Staying in with Ken Kuhlken

Newport Ave

I’m delighted to welcome Ken Kuhlken, another former English teacher like me, to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about one of his many books.

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 Ken Kuhlken

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Ken. 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?

Newport Ave

I brought along Newport Ave, because it’s brand new and a favorite of mine and  I wrote it as a sort of ode to my cousin Virgie. She was extraordinary. Smart, beautiful, and kind.

I often write about families and how the members affect each other. And I have to wonder what would’ve happened if Virgie’s dad hadn’t gotten sidelined by liquor. He was a warm and charming guy. Virgie loved him dearly. But he shot somebody and went to prison. Not long thereafter, Virgie was dating guys who appeared to also be headed for prison.

Later, while she was a flight attendant, she met and married an older fellow who was once a bodyguard for the infamous L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen. (By the way, you could read about Mickey Cohen and some of his wicked deeds in my novel The Angel Gang.)

angel gang

I adored Virgie. She was two years older but always treated me with respect and affection.

When her marriage dissolved, leaving her with big financial and other troubles, I wanted to help her but could think of nothing to do except to exercise what I’m all about, which is making up stories.

(Virgie sounds as if she’s had a really tough time. I bet she was a fascinating lady too.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Newport Ave?

Well, plenty of suspense. And you’ll meet some memorable characters: my lovely cousin disguised as Olivia; Greg, who attempts to make light of a probably fatal disease; James, a brilliant alcoholic on the run from the FBI; and FBI agent Miles, who’s falling for Olivia while trying to nab her brother.

(Gosh – that sounds quite a cast of characters!)

The story goes like this: As teenagers, Greg and James get jumped by the brothers of Greg’s girlfriend. In the scuffle somebody dies. James flees and only years later returns home to their California beach town, still wanted by the FBI.

Hoping to protect his sister Olivia from her estranged husband, a mob-connected gambler, he enlists the help of his old friend Greg, now a devoted Christian family man and Sunday school teacher. After exploring all options, they decide the only sure way to protect Olivia is to kill the gambler.

(It sounds as if you’re exploring all kinds of themes as well as writing a cracking narrative Ken.)

Though my novel fits into the noir tradition, it’s quite unique in that it explores the crimes from several perspectives, a bit like Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, which I consider a masterpiece.

(I have to confess I haven’t read Durrell.)

And, of course, since I did time as a high school English teacher, the our evening will conclude with discussion questions.

(We’ve BOTH done that time Ken so it could be a long plenary session!)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I brought this poem about Virgie:

Warner Springs 1958

 Outside in the mineral pool where kids

shout and splash, our mothers —

one widowed, one divorced —

lounge and gab.


Inside, our cousin Stevie — orphaned last year—

and I slouch against the wall between

the swinging doors and the jukebox while

Virgie, two years older, ages wiser,

like the girls on American Bandstand

or in news clips screaming their vows

to Elvis — Virgie reigns here in the rec room,

commanding obedience with her poise, tight

pedal pushers, bare feet and fleecy

sweater, short sleeved and pink.


A boy with glossed black hair, his chinos

pleated and pressed, has won her provisional favor.


Virgie and this stranger dance

belly to belly,

to “Twilight Time.”


Stevie and I twitch and squirm.


Because we too are boys, we know of his scheme

to steal her away from us. We would

banish him from our world but

we’re only thirteen.


The jukebox lifts the record off the turntable.

The boy’s hand slides low on Virgie’s back —

he steers her toward the far door and his chopped

Mercury painted to match

Virgie’s scarlet lipstick and nails.


But she knows everything.

She spins toward us, dismissing

him with her royal smile. He freezes.

Only his throat moves.

He’s swallowing a lesson

about class, as in classy,

about family.

(I love that poem Ken. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.)

Thank you very much, Ken, for staying in with me to introduce Newport Ave. You’ve really whetted my appetite to read it. I hope it’s very successful.

Newport Ave

Newport Ave

A fugitive from a manslaughter charge returns home to a foggy California beach town hoping to protect his sister Olivia from her estranged husband, a mob-connected gambler.

He enlists the help of his closest old friend, now a devoted Christian family man and Sunday school teacher.

After exploring all options, they decide the only sure way to protect Olivia is to kill the gambler.

Newport Ave, a gripping novel in the noir tradition, explores crime and its endless consequences.

Published by Hickey’s Books, Newport Ave is available for purchase from all the usual places including here.

About Ken Kuhlken

ken kuhlken

Some of Ken’s favorites are early mornings, the desert in spring, kind and honest people, baseball and other sports played by those who don’t take themselves too seriously, most kids, and films he and his Zoe can enjoy together. He reads classic novels, philosophy, theology, and all sorts of mysteries. On his blog, he offers some hard truths and encouragement about living as a writer. He has long been the author of novels, stories, articles, poems, and essays. Lots of honors have come his way, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; Poets, Essayists and Novelist’s Ernest Hemingway Award; Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel and Shamus Best Novel; and several San Diego and Los Angeles Book Awards. Though he advocates beer in a video, he actually prefers Scotch.

You can follow Ken on Twitter @kenkuhlken, find him on Facebook and visit his website for more information.

Cover Reveal: Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan

Jacks books

Regular readers of Linda’s Book Bag know how much I like to feature authors I’ve met in real life. Today I’m featuring the latest books, Before Her Eyes and A Woman Scorned from one such author, lovely Jack Jordan. Jack is unveling Before Her Eyes today and I’m delighted to help out with the reveal.

