Writing Science For Kids: A Guest Post by Cindy Cipriano, Author of The Miller Island Mysteries

MIM Book 3 front cover

I always enjoy reading children’s books so I’m very grateful to Sarah Hembrow at Vulpine Press for sending me a copy of Cindy Cipriano’s, The Case of the Toxic River, in return for an honest review which I’ll be sharing later in this blog post.

Today, however, Cindy is celebrating the recent release of the third book in her Miller Island Mysteries, The Case of the Magnetic Rocket Fuel, and I have asked her to tell me all about her writing for children. Luckily she agreed to tell me! Before she does so, let’s find out a bit about the Miller Island Mysteries series so far.

The Case of the Toxic River

The Case of the Toxic River

Grace Brooks is a total and unashamed nerd.

She loves her life, her friends, and her little dog Neutrino. That is until one day she’s uprooted to Miller’s Island, North Carolina, to start over as the new kid in school.

There she meets Jack, and they quickly bond over their love of science and all things nerdy. Together they embark on an epic adventure, travelling through time to solve the mystery of The Toxic River.

The Case of the Toxic River is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

The Case of the Mysterious Future

Flute mystery

Grace and Jack are still trying to come to grips with their time-travelling experience as they eagerly await their next adventure.

After making a promise that they’ll always travel together, Grace is unexpectedly transported into the future, alone and scared. How did she get there? And more importantly, how can she get back without Jack there to help?

Picking up clues as she goes, Grace must try to navigate this new Miller’s Island and somehow figure out what sent her there in the first place.

The Case of the Mysterious Future is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

The Case of the Magnetic Rocket Fuel

MIM Book 3 front cover

Their last time-travelling mishap still fresh in their minds, Grace and Jack are on edge about what might happen next. Grace’s memories of her solo trip to the future are never far away. When the future begins to seep out into the present, they must stick to the rules or risk the consequences.

They set themselves the task of finding out more about the mysterious ink, ending up in the past in a mysterious science lab. Could their new discovery also shed some light onto their mysterious friends at 21BUT22?

The Case of the Magnetic Rocket Fuel is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

Writing Science for Kids

A Guest Post by Cindy Cipriano

I grew up reading stories that were fantasy-based. I knew they were strictly fantasy, but I enjoyed trying to logic out the “magical” parts. When I decided to write the Miller’s Island Mysteries series, I wanted to create stories that seamlessly blend science and fantasy. It’s my hope these stories will be entertaining and at the same time, spark an interest in science in my young readers as they try to reason out the fantasy.

In Miller’s Island Mysteries (MIMS), 8th graders, Grace and Jack accidentally stumble upon the ability to travel through time. Their first trip sends them back to the 80s where they work together to solve the mystery of a fish kill on the Neuse River. I chose this first mystery because I felt readers would relate to an ecological tragedy and would put themselves into the story as Grace and Jack find out what caused the fish kill.

This series is quite different to my other middle-grade and young adult series. With MIMS I feel an obligation to present the science in the stories in such a way that readers will be driven to solve the mystery on their own. I enlist the help of a science consultant to be sure the science in MIMS is accurate then weave the science into the story. I also focus on building characters that are not only savvy, but also intelligent. Grace and Jack consider being called a Nerd, to be the highest compliment.They are funny, compassionate, and above all curious. These character traits appeal to my ‘tween readers who are just making their way in discovering their true selves. Grace and Jack are characters with whom my readers can connect because Grace and Jack are also discovering their own strengths as they solve mysteries like the fish kill, travel to nanoscience labs, and deal with accidentally seeing their future paths.

When writing for kids, it’s important all of these things are considered because young readers do not like being talked down to. It’s common knowledge that kids generally “read-up.” And so, it’s up to the author to write stories that are not only entertaining, but also excite the mind of the reader. It is so rewarding to hear that readers have taken to investigating MIMS mysteries on their own. In educational terms, this is known as self-directed learning, or learning for the pure enjoyment of it. When readers are intrinsically motivated, they feel challenged. This connection to the story combined with the challenge of solving the mystery helps grow the mind of the reader.

Grace and Jack will also grow. As the series progresses, they will leave middle school and enter high school. Readers will have the chance to watch Grace and Jack grow into young adults as they go through high school solving higher-risk mysteries. The science in the stories will become more complex and readers will grow right alongside of Grace and Jack.

I’m thankful and appreciative to be in the position to write stories that entertain and educate my readers. Even when they don’t realize they are learning.

I think you’ve done it brilliantly, Cindy. Here’s my review of the first book in the series:

My Review of The Case of the Toxic River

Newly arrived in Miller’s Island, science fanatic Grace is friendless and bullied, but life is about to get interesting.

I loved The Case of the Toxic River because it is perfectly pitched for youngsters aged 10-13 or so. There’s a little bit of burgeoning romance between Grace and Jack without it being the central consideration, so that children this age will be able to relate to the characters without feeling left out or different. More importantly, The Case of the Toxic River puts a ‘nerdy’ subject like science at the heart of the action, making it exciting and desirable. It’s even more important that Grace is a strong and feisty girl, giving the message that it is not just acceptable, but is actually thrilling, to be interested in science regardless of gender.

The central characters of Grace and Jack are accessible and appealing. They have their own problems, particularly Jack, which again gives an opening to children at the difficult pre-teen age a chance to explore grief, isolation, bullying, relationships and school life in a non-threatening way through their reading. Cindy Cipriano handles all these element brilliantly.

