of my father and his three sisters in Germany.  The second is a photo from my mother’s side of the family – my grandparents and their children in Naples, Italy.

(What evocative photos Ralph.)

These remind me that all most of us want and hope for is a good life for our families.  What separates refugees from others is a very thin line, a line that can suddenly appear, a line that can be very unfair, a line that can change everything.  I hope my books remind readers how much we are all the same – except for that single difference.  Through no fault of their own, refugees are people like you and me who have no choice but to leave their homelands with literally the clothes on their backs and usually for one terrifying reason – they fear for the lives of their families.  My story within a story?  I want us all to recognize that refugees are the victims.  Please do not allow our world to make them become the enemy.  Thank you.

No, thank YOU Ralph, for being such a wonderful guest to stay in with. I have found hearing about One More Moon a very interesting and humbling experience. Thank you for staying in with me to tell me about it.

One More Moon

Goodbye Mussolini! One Woman’s Story of Fate and Survival

One More Moon

Goodreads Choice Nominee Ralph Webster tells the true story of his grandmother’s desperate journey from her life at the Pensione Alexandra in Naples to America – after Mussolini and the Fascists join with Hitler – and as countries across the world close their doors to Jewish refugees fleeing the spread of Nazi evil.

In 1934, at age fifty-one, Elsa’s comfortable life in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy changes remarkably when she and her husband, Paul, purchase the Pensione Alexandria overlooking the Mediterranean in Naples. Though German Jews, they are embraced by their Italian neighbors, and for the next several years, the pensione flourishes and becomes their perch to observe the world’s events. Travelers from across Europe and America come to the door, each with their own story, mystery, or surprise. Nearly all have been touched in some way by the ominous changes occurring to the north, in Nazi-controlled Germany.

When war breaks out in Europe and Italy sides with Germany, Elsa and her family’s fears are quickly realized. The growing sense that the atrocities in German-occupied lands will soon occur in Italy forces them to give up their pensione and attempt a desperate journey to safety in America. The way seems impossible. Day by day, war makes travel increasingly difficult as countries begin closing their doors to refugees.

Told in Elsa’s words and written by her grandson, One More Moon is the extraordinary story of a woman and her family’s often harrowing experiences in the years before and during World War II.

One More Moon is available for purchase here.

About Ralph Webster

ralph

Award winning author Ralph Webster received worldwide acclaim for his first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust. Voted by readers as a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other and his second book, One More Moon, are proven book club selections for thought-provoking and engaging discussions.

Whether in person or online, Ralph welcomes and values his exchanges with readers and makes every effort to participate in conversations about his books. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Ginger, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

You can find out more by visiting Ralph’s website and finding him on Amazon and Goodreads. You can also follow Ralph on twitter @Ralph_Webster.

How To Write And Publish A Bestselling Book by Richard McNunn

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I make no secret of the fact that I have an ambition (albeit fairly vague and theoretical) to finish my novel and so when I was asked if I would like a copy of How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book: My journey from firefighter to bestselling author, and how you can do it too! by Richard McNunn I jumped at the chance.

How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book: My journey from firefighter to bestselling author, and how you can do it too! is available for purchase here.

How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book: My journey from firefighter to bestselling author, and how you can do it too!

RichardMcMunn_BookCover

How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book: My journey from firefighter to bestselling author, and how you can do it too! is written by bestselling author Richard McMunn, who has written and published over 150 books.

In this book, he covers everything you need to know in order to write and self-publish your own book in print and ebook format, and also how to get your book on Amazon and in high street stores such as Waterstones.

To write and self-publish a book, you need no prior experience of the publishing world. This might seem surprising, but it’s actually really simple! What you do need is a willingness to learn, and a mentor (someone who will help you). This book is divided into 3 sections: sections 1 & 3 cover Richard’s incredible and inspirational story from being a firefighter to discovering the publishing world and how he went on to publish over 150 bestselling books through his publishing company.

Section 2 covers the different steps you need to take to not only get your book written and published, but also to achieve bestseller status.