Previously, I reviewed Jack’s debut Anything For Her here and took part in its relaunch here. I also reviewed Jack Jordan’s My Girl here.

A Woman Scorned will be published by Corvus on 3rd May 2018 and is available for pre-order here.

Before Her Eyes will be published by Corvus on 16th August 2018 and is available for pre-order here.

A Woman Scorned

A woman scorned

Are you afraid? 
You should be.

The husband: in over his head with no way of knowing the truth.
The mistress: blinded by love, betrayed by her family…
The neighbour: will stop at nothing to protect the life he has fought to create.
The wife: a woman bent on revenge, but how far is she willing to go…?

Before Her Eyes

Before Her Eyes

She can’t see the killer
But the killer can see her…

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth. Struggling with living in the small, claustrophobic town of Balkerne Heights, Naomi contemplates ending her life.

But before she can, Naomi stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. She senses someone else there at the scene – watching her. Naomi may not be able to see the killer’s face, but she is still the only person who can identify him.

For Naomi, this frightening truth changes everything: she realises that she wants to live, at the very point at which her life is in greatest peril.

As the police begin hunting the person responsible and the bodies pile up, Naomi must lie in wait and answer the question that hangs her fate in the balance: why did the killer let her live?

In a town this small, the murderer must be close, perhaps even before her very eyes…

Now doesn’t that make you want to pre-order!

About Jack Jordan

Jack Jordan

Jack Jordan is the global number one bestselling author of Anything for Her (2015), My Girl (2016), A Woman Scorned (2018), and Before Her Eyes (2018).

You’ll find Jack on Facebook, Instagram: @JackJordan_Author and Goodreads. You can follow Jack on Twitter @JackJordanBooks.

Overcoming Overwhelm: A Guest Post by Nina Farr, Author of I Am The Parent Who Stayed

parenting cover

Never having been a parent, I’m naturally fascinated by those who have and the experiences they have encountered. As a result, I’m delighted to welcome Nina Farr, author of I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone to Linda’s Book Bag today.

Published by Practical Inspiration, I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone is available for purchase here.

I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone

parenting cover

Being The parent who stayed can be more beautiful than you ever imagined. It’s hard to be left taking care of your family all by yourself. Parenting alone in the wake of domestic violence, intense conflict or traumatic, unexpected events, makes being The parent who stayed even more difficult.

Are you standing in the ruins of your family wondering what the hell you have to do to get back to being ok again?

Has the amount of conflict, aggression and shame that came with separation/divorce floored your and your kids?

You deserve to be happy, no matter how awful this has been.

Parenting alone after traumatic family breakdown is relentless, lonely, scary and hard. The nights you sit on the stairs crying after the kids finally fall asleep. The days you can barely get out of bed but push on through because no-one else is going to pick up the pieces. The times you watch your children crumple into anger, despair and frustration and you simply don’t know what to do. If you feel that you’re stuck in the trenches, this book is for you.

It’s for you, if even lifting your eyes to the path ahead feels like putting yourself in the firing line.

It is for you if you’re just about getting through the day you’re in.

It’s for you if you know that life cannot change when you have no perspective, no vision, and no plan. You can figure out how to pick up all the broken pieces of your life and put them back together again. Discover how to parent on your own with skill, courage and artistry. Rebuild your family from the shattered mess of grief and anger Create a life more beautiful and more rewarding than you ever thought possible, for both you and your children Be truly proud of what you have achieved as a single parent, no matter how you arrived in this place I promise that if you show up and work your way through this book with commitment you will also experience a new way of living together as a family. You’ll discover a beautiful life waiting for you, where your family is whole and complete just as you are. You will learn how to put down all your resentments, how to let go of your need to control or manipulate people, places or things, and in the journey, rediscover your joy and connection to being a parent again

Overcoming Overwhelm

A Guest Post by Nina Farr

Becoming a lone parent can quite literally turn your life upside down. At the start of my lone parenting journey I felt completely overwhelmed by the changes that heaped one on top of the other. I didn’t simply end my relationship. I became the sole carer for a toddler and had a baby on the way. I couldn’t continue to live in the home I’d shared with my ex-husband so had to relocate.

Because I relocated I had to leave my job. Because I left my job, I had no stable income and couldn’t seek work due to my pregnancy, so was unable to rent somewhere new in my own name. Because my extended family could house us in their spare room, I was ineligible for social housing. So, I found myself stuck, searching for an opportunity to put down new roots and start my life again. Knowing it would look absolutely nothing like the one I’d had before.

Luckily, I had the blessing of a family who were able to provide a home for my children and me in the interim period. I am well aware that many other lone parents will not have this luxury, at one extreme finding themselves in temporary or emergency housing, at the other forced to stay in an unhappy house they would rather be able to leave. I can certainly admit that, from my own experience, it was not easy to let go of everything that created the edges of my world. Stepping into a new, undefined version of reality where I had no idea what to expect or who I should be.

Today I call this ‘the still and silent place’. It’s like a waiting room between one life and the next. It can feel crushingly empty, oppressively lonely, frighteningly dark. However, in this waiting room, this silent place, there is an astonishing opportunity for change.

When all the edges of your world disappear, you can build a completely new one. If you find that leaving your relationship has also stripped away your professional identity, severed friendships, changed your living arrangements or triggered relocation, take a moment to be still. It is in stillness that we can feel the space that has opened up in this place.

Being relentlessly busy helps many parents in transition, at least at first. The busyness masks the fear we have of wide open spaces. It is natural for a mother not to feel safe with her children if she finds herself in a place without shelter, boundaries or safety. I know that asking you to welcome this space may feel like going against your very nature, possibly evoking strong feelings of fear and the urge to run and hide. If you do not feel safe here yet, you are not alone. In embarking on this journey, you have already taken your first step toward discovering places where you may feel secure again. For this new world has safe places too. We simply have to slow down long enough to see them clearly.

Any one of the changes I described above, from separation to relocation, involves setting down part of the identity you once called your own. You may no longer be so-and-so’s partner, who lives at X and does Y. Perhaps your social circle suddenly feels upsettingly small. Each of the people who are no longer sharing your life leave a space. A space that can feel intensely painful. Yet from another angle, a space is full of possibility too.

If you are able to, consider the vacancies that have opened up. In time, for each person you say goodbye to, you’ll find a space appears where you may make new choices about where, how and with whom to rebuild your life. In each of the ‘no’s’ you hear from others or find you have to say yourself, spaces are opening up ready to receive your new ‘yes’.

Even if you have lost only one of the pillars that held up your life, you have entered a new land. You may be living in the same home, sleeping in the same bed, moving in the same circles and yet know that some essential part of yourself will never be the same again. The edges of your world may look the same from the outside, but inside the whole universe you inhabit has tilted on its axis — perhaps leaving you feeling motion sick and unsteady on your feet.

You too are in a still and silent place. For each of us moving into new worlds, releasing old paradigms and unwillingly accepting the new — this space must be allowed to settle. It is hard and scary stuff to take a deep breath when you feel vulnerable or exposed. Take your time and be gentle with yourself while you feel your way back to creating firm foundations and edges for your world in this new era.

It takes time to pick out new hats to replace the ones we’ve taken off. I didn’t become a Leadership Coach immediately after I became a single parent. It took me two years to arrive in the city I now call home. Cementing new friendships also took a lot of time, courage and commitment. It’s important to remember, when we make any investment in ourselves, that there is no point giving up on a goal just because it will take time to achieve it. The time is going to pass anyway, of that we can be certain.

Allow yourself to enjoy the space you are in right now. Emptiness and stillness after a big storm can be a truly creative place. When we accept what is, and stop fighting against the inevitable changes in our day-to-day lives or clinging on to a life that no longer serves us or our children’s happiness, the space that opens up will cease to frighten us.

Instead of a cavern of loneliness, we begin to see a canvas waiting to receive all the colour of our new life. Think back to five years ago. Where were you then? Now cast your mind back another five years. What about then? Keep going.

Remind yourself often that where you are now is no more permanent than where you were yesterday. If you feel desperate or pessimistic about the way life looks this morning, cast your mind back five years. Make a mental note of the enormous leaps forward each five-year period represents. You will certainly not be where you are today in five years’ time.

Nothing is permanent. Not the good, not the bad.

(Wise words for all of us Nina, parents or otherwise. Thanks so much.)

About Nina Farr

Nina image

Nina Farr is a Leadership and Parenting Coach who works with parents who are raising their families alone. She is a TEDx speaker and author of I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone.

You can find out more on Nina’s website. You can also follow Nina on Twitter @LoneParentCoach.

Staying in with Joan Moules

script for murder

I’ve been lucky enough to feature a few authors (with more to come) published by Williams and Whiting on Linda’s Book Bag and today I’m delighted to welcome one of their number, Joan Moules, to stay in with me to tell me about one of her books.

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 Joan Moules

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Joan. 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?

script for murder

I’ve brought Script for Murder along because it has recently been published by Williams and Whiting in paperback and on kindle.

What can we expect from an evening in with Script for Murder?

It involves a trip to the theatre, and to the seaside in the 1950s.   It is set in Fairbourne on the Sussex coast and although Fairbourne is a fictitious place it is based on a real town – I’m sure many people who read this book and have been there will recognise it.  For those who do I must tell you that I have moved some of the landmarks around to fit in with the storyline.  That was fun too.

(And now, of course I want to know where exactly it’s set!)

What else have you brought and why?

full length joan.png

Two books which Williams and Whiting have also published recently. Both set during World War Two. Tin Hats and Gas Masks tells the story of two London evacuees from completely different backgrounds and It’s One of Ours which follows four main characters Anna, Rosie, Queenie and Liza  and their familiesThis story opens on the day war broke out when Anna’s baby is born as the air raid siren sounded for the first time.

I have also brought with me a box of After Eight chocolates and a bottle of Baileys.


(Oh. Smashing. I love a Bailey’s and anything with chocolate is always welcome in this house. Thanks Joan. Cheers.)

after 8

Cheers and thank you for this evening Linda. It has been great to talk about my passion for writing.  

Thank you so much, Joan, for staying in with me to introduce Script for Murder. Good luck with all your writing.

Script for Murder

script for murder

The Victoriana is a lovely old theatre in the Frank Matcham style. It is an old music hall (with a reputed ghost) and is situated opposite the pier in the seaside town of Fairbourne on the south coast of England.

During the season of 1955 one of the actors is murdered in his dressing room sometime between the matinee and the evening performance.

Suspicion falls on each of the other actors and actresses in the small company, as well as on the murdered man’s wife, who is more famous than her husband. Then there are the other staff in the theatre, the producer, the electricians, and the cleaners. Or did someone from an area of his life outside the theatre gain access and kill him?