In Richard’s book you will learn in a simple, step-by-step format:

– How to write a book in any genre;
– How to give yourself the best possible chance of writing a bestseller;
– Understanding how the Amazon bestseller rank works;
– How to get your book ready for publishing, including critical elements such as proof-reading, editing, typesetting, e-Book formatting, book cover design, book descriptions, and more;
– How to create high-quality, professional artwork for your book, both digital and physical, ensuring that it stands out from the crowd;
– How to self-publish your book and start selling it on Amazon;
– How to effectively market your book to increase exposure;
– How to get your book stocked in Waterstones;
– Plus LOTS more!

Richard McMunn is a Number 1 bestselling author, Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year and Nielsen Digital Marketing Award Winner.

Ideal for any aspiring author, this book is an essential read for anyone looking to get their book written and on sale to millions of readers worldwide.

My Review of How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book

A handbook of practical advice for all aspiring writers.

Initially I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to get on with How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book: My journey from firefighter to bestselling author, and how you can do it too! The long title and exclamation mark made me think I was going to get an exaggerated American style self help manual that was all fanfare and froth with little depth. I was wrong.

Certainly, there’s quite a bit about Richard and his route to publication, some 100 pages in the first section,  but as he says at the end of the book, this isn’t to brag about his own achievements, but to inspire others and in this first section he helpfully sums up what he learnt from each aspect of his life so that aspiring writers won’t make the same mistakes but can skip straight to the positive aspects of making the most of their talents. I actually enjoyed reading about his life (and as an ex-English teacher am rather glad he was inspired by his own frizzy haired English teacher) as this section has pace and interest. I liked the poster style encouragements at the end of each chapter and could see these being pinned around a writer’s workspace for motivation when times get hard.

The book provides a wide range of helpful advice so that aspiring writers have much to learn between its pages. I think How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book is most helpful to those thinking about self-publishing and I found the information about doing so through Amazon especially interesting. I also think it is more suited to those looking at a non-fiction route because the author has more experience there. However, there are useful hints and tips for fiction writers too, especially in the action planning in Chapter 13.

As a blogger who frequently encounters authors who want me to read and review their books in the hope of boosting sales but who don’t use any social media to promote it themselves I thought Chapter 21 was essential reading. It sets out exactly what authors can do to promote their writing and encourage sales, regardless of whether they are writing fiction or non-fiction.

I enjoyed Richard McNunn’s How to Write & Publish a Bestselling Book and I think it can be read on many levels. It is a practical and useful handbook for those considering writing, especially non-fiction. It’s a motivational book whose tenets could be applied to many aspects of life, not just writing. It’s also a highly entertaining biography of a hugely inspirational man.

About Richard McNunn

richard

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Richard McMunn is the bestselling author of the ‘How2Become’ series of career guides and the founder of his own unique VIP author mentoring programme.

After leaving school in Lancashire with just 3 GCSEs, Richard went on to join the Royal Navy — serving four years onboard HMS Invincible as an aircraft engineer. After leaving the navy, Richard took up a childhood ambition to become a firefighter with Kent Fire and Rescue Service where he served for seventeen years.

Today, Richard works as a full-time author and publisher and to date has authored 150 books and helped over 100 aspiring writers become published authors. He has also been awarded the IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year and the Nielsen Digital Marketing Award.

You can find out more by visiting Richard’s website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:poster

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

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My grateful thanks to Clara Diaz for a copy of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club in return for an honest review as part of the UK launch celebrations.

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club is available for purchase here.

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club

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In 1978 the Northern Territory in Australia has begun to self-govern and telephones are not yet a common fixture. Life is hard and people are isolated, but these five women find a way to connect.

Sybil, the matriarch of Fairvale Station, misses her eldest son and is looking for a distraction.

Kate, Sybil’s daughter-in-law, is thousands of miles away from home and finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale.

Sallyanne, mother of three, dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town where she lives with her difficult husband.

Rita, Sybil’s oldest friend, is living far away in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

And Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land, needs some purpose in her life.

Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship: they all love to read, and she forms a book club. As these five women bond over their love of books, they form friendships that will last a lifetime.

My review of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club

In the desolate Northern Territory of Australia, five women find friendship and support through books.

I have to be honest and say I think the title The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club is slightly misleading, because although that meeting does take place and there are references to books dotted throughout the text, this is a book about so much more than a book club of five members in an isolated location.

I did struggle a bit at the beginning to work out who was who and what relation they had to one another, but once I got into the rhythm of the book I grew to understand them all and to see them as real people leading challenging lives. I felt closest to Della and Kate and I think it’s because they experienced the ‘otherness’ of Australia in line with my own experiences. By the end of the novel I felt quite emotional at how the five women’s lives had turned out.

Having visited Australia I really enjoyed the geographical references and details as they illustrated just what it’s like extremely well. The more I read The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club the more glad I was that I don’t live with such extremes of climate and weather.

However, what I enjoyed most about reading The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club was the range of themes. The late 1970s era is very clearly presented and I railed rather at the way women were supposed to follow their husbands and thought the exploration of relationships was extremely deftly handled. The themes of relationships, love, ageing and belonging are beautifully presented in this gentle read and I thoroughly appreciated the concept that belonging doesn’t have to have a physical presence in a location for it to be equally valid. I thought the exploration of the relationships between the women was beautifully and realistically handled.

I found The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club a gentle, entertaining and enjoyable read that left me with a cosy and satisfied feeling. 

About Sophie Green

sophie green

Sophie Green is an author and publisher who lives in Sydney. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books, some under other names. In her spare time she writes about country music on her blog, Jolene. She fell in love with the Northern Territory the first time she visited and subsequent visits inspired the story in The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

You can follow Sophie on twitter @sophiegreenauth and find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Fairvale blog tour poster

The Karma Farmers by Pierre Hollins

Karma cover

Having studied The Enlightenment and philosophy as part of my first year at university I was intrigued to learn of The Karma Farmers by Pierre Hollins.

My grateful thanks to blogger and organiser Anne Cater of Random Things for inviting me to be part of the celebrations of this novel.

Published by Unbound, The Karma Farmers is available for purchase here.

The Karma Farmers

Karma cover

Bradley Holmeson a thirty-something bookshop manager, is attempting to cure his existential dilemma with quantum physics. A reluctant philosopher embroiled in an occult experiment, he meets the violent, the obsessed and the dangerously misguided, armed only with his defensive sarcasm – all to win back the woman he loves.

My Review of The Karma Farmers

My goodness, The Karma Farmers isn’t an easy book to categorise and it’s none the worse for that quirkiness and originality. Having studied philosophy as part of my degree The Karma Farmers is a book I think will appeal to readers on many, many levels. It’s part allegory, part love story, part mystery, part scientific and philosophical treatise and part religious (or non-religious) guide! I like the way the title reflects the gathering of philosophical ideas and the ‘farming’ of them into something personal by the characters.

Whilst the plot has elements that tricked and occasionally confused me (particularly Brad’s second edition work, despite having studied Kant and the Enlightenment) it has a fascination that ensnares the reader, even if it occasionally bewilders them too. I thought the inclusion of Brad’s online work was a touch of genius. My own thinking was challenged and developed as a result of reading The Karma Farmers. I’m not sure if Brad’s aspirations mirror those of Pierre Collins, but I felt there was an honesty as well as a cleverness behind the writing. I have to admit to liking the shortness of each part of the narrative as I needed time to contemplate the story, look for the implied as well as obvious meanings and process what I’d just read. I’m not sure I thoroughly understood all the references and theories and I felt quite inadequate as a reader at times. However, this isn’t a negative of the book. I think it’s good that we have narratives that promote thinking without mindless acceptance and there’s a good story here to get your teeth into as well.

I found Pierre Collins’ style really visual so that I could see the settings and characters very clearly in my mind. His use of the vernacular and direct speech alongside the continuous present tense give pace and realism too so that at times it was like watching a film as much as reading a book. I enjoyed the humorous touches too. I coud easily see The Karma Farmers as an offbeat BBC 4 television production with a cult following.