Inspector Carding and Sergeant George Binns are investigating. The absence of an obvious motive for the murder makes their task far more difficult, as does the fact that the main suspects are all actors and actresses, used to playing a part. The tension builds up as secrets are gradually revealed, and the small cast become suspicious of each other. Yet to leave before the season finishes will point the finger at the murderer…

Published by Williams and Whiting, Script for Murder is available for purchase here.

About Joan Moules

green jacket publicity

Joan M Moules is the author of over twenty-five fiction and non-fiction books in a variety of genres. She also writes short stories and articles, runs occasional day workshops and is passionate about her writing. Joan is a member of The Society of Women Writers’ and Journalists, Society of Authors, The Crime Writers Association and The Deadly Dames.

Joan Moules lived in London from 1940 to 1945 before returning to Hastings. From working in various offices she was plunged into the life of a busy shopkeeper when she married. Joan lives by the sea in Selsey, Sussex. She has two daughters, five grandchildren and two cats. Among her many other interests are reading, walking, the theatre, music hall and Victorian jewellery.

You can find out more by visiting Joan’s Jottings.

Our House by Louise Candlish

our house

Just over a week ago I had the pleasure of meeting Louise Candlish at the that you can read about here. I had put Our House on the spare bed ready to place in my hand luggage to read on a forthcoming trip, but everyone kept telling me how brilliant it is so I decided to bump it up my TBR. I’m so glad I did!

Our House will be published on 5th April 2018 by Simon and Schuster and is available for pre-order here.

Our House

our house

When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?


My Review of Our House

Returning home Fi finds another couple moving in to her home with her husband Bram and children Leo and Harry missing.

Oh my goodness me. What a book!

Our House is an absolute corker of a thriller. I didn’t so much read Our House as gulp it down. In fact I think I almost suffocated as I kept holding my breath to see what happened next and then gasping with exclamations of ‘Ooo’ right the way through. I could not tear myself away. It was the superb quality of Louise Candlish’s writing that so captivated and impressed me. Yes, Our House is undoubtedly a fabulous read, but it is such an intelligently written and impressively crafted book. I have some very distracting events going on in my life at the moment but Louise Candlish transported me to another world completely so that I was totally subsumed and not entirely in control of my own destiny as I read. In fact, I felt as manoeuvred by Louise Candlish as Bram’s life is by Mike.

The plot is a stunner. I can’t say too much about it as I don’t want to spoil the read but the way it unfolds through Fi’s words and Bram’s writings is so deftly handled. It’s also extremely disturbing. There’s a real sense of incredulity at the ease with which the events could happen so plausibly. It truly felt as if it could happen to any of us at any time. One small omission of the truth or a small lie or error of judgement and our whole world could so easily implode.

I thought the characterisation was brilliant. Fi is the one for whom the events initially seem to have the greatest impact and who deserves our sympathy so that the reader feels her emotions with her because she is presented so clearly. In so many ways Bram deserves everything he gets and yet… I had tears in my eyes for him at one point. He became almost Shakespearean and made me think of Lear being ‘a man more sinned against than sinning’ on several occasions. He’s one of the most complex and satisfying male characters I’ve encountered in a very long time.

Our House is truly a breathtaking book. It is entertaining and absorbing as all good thrillers should be but it is so much more too. Reading Our House made me question the very nature of crime and atonement. Its themes of normal daily reality and self-deception, of love and hate, of betrayal and trust left me so that I ended the book wondering if I would ever think about my own house and life in the same way again. I was utterly captivated by Our House. I thought it was brilliant.

About Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish is the bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Sudden Departure Of The Frasers (2015) and The Swimming Pool (2016). Her new thriller Our House is published in the UK in April 2018 by Simon & Schuster.

Though her stories are about people facing dark dilemmas, Louise tries to get through the day without too much drama of her own. She lives in South London with her husband and daughter and is very attached to her dog Maggie and cat Tilly.

You can follow Louise on Twitter at @louise_candlish or find out more on her website or on Facebook.

It Takes Two to Tango! A Guest post by Peter Bartram, Author of The Tango School Mystery

tango school

I’m delighted to welcome back an old friend to Linda’s Book Bag. Peter Bartram has previously written about his 1960s setting for Stop Press Murder, here, and about why he wrote his Morning, Noon and Night trilogy here. Today, Peter is taking a back seat as his two protagonists from The Tango School Mystery tell us a little about each other.

The Tango School Mystery is available for purchase here.

The Tango School Mystery

tango school

Welcome to Brighton, England – where they do like to murder beside the seaside…

Want to know what it’s like when a quiet romantic dinner ends in murder? Ace reporter Colin Crampton and his feisty girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith are tucking into their meal when Shirley discovers more blood on her rare steak than she’d expected. And once again Colin is on the trail of a big story that can only end in more murder. Colin reckons he’s cracked the story when he uncovers a plot involving a sinister figure from the past. A Tango Academy seems to lie at the heart of the conspiracy. But nothing is quite what it seems as Colin peels away the layers of the mystery. He tangles with a cast of memorable characters including a professor of witchcraft, the former commander of an army mobile latrine unit, and a tango instructor with two left feet. Join Colin and Shirley for another madcap mystery in Swinging Sixties’ Brighton, where the laughs are never far from the action.

It Takes Two to Tango!

How Shirley Goldsmith met Colin Crampton…

shirleyG’day. I’m Shirley Goldsmith. And as you might have guessed I’m not from around these parts. That is unless those parts are Adelaide in the Great Country of Australia. I’m often asked how I ran up against Colin Crampton. I was doing the Oz thing – taking a year out to work my way around the world. I’d pitched up in Brighton broke, hungry and as thirsty as a kookaburra at a dried up billabong. I crashed into this pub, slapped my last four pence on the bar, and said to the barman: “Give me food and drink.”

I was sitting in the corner when Shirley walked in. I remember it was the beginning of August 1962. I’m Colin, by the way. I’m crime reporter on the Brighton Evening Chronicle and I was waiting for a contact in the pub. Did I say pub? More like a drinkers’ doss house. There was a glass case on the bar with two cheese sandwiches and a dead fly. The fly looked the most appetising. Get the picture? Anyway, because the place never had any customers I used to meet my underworld contacts there. You don’t want witnesses when you’re meeting shady types. But then Shirley pitched up. And I just gawped while the ice melted in my gin and tonic.



There was this bozo behind the bar. I later discovered his name was Jeff. You know those scarecrows you see in farmers’ fields? He looked like one of them – but not as well dressed. Anyway, I was so hungry I could have eaten Ned Kelly’s daks. So I pointed at the sandwiches and said: “Give me one of those.” A voice behind me said: “I wouldn’t have the sandwich.” I spun round. A young guy had sprung from nowhere. I hadn’t spotted him when I walked in. He was tall, slim and reasonable looking. Okay, on the dinkum side of reasonable, if I’m honest with myself. He had brown hair and the kind of look on his face which could make a girl sorry she’d put a padlock on her panties. But a girl from the meaner streets of Adelaide is no push-over. So I said: “What’s it to you?”

As soon as she spoke, I knew she was from Australia. I’d heard enough episodes of Flying Doctor on the Light Programme to recognise an Aussie accent. But that wasn’t the only think I was noticing right now. She had short blonde hair that curled round her face, blue eyes and the kind of wild lips you immediately want to kiss. I said: “It’s August Bank Holiday next week and the sandwich has been there since Easter. If you want to eat and not die I can take you someplace else.”

If a guy had tried that pick-up on me in a bar in Adelaide I’d have kneed him in the nuts and laughed as he dribbled Fosters down his shirt. But a girl’s gotta eat. So I said: “Okay, Mr Big Shot, but you keep your hands on your knife and fork.” Colin took me to a café on the seafront. And then to another bar. We laughed a lot that evening. It was nearly midnight when I said: “Have you heard the one about the Australian girl who walked into a bar?” Colin shook his head. “How does it end?” he asked. “I’m waiting to find out,” I said.

It hasn’t ended yet. Although we’ve had our ups and downs. But Shirley has been great – got me out of one or two tight spots. She was fantastic in my latest adventure when we tangled with a mysterious tango school. We tried to learn the dance, but didn’t get far.

Why am I not surprised? I know Colin and his dancing. It may start off as the tango but it ends up as the hokey-pokey. At least that’s what we call it in Oz. It’s the one where you go “in-out, in-out and shake it all about”. Colin’s tried to tell me Brits call it the hokey-cokey. But as I told him: only when you do it standing up.

(I have a feeling these two could be in for quite an adventure Peter!)

About Peter Bartram

peter bartrum

Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime series – which features crime reporter Colin Crampton in 1960s Brighton.

Peter has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. Peter wrote 21 non-fiction books, including five ghost-written, before turning to crime – and penning the Crampton of the Chronicle series of humorous crime mysteries.

Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

You can find Peter on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, visit Peter’s website here and find out more about the Colin Crampton books here.

Staying in with Abbey MacMunn


I’m delighted to welcome another RNA member to Linda’s Book Bag today, although I have a feeling Abbey MacMunn may be about to surprise us by going a bit darker with her writing!

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 Abbey MacMunn

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

Thank you for having me!

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


I’ve brought along my new release, What if…? Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1. It’s the first in a series of magical short stories. Vampires, mermaids and aliens, oh my!

(Not your average cast of characters then Abbey! And I understand What if…?: Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1 is out today so huge congratulations and Happy Publication Day.)

What can we expect from an evening in with What if…?: Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1?

Prepare to suspend reality for a couple of hours and enter an alternative world where supernatural beings exist among us.

What if… ghosts were real, lost souls searching for atonement?

What if… you dream of the sexy vampires you read in books, then you meet one?

What if… mermaids really existed? Ninety-five percent of the world’s oceans still remain unexplored, it could be possible… couldn’t it?

(I think the world is filled with ‘what ifs’. I could certainly do with a break from reality the way my life has been recently. Your book could be perfect for me!)

What else have you brought along and why? 


I’ve brought a picture of the sunset, taken across the fields at the back of my house, the inspiration behind First Bite, one of the short stories in the collection.

(That’s beautiful. I love how nature can inspire writing.)

Thank you so much, Abbey, for staying in with me to introduce What if…?: Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1?

Thanks again for hosting me.

What if…?: Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1


A magical short story collection from paranormal romance author Abbey MacMunn.
What would you do if you discovered you were a ghost, or a mermaid, or even an alien? Or perhaps vampires are more your thing?

First Bite: When vampire-obsessed waitress Madison meets her very own dark prince, is she ready to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Ghost: All Sarah wanted was a chance at a happy life, but as her husband lies dying on the hospital bed, can she confess her ghostly secret?