The Karma Farmers is clever, witty, entertaining and thought provoking –  a real chimera of a book that will polarise readers. I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

About Pierre Hollins

Author Picture

Pierre Hollins is a stand up comedian; he has written for TV and radio, and his cartoon strip GURU featured in the Fortean Times for many years. This is his first novel, published by Unbound.

You can find out more by following Pierre on Twitter @pierrehollins and visiting his website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Karma farmers 2

Staying in with Leslie Handler

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With rotten weather forecast and the need for something to lighten the mood, it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Leslie Handler to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me today.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Leslie Handler

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Leslie. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I have with me Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank: A Collection of Essays from Humorous to Simply Human. I’ve been sharing my stories for a number of years now as a freelance columnist for many publications.  The book started out as a collection of some of those previously published essays, but then it morphed into many more stories that just didn’t fit into on-line and print publications.  People seemed to be touched by my stories and I needed a warm fuzzy place for them to land.  Rat’s become that warm and fuzzy place.

(I love the idea of associating rats with something warm and fuzzy!)

Although my degree is in journalism, my career took me in other directions.  It wasn’t until I was forced our of work due to a disability that I started to write.  I can no longer work, but I still have a brain, and I still need an outlet for the times that I’m able to function.  So writing and I became best friends.  I can get so immersed in my writing that I find it’s the only time that I can actually forget to eat!  Often, it’s either my bladder or my grumbling tummy that tell me to step away from the computer.

(Isn’t it wonderful how writing and reading can transport us and give us a new outlook and purpose in life?)

What can we expect from an evening in with Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank: A Collection of Essays from Humorous to Simply Human?

I’m honored to now be able to call myself an award winning syndicated columnist.  The book includes some of those award winning pieces.  It’s a collection of essays-sometimes nourishing, sometimes passionate, sometimes humorous, and always relatable.

(Congratulations – how exciting.)

This is the book to read if you are feeling sad.  This is the book to read if you need a good chuckle.  This is the book to read so that you never ever feel like you’re alone.

In one of the essays I summarize my embarrassment for not being supportive of my husband.  I write that “When you’re sad, you get the kind [of tears] that roll down your cheek flowing freely.  They drip down your collar and snot up your nose.  No.  These were different.  These were tears of shame and embarrassment…These were tears that didn’t want to puddle or roll. These were tears that didn’t want to come out at all but couldn’t help themselves as they reluctantly dripped sideways into the hairline instead of following gravity down the face. These were my tears.”

In my essays, I try to shine light into my very own soul and leave it wide open for all to see.  In my storytelling, I try to be a keen observer of my own human nature and I’m not shy about sharing it.

(I think the best writers are those prepared to lay themselves bare to the reader.)

Part memoir, part essay collection, I hope that you find both wit and charm in Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank.  It will take you on a ride from finding a mouse in the house to the mortgage crisis.  My hope is that you become so engaged while reading it, that you may just find yourself wondering how your own personal stories ended up in it!

(It sounds perfect for me actually as we are battling mice in our loft at the moment, Leslie.)

What else have you brought along and why?

I’ve brought two photos for you all. The first is a photo of a thirty-eight year old hockey puck.

hockey puck

You probably want to know why I’ve brought this item.  It’s very special to me.  I keep it on my night table and take a quick glance at it every night before I turn the lights out and go to bed.  Sorry, but I guess you’ll just have to read chapter two to find out why this odd item is so important to me.

(Argh – that’s so naughty of you. I will HAVE to find out now!)

Here’s the other photo that I’ve brought along:

mustard

I can assure you that this is not a personal epicurian delight.  This one has to do with the love between a father and a daughter, but you’ll have to check out chapter five to discover its importance.

(I really will as I’m thoroughly intrigued.)