Song of the Sirens: Found alone on the beach as a child, Kai has always been drawn to the ocean, but can the appearance of a soaking-wet, naked Adonis offer the truth about what she is?

Otherworldly Dreams: Art student Amy dreams of strange alien galaxies, but what if learning the truth takes her out of this world?

What if…?: Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1 is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

About Abbey MacMunn

Author pic AM

Abbey MacMunn writes contemporary, paranormal and erotic romance. She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband and their four children.

When she’s not writing, she likes to watch films and TV shows – anything from rom-coms to superheroes to science fiction movies.

She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

You can find Abbey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @abbeymacmunn and visit her website.

We All Live On This Planet Together by June Rousso

we all live

I have to begin this blog post with an apology. With up to 200+ book related emails a day inevitably some get lost along the way and so it was with We All Live On This Planet Together by June Rousso. June sent me her children’s book weeks and weeks ago and I simply forgot all about it. Sorry June!

We All Live On This Planet Together was published by Indigo River and is available for purchase here.

We All Live On This Planet Together

we all live

We All Live In This World Together teaches children to focus their attention on inner strengths and the beauty in our world to manage fear while accepting their negative feelings.

It shows how letting our fears build can be overwhelming, distort self-image and how we view the world.

My Review of We All Live In This World Together

A book about the positive things in life and accepting who we are.

Actually, although We All Live In This World Together is designed as a children’s book, I think it can be appreciated by readers of all ages. The messages about being positive, not giving in to our fears, valuing ourselves and spending time with our friends are those that would benefit us all.

I really liked the ethereal watercolour quality of the illustrations as they reflect the imagination and a naive style that children may well be able to emulate should they consider painting their own fears in a similar way to help them face them.

The negative emotions of fear, anger and rage are presented at the beginning of the book and then the ways in which they can be dealt with are presented. This makes excellent reading for children, but also for adults dealing with children. There are some smashing  mood enhancing suggestions, from dancing to looking at nature, so that coping techniques are concrete and easily applied.

I do think some of the references have greater significance to a northern American audience than a British one with fireflies and the ocean instead of the sea, but again, this has benefits. As well as helping children with their emotions, We All Live In This World Together could be used as an educational tool to look at language and cultural differences and experiences in a very positive way. There’s huge potential beyond the initial enjoyment of this charming book.

We All Live In This World Together has the potential to replace negative emotions with positive ones in its readers – whatever their age.

About June Rousso Ph.D


June Rousso, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice living and working in New York City. She enjoys writing for children to teach them how to address their fears through positivity by looking to their inner strengths and the beauty in the world around them. She also enjoys writing about character strengths and coping strategies for children as a way to build self-confidence in negotiating the world around them.

It was in her positive psychology studies that she conceived of, We All Live on This Planet Together, and she is presently working on a children’s book to guide children in their search for the meaning of happiness. Dr. Rousso feels inspired when writing and uses her own thoughts to guide her life and hopefully, reach many of the lives of children. While an adult, she describes herself as a child at heart, which stirs her own creativity and allows for enjoying many of the simple things in life.

You’ll find June on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter @rousso_june.

Staying in with B.A. Smith


It gives me very great pleasure to introduce another new to me author, B.A. Smith, here on Linda’s Book Bag as Brianne stays in with me to tell me about one of her books.

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 B. A. Smith

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

Hello Linda! I am so happy to be here with you today! I’m starting to feel like an actual celebrity!

(It’s all the paparazzi on the drive I think!)

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


I’ve brought along Spooning Leads to Forking: A Gay Teen Romance Novel since it’s the first book I’ve ever published and very near and dear to my heart. I’ve chosen this title because it took me almost 10 years to get up the nerve to publish it. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments to date! I wrote it during a time I was suffering from depression and writing was my only outlet and the only thing keeping me sane. It’s my hope this book will provide that same kind of escape for someone else.

(What a marvellous outcome from illness though – a novel – and I love the title!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Spooning Leads to Forking?

Spooning Leads to Forking is a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys, Dylan and Michael, who grow up in a small town and discover they’re gay. Many of the situations they find themselves in as they explore their relationship are riddled with awkwardness and the sort of banter you’d expect from teenagers with very few filters. They battle their own misconceptions about what it means to be gay while living in a community where gossip is the local currency and their families have their own set of problems. I wrote each character with unique traits and flaws that I believe will resonate with anyone who’s ever had an embarrassing moment (or several) with a crush.

(I think we’ve ALL had those moments Brianne. I know I have!)

What else have you brought along and why?

I’m a very visual and aural person, and I brought some music to share today! The first song is The Kiss by Karmina. It was my anthem for this story when I first wrote it back in 2009 and stopped me dead in my tracks at a Big Lots store in Tampa, FL. The music video features real-life couples that were considered taboo or faced some kind of hardship because of the person they were with. It’s a “love conquers all” message that I wanted to be a resounding theme in Spooning Leads to Forking regardless of race, gender, or orientation.

(Good for you, Brianne.)

The next song, funnily enough, is American Girl by Carrie Underwood. This song prompted an entire scene in the book written only a few weeks before I published the final manuscript. More specifically the lines:

Sixteen short years later,
She was falling for the senior football star.
Before you knew it he was dropping passes,
Skipping practice just to spend more time with her.

The coach said “Hey son, what’s your problem?
Tell me, have you lost your mind?”
Daddy said “You’ll lose your free ride to college.
Boy you better tell her goodbye”.