The bottom line, is that I hold sentiment much more dear than monetary value.  I’ve lived through a whole lot of crap and still firmly believe that I’m one of the healthiest, happiest, sick people I know.  I hope that you’ll find yourself in the pages of my book and share your stories with me as well.

What an inspirational comment Leslie. I think Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank sounds like a smashing read. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank

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Part memoir, part essay collection, Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank is written with both wit and charm. It will take you on a ride from finding a mouse in the house to the mortgage crisis, from a smile to a chuckle and from a few tears to the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket sipping a warm cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Handler offers a rich, touching, heartfelt and reflective read that will leave the reader with an indelible uplifting spirit.

Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank is available for purchase here.

About Leslie Handler

Leslie

Leslie is a 2015 Society of Newspaper Columnists award winner. She’s an international syndicated columnist with Senior Wire News Service and a frequent contributor to WHYY and CityWide Stories.

She freelances for The Philadelphia Inquirer, ZestNow, and Boomercafe, as well as blogs for HuffPost.

Leslie currently lives smack dab between Philadelphia and New York City with husband Marty, dogs Maggie, Hazel, and Ginger, a collection of fish, said husband’s cockatoo who she’s been trying to roast for dinner for the last 33 years, and a few occasional uninvited guests.

You can follow Leslie on Twitter @Leslie_Handler, find her on Facebook and visit her blog.

Staying in with Michelle Balge

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I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t had a struggle with mental health personally at some point, or knows someone who has, if only fleetingly. With a family member who is bi-polar and suffering from social anxiety disorder I am fascinated by the subject of mental health and am delighted Michelle Balge is staying in with me today to discuss this very subject.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Michelle Balge

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Michelle. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

This evening I have brought A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety. This memoir features my darkest, happiest, and most embarrassing moments. I’ve chosen A Way Out because it is a book for anyone who has experienced or is experiencing mental illness, knows someone going through their own challenges, or wants a better understanding of what it’s like. We all have mental health and it’s so important to take care of it.

(Absolutely right Michelle – and sometimes I think we take good mental health too much for granted.)

What can we expect from an evening in with A Way Out?

What you can expect from an evening in with A Way Out is an outpouring of emotion. Whether it be tears of joy, tears of sadness, laughter, or anything else you may experience, I aspire for the strongest reaction to be hope. In this memoir I do talk about suicidal thoughts, as these thoughts are part of my experience. They are raw and honest, but balanced out with material that is less dark.

Here is an excerpt from A Way Out:

This program was changing much more than just my fear of people. It was altering my entire outlook on life. My depression and social anxiety were so closely related that they would often blend into each other. They were both fueled by my negative thoughts. Always spiraling me into the depths of despair. I needed this program to finally get me out of this purgatory I was stuck in. To change the years of built up negative thoughts that were the crutch I leaned upon. To tear down the wall I had built up that kept me from living my life. I was creating a new me. A more confident, happy, content me.

(I’m sure there are many who can relate to the purgatory of poor mental health Michelle. Yours sounds a fascinating journey.)

What else have you brought along and why?

I have also brought along the poem I wrote that gave me the title for my memoir. I wrote this poem before having any intentions of writing the book, but once my memoir began, I knew the title of this poem would be the title of my book.

A Way Out

I’m consumed by darkness,
there is no way out.
No way out of my mind that traps me.
No way out of this despair that overwhelms me.
No way out of this life.
What can I do when the tears run out?
When the only solace is hoping I will fall asleep and not wake up.
But I will wake up.
Not from choice, but from life.
The life I don’t want.
The life I don’t deserve.
The life where nothing is wrong but me.
Where I pray to someone I don’t believe in,
just in hopes this will end.
But it doesn’t.

Day by day, night by night,
I get through it.
It is difficult, the hardest thing I have ever done,
but I get through it.
If those who say they love me actually do, can I do this to them?
Can I risk hurting those I love?
I push the feelings of wanting to end away,
even if it’s till the next morning or in a few days.
The feelings won’t last, they are not forever.
What is forever is what means most. Family, friends, love.
I will fight my way out of this pit,
this pit that sucks me in every chance it gets.
I will find and develop the right tools to help me,
that will help to pull me out.
The journey will be difficult, impossible maybe.

But I did it.
I went through the journey and survived.
I crawled out of the muddy pit of my seemingly worthless existence.
I now see value in my life.
I see more light in this world, in me.
The darkness that literally and figuratively consumed me is gone.
Don’t give up.
Please don’t give up.
There are people who love you, people who care.
Some day one of those people will be you.

That’s wonderful Michelle. I understand that A Way Out will be published tomorrow so huge congratulations and good luck. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

A Way Out
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What do you do when you’re trapped in your mind? When you can’t escape the feelings of depression and fear?

A Way Out gives a raw, unfiltered look into the life and thoughts of a young woman, Michelle, experiencing severe depression and social anxiety. Social anxiety plagued her since her early youth, hindering her most as a young adult. She began having suicidal thoughts in her early teens but didn’t perceive them as being abnormal. This eventually evolved into a deep depression. Her social anxiety and depression fueled each other, creating a grave cycle of negative thoughts.

Michelle is able to share her experiences in a way that allows others to go along for the ride with her: the highs, the lows, and the amusingly unexpected. It artfully conveys Michelle’s journey through mental illness and toward mental health. Beyond the haunting honesty, A Way Out delivers heart, humour, and hope.

A Way Out is available for purchase here. You can also watch a trailer for A Way Out here.

About Michelle Balge

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Michelle Balge is a mental health advocate, web designer, and animal lover. She has won awards thanks to her dedication to mental health, and has spoken about her experiences to students, the community, and professionals in the field. Michelle holds an Honours BA in Sociology with a Concentration in Critical Animal Studies, and will receive a Web Design Graduate Certificate in June, 2018. She was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, with a taste of city and small-town life.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter @michelle_balge, find her on Facebook and visit her website. Michelle is also on Goodreads.

Staying in with Susi Osborne

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I’m really pleased to welcome Susi Osborne to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me today as I have been hearing great things about her books so I thought it was time to find out more.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me and tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Susi Osborne

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Susi. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you. And thank you for inviting me, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

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‘Twas a difficult choice!  Am joking – it was an easy decision to make. Although I still feel very attached my previous three books, particularly to Grace & Disgrace, my most recent book, Angelica Stone, is definitely the one of which I am most proud. It actually took me a lot longer to write, and entailed a lot more soul-searching and research than the others did so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. In fact my daughter reckons that writing it changed me as a person – although I wouldn’t go quite that far! So yes, the book I have brought along to share is Angelica Stone.

(I’d like a chat with your daughter some time to find out exactly how she thinks you’ve changed! Such an interesting concept. Books change me as a reader all the time but I don’t really consider the impact on their authors.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Susi Osborne and Angelica Stone?

I think you can expect a little bit of anything really. A mixture. An unpredictable one! But first of all, can I just say – don’t you just love the cover? I am so pleased with it – so much darker than the covers of my previous ones which hints, correctly, at the fact that the story is much darker too.

(I agree – it’s very atmospheric.)

The idea for writing Angelica Stone originally stemmed from thinking about how, when you start out in life, you don’t get a choice about which family you are to be born into and, if you’re given a particularly bad start in life, is it ever possible to break free from that cycle. Education can, in fact, play a huge part in this but often it is the people we meet along life’s way that can be the biggest influence. Friendship choices can really make a big difference to our lives – the mutual support that comes from a good friendship can be phenomenal and, with reservations, this is what happened to Angelica when she formed an unlikely friendship with Lola.

In the beginning Angelica has nothing and Lola has it all…apparently. Sexually abused as a young child, Angelica has been brought up in care, had an ever-changing succession of social workers and was moved around from one foster placement to another. Understandably she rebelled against everything and everyone and could never trust anyone, having been let down so often in her life. She ends up homeless, living on the streets and eventually is led into prostitution in order to survive.