But now he’s wrapped around her finger,
She’s the center of his whole world.
And his heart belongs to that sweet little beautiful, wonderful, perfect all-American

Substitute the “she” for “he” and the song defines one of the main problems the boys face in their new relationship – they’re so completely wrapped up in each other that nothing else in the world matters!

(I think music can sometimes convey for us exactly what we want to say. How fascinating that it has had such an impact on your writing.)

Thank you so much, Brianne, for staying in with me to introduce Spooning Leads to Forking. I love the rationale behind the book and wish you every success.

Thank you so much for having me, Linda! It was wonderful getting to meet you and share a little bit of my heart with you and my readers through this book!

Spooning Leads to Forking


Dylan and Michael are two high school boys attempting to figure out their attraction to one another and happen to fall in love along the way. They explore their sexuality together through a series of games until they push their competition too far one day, and their game turns deadly.

Spooning Leads to Forking is a coming-of-age story about two teens coping with being gay while growing up in a small town like Gallant, MT.

Despite the challenges, they discover love through humor, family, mistakes and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Spooning Leads to Forking is available for purchase here.

About B.A. Smith


Brianne has been creating through a variety of artistic mediums which include drawing, graphic design, writing, dance, music, and performance art since a very young age. Her favorite genres include fantasy, adventure, drama, and unique romances – particularly LGBTQ.

She has been writing for about fifteen years and has posted her work in online writing communities such as,, and Archive of Our Own. She has a passion for unconventional romances not usually portrayed in mainstream media and tends to be ultra-realistic and detail-oriented in her writing. She has no reservations about jumping headfirst into awkward or uncomfortable subject matters.

Brianne is a native of Colorado and enjoys reading smut, playing video games, performing with her dance troupes, and lazing about with her two fur babies, Fraggle and Leroy Jenkins.

You can find Brianne on Facebook. She also has an excellent blog. I know Brianne is looking for reviewers too and you can contact her through her blog.

An Extract from The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans

The Wildflowers

I have been absolutely desperate to read The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans because I so loved another of her books, The Butterfly Summer, my review of which you can read here. Sadly, emergency trips to hospital with my Mum and other family illnesses have stolen my reading time. However, I’m delighted to be part starting off these launch celebrations with an extract from The Wildflowers today.

I’d like to thank both Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the tour and Becky Hunter for sending me a copy of The Wildflowers.

The Wildflowers will be published on 5th April 2018 by Headline Review and is available for pre-order here.

The Wildflowers

The Wildflowers

Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative … adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea – the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him … it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

An Extract from The Wildflowers


Dorset, August 2014

The abandoned house covered in bindweed and brambles didn’t look like anything much, when first glimpsed from the lane.

But after the two men had struggled through the tangled mass of wild flowers and creepers surrounding the house they came upon a porch. The steps up were blackened with rot; on the porch itself rested a long-abandoned cane chair, bleached silver-grey by the wind and the sea and chained to the decaying floorboards by the tendrils of a pink-and-sage Virginia creeper. Below came the shingling slap of gentle waves and when you turned towards the sound of the sea there was Worth Bay, curving away from you, cream-yellow sands, turquoise water, chalk-white rocks in the distance.

Dave Nichols, trainee agent at Mayhew & Fine, watched in irritation as Frank Mayhew paused on the sandy path, fiddling in his pocket for the key. It was a boiling hot day, the sun beating down remorselessly. A mother and a young girl in swimming costumes, carrying towels, passed by on their way to the beach, looking at them with curiosity. Dave felt stupid, standing there in his smartest suit in front of this rotten old building.

‘I don’t understand,’ he said sulkily, ‘why we have to value it when the old girl’s not going to sell.’

Frank tutted in disapproval. ‘Old girl! That’s Lady Wilde to you, Dave, and she’s not long for this world – have some respect. Listen. In a few months when she’s gone, the family’ll most likelwant to sell. They don’t care about the place, that’s obvious. That’s where we come in, see?’ He turned to take in the glorious view of the bay, then glanced at his slouched, sullen trainee, the son of an old golfing buddy, and sighed very gently. ‘If we play our cards right, we’ll be the agents to handle the sale. Houses on Worth Bay don’t come up often. There’s only ten or so of ’em. The Bosky – it’s prime beach-front property, this place.’

Dave shrugged. ‘It’s a wreck,’ he said, staring at the bindweed, the algae-coated windows. ‘Look at these floorboards! Rotten through, I shouldn’t wonder.’

‘Most buyers don’t care. They’ll just level it and start over again.’ Frank pulled the bindweed and dead roses away, then inserted the key, pushing against the peeling door with difficulty. ‘Makes me sad, seeing it like this, if I’m honest. How it must be for Lady Wilde, stuck in that old people’s home up the road, looking out over it all day, I’ve no idea. Bugger me, this is jammed fast. Come on, you—’ He threw his rotund form against the frame. Nothing happened. Frank stepped back and to the side, looking through one of the shuttered windows. ‘Hmm . . .’ he said, bouncing on his heels, and then suddenly he gave a loud, outraged yelp.

Dave, who’d been staring at the view, turned in alarm: Frank had sunk a foot or so into the ground, the wooden boards simply melting away, as though they were made of butter.

Trying not to laugh, he lent Frank his arm as the older man pulled himself out of the hole, with some difficulty.

‘I’ll explain that to Lady Wilde myself.’ Frank smoothed down his ruffled hair. ‘Now, you give me a hand. It’ll come open with a bit of extra oomph. That’s it—’ Together they fell against the door: it gave way with an aching crack, and the two men tumbled inside.

As the warm, musty smell of the dark house tickled their noses Frank turned on his torch, shining it around the hall. He pulled the yellowing tendril of some dead plant from the ceiling.

‘Well,’ he said quietly. ‘Here we are.’

Dave sniffed the musty air. ‘Perfume. I can smell perfume.’

‘Don’t be daft,’ Frank said, but he shivered. This was air that no one else had breathed for years; it felt heavy with something.

There was a cloakroom to his immediate left, and stairs in front of him, down to the bedrooms below. Off to the right was the kitchen, and to the left was the sitting room which had French windows leading back on to the porch.

‘Let’s open these,’ said Frank, going into the kitchen, flicking back the faded sand-coloured curtains, the original colour now long forgotten. In the corner of the room, a window seat padded with faded yellow-and-grey patterned fabric and dotted with a decade’s worth of dead flies and wasps faced the porch. The galley kitchen was at the back, the windows looking out over the lane.

There was nothing on the surfaces or shelves, no sign of occupation.

Frank flicked a switch a couple of times. ‘No, not a thing.’ He sniffed. ‘I can smell something too. Scent, or flowers, or something.’ He shook himself. ‘Right. Let’s open some windows. Get some fresh air and light in and we can go downstairs and measure up the bedrooms.’

But the window frames were too swollen with damp to open and after struggling for a minute they both gave up and went back into the hall.

Dave said, ‘The bedrooms are downstairs?’

‘It’s an upside-down house. All your living rooms are up here overlooking the sea. Bedrooms are for sleeping in, doesn’t matter what you’re looking at.’ Frank ran his hand along the bannister. ‘It’s a good idea. I used to dream of having a place like this when I was a lad.’

Dave stared at him, quizzically. ‘You knew them?’

‘Everyone knew them,’ Frank said. ‘They was quite something, the Wildes.’ He moved his torch up on to the wood-panelled wall and both men jumped, as a face leaped out at them. Frank recovered himself first. ‘It’s just a photo,’ he said, slightly shakily.

The picture on the wall gleamed in the darkness. A middle-aged woman with a floppy hat and large nose, smiling broadly, holding a dangling crab between her forefinger and thumb.

‘She looks like a witch,’ Dave said.

The torch juddered suddenly in Frank’s hand, lighting up a pair of faces.

‘Who are they? What – what on earth is all that?’ said Dave, eventually.

Frank moved the torch along, and slowly the walls were illu­minated with more faces, staring out from frames. Faces laughing, gurning, smiling politely, groups clinking glasses together, chil­dren dancing – more faces, some in colour, most in black-and-white. There were theatre posters too, and newspaper cuttings.

‘That’s them,’ said Frank, gesturing. ‘Weren’t they quite some­thing?’

Dave peered at the photo next to him. A beautiful Titian-haired woman sat with two girls on her knee, one blonde, the other dark. A group of adults reclined on the porch, glasses and cigarettes in hand. A grinning pair of young children danced on a beach: a boy and girl. More groups of smiling people. The man and woman were in the newspaper articles too, always elegantly dressed. In one they were holding hands and laughing, and she was turning slightly towards a knot of onlookers, waving with the other hand. Dave scanned the photos, sliding the torch along, plunging one, then another photo into white light and then darkness, searching for her. He stared at her, transfixed. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

‘“Anthony Wilde and his wife Althea arrive at the Royal Court for the First Night of Macbeth”,’ Dave read with difficulty, holding his phone up to the text. ‘“Curtain call went on for ten minutes as ecstatic crowd gave Mr Wilde a standing ovation.” OK then.’ He turned back as Frank reached into his briefcase. ‘Who the hell are they?’

‘I can’t believe you’ve never heard of Anthony Wilde,’ said Frank, pointing his laser measure at the walls. ‘Two point four metres. Greatest actor of his day. And that’s Althea Wilde, his wife. You must have heard of her. She was in Hartman Hall. Lady Isabella?’

Dave shook his head. ‘Nope.’

‘Lordy, Lordy. How can you not know Hartman Hall? Bigger than Downton, better ’n’ all.’ Frank sighed. ‘What about On the Edge? That sitcom about the older lady, talking into her mirror? That was her, too.’

‘Might ring a bell, maybe.’ Dave looked at her again, the long neck, the slightly too-large nose, the liquid green eyes flecked with hazel. She was staring at him, only him, in the gloom of the house. He turned his torch away from her. He didn’t like it, suddenly.

About Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans grew up in London. As a child she loved reading and making up stories. She then progressed on to teenage geekdom and agonised Sylvia Plath- style poetry it’s probably best not to dwell on. The career in musical theatre she’d always dreamed of never materialised for whatever reason, and so she ended up at Bristol University where she read Classical Studies. In her twenties she was lucky enough to get a job as a secretary at a publishers and instantly realised working with books was what she’d always wanted to do. She was a fiction editor for ten happy years but left in 2009 to write full- time, making up stories all day.

Harriet still lives in London with her family. She likes old films, property websites, sloe gin cocktails, feminism and Bombay Mix, not in that order.

You can find out more about Harriet Evans on her web site, follow her on Twitter @HarrietEvans and find her on Facebook.

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