Middle-class Lola, in complete contrast, appears to have it all – apart from the man of her dreams and a sylph-like figure, both of which she craves. However, as a strong bond of friendship gradually develops between the two of them, cracks start to appear in Lola’s life and a series of events lead to a very major and shocking twist which almost leaves her in ruin.

Despite the dark underlying theme around which this story unfolds, there are a lot of light and  humorous moments too – it wouldn’t have been written by me otherwise, I am noted for my sense of humour! I especially liked writing the character called Arthur – he wasn’t even in the book to start with but he kind of grew into his role!

Angelica Stone is receiving some really excellent reviews – I am so pleased, especially as this book is so much darker than my other ones, I really didn’t know how people would react. But they love it – I hope you do too!

(It sounds just my kind of read – especially as I have taught so many students like Angelica in the past and understand completely how that kind of life can emerge.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Hmmm. This was more difficult. Bring along something that fits the subject of the book… Okay. Weird. This may sound weird. But I was thinking about Angelica sleeping out on the street, needing something to keep her warm…and something we could also wear on our evening in, and I came up with the perfect solution… Onesies – one each! I even have a friend who supplied them for us, purple like the book cover, Angelica Stone printed across the back!! (orders can be taken, any colour, any name printed!)

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I brought food as well…and drink. Luxury items that Angelica could never afford to buy for herself, things that occasionally Lola bought for her, things that I’m sure we shall enjoy even if they don’t go together that well. Cream cakes, chocolate…and gin!

Ooh, and I brought a Barbie doll with me too… Don’t ask!

(I won’t!)

The music I brought along with me is just perfect, the words are so relevant to Angelica’s story. Phil Collins – Just Another Day in Paradise. The downside is that it brings tears to my eyes when I hear it but I’m sure the gin and chocolate will make us smile again. In fact we’ll end up crying with laughter if iI read you some of the funny bits from Angelica Stone.

(I’ll hold you to that – I could do with a good laugh.)

Incidentally, I would have liked to have brought along my bestie, just to represent Angelica’s friendship with Lola. I did ask her actually but she declined – she hates onesies!

Well bring her along next time Susi! Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about Angelica Stone.

Angelica Stone

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Following years of sexual abuse and resulting psychological trauma, Angelica Stone has learnt to rely solely on herself. Unwilling to allow anyone to get close to her, Angelica is reluctant to allow her work colleague Lola into her life.

Lola, in contrast to the damaged Angelica, is from what appears to be a happy middle-class family.

But all is not what it seems. An unlikely bond is formed between the two as they learn more about each other. As they become closer, a series of life-changing events leave Lola on the verge of ruin.

Will the friends be able to better themselves and have the lives they so desperately want? Or will they succumb to the expectations and the path already laid out for them?

Angelica Stone follows both characters in their own journey of self-discovery. This close and in-depth look into the lives of Angelica and Lola will see the reader laugh and cry as the two women learn about themselves and the invaluable friendship they have.

Angelica Stone is available for purchase here.

About Susi Osborne

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Susi Osborne is the author of The Ripples of Life, Grace & Disgrace, Secrets, Lies & Butterflies and Angelica Stone. She lives in Cheshire with her Scottish husband, her actress daughter and two mischievous little dogs. Their house is termed affectionately (hopefully!) amongst their numerous friends as the Osborne madhouse for obvious reasons. Susi also has an adult son and a grandson who live nearby.

Before she became a writer, Susi worked in libraries for many years. She also worked as a classroom assistant in a junior school. In addition to her writing, Susi organises Northwich LitFest, which she has been running for the past six years.

Alongside the writing of her latest book, Angelica Stone, Susi has been raising money for Centrepoint, the charity for youth homelessness, and has set up a Just Giving Page for the charity in her name.

Susi is a firm believer in the fact that it’s never too late to do anything. ‘You have one life – go out and grab it with both hands!’

She loves to hear from her readers and you can get in touch via her website or on Facebook. You can follow Susi on Twitter @susiosborne. Susi is also available to give talks at festivals, events, libraries and reading groups and can be contacted at susi.osborne@hotmail.co.uk.