However, all this might make it sound as if The Case of the Toxic River is a ‘worthy’ read. It isn’t. It’s exciting, interesting and engaging. Fast paced action is balanced by the kind of practical questions like accessing food when you’ve just time travelled that children will always want the answers to making it relevant as well as being a thrilling read – and not just for children!

I really can’t fault The Case of the Toxic River. I thought it was an excellent start to the Miller Island Mysteries. I can imaging children gobbling up these books voraciously. Brilliant stuff!

About Cindy Cipriano

cindy cipriano

Cindy Cipriano lives in North Carolina with her husband, son and their 27 pets.

Not really.

Just three dogs who think they are children and three cats who think they are raccoons. It only seems as if they make 27.

Cindy’s first novel, The Circle, Book One of The Sidhe won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award for Pre-Teen Fiction – Fantasy. Other titles in the series include The Choice, Book Two of The Sidhe (2015) and The Lost, Book Three of The Sidhe (2017). This seven-book series is published by Odyssey Books.

Cindy’s Miller’s Island Mysteries are an eleven-book science mystery series (Vulpine Press).

Fading, the first in her young adult series, was published in April 2018. (Clean Teen Publishing). Fading is the tale of first loves and the consequence of dreaming up Mr. Right.

When Cindy isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and the avoidance of cooking.

You can follow Cindy on Twitter @CindyCipriano, or visit her website for more details.

Staying in with Carolyn Hughes

9781781327883_300dpiRGB

It’s a little over a year since lovely Carolyn Hughes was last on Linda’s Book Bag. At the time Carolyn had just released the first book in her Meonbridge Chronicles series, Fortune’s Wheel and Carolyn provided a super guest post on the fascination of writing about the past that you can read here.

As someone who loves historical fiction, I’m delighted Carolyn has agreed to stay in with me to tell me about another of her books today. I also have my review of this latest book, but I’ll let Carolyn introduce it first.

Staying in with Carolyn Hughes

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

Thank you so much for inviting me, Linda. I’m delighted to be here.

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

9781781327883_300dpiRGB

I have brought the second book in my series of historical novels set in fourteenth century mediaeval England. The series is called the Meonbridge Chronicles, and the book is A Woman’s Lot. I wanted to bring this book because it has only recently been published – in June!

(A belated Happy Publication day Carolyn. I know you’ve been getting some lovely reviews for this one.)

Like the first Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel, the storylines – for there are several threads – are about the tensions between the different strata in society, and the ups and downs of rural life in mediaeval Hampshire. But it is also about marital discord, women’s ambitions, and the quest for love.

(That sums it up brilliantly. Tell Linda’s Book Bag readers more!)

Well, a bit of background, perhaps?

Central to the story of A Woman’s Lot is the somewhat “misogynistic” attitude often held by mediaeval men – or by some of them at least.

In mediaeval times, men as a rule wielded considerable control over their wives, daughters and female servants, sometimes just through the “natural” assertion of male authority, but in some cases more overtly.

This is by no means to suggest that all mediaeval men were horrible women-haters, so I mustn’t overstate the case! But mediaeval women were generally considered “second class”. They were, nearly always, refused any sort of public office and, mostly, any access to education. It was the natural order of things…

(I’m not sure I’d have fared well in this environment Carolyn!)

The restriction of women’s rights was, apparently, justified on the basis of their limited intelligence, wiliness and avarice. Women as a class were – at times, or by some – reckoned to suffer from a range of weaknesses, including vanity, intellectual frailty, lustfulness and unreliability. The theory of the “four humours” was first discussed by the ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Hippocrates, and later by the Roman physician Galen, was taught to doctors in the Middle Ages, and was still holding sway in Shakespeare’s day. According to this theory, women’s “cold, wet” humour made them inferior – physically, emotionally, intellectually and morally – to “hot, dry” men. “Scientific” theory thus reinforced the Church’s view of the rightness of women’s subordinate role, arrived at, presumably, after what happened in the Garden of Eden….

I can see, Linda, that your eyebrows are rising a little! It IS shocking, isn’t it? And I’m not certain that this view of women has entirely disappeared…

(You might well be right there…)

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that some men despised, or feared, women, as the dangerous “daughters of Eve”. Others perhaps simply accepted the “learned” theories that women were neither strong nor bright nor trustworthy, and were best kept in their lowly place.

A Woman’s Lot is another everyday story of ordinary folk, but very much of its time. Of course, the misogynistic attitudes I portray are not without parallels in our own time, but I’m not attempting to draw comparisons. My tale is one of the fourteenth century, one that doesn’t try to make Meonbridge’s women “feminists”. Their stories aren’t about women’s rights and liberation, but about making the best of their opportunities within the context of the society they live in…

(I have to say I found A Woman’s Lot utterly absorbing.)

What can we expect from an evening in with A Woman’s Lot?

Well, I hardly like to blow my own trumpet, but I don’t suppose you’ll mind if I do it anyway! Because I’ve already had some great reviews and I’d love to quote a few snippets from those, which I think will give you a pretty good idea of what some readers have already found from their time spent with A Woman’s Lot

For an historical novelist, telling her that her work feels “authentic” is almost one of the best things a reviewer can do! So when the lovely Anne Williams of Being Anne said: “It’s a great tribute to Carolyn’s wonderful writing and her ability to recreate the era and its people that I slipped back in time quite effortlessly, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience” I was really thrilled. Especially so, because Anne once admitted on her blog that historical fiction wasn’t particularly her favourite type of read. And yet she really did enjoy A Woman’s Lot!

(I read Anne’s review and she really enjoyed A Woman’s Lot. Anne has kindly allowed me to share the link here to the full review. As a result of reading Anne’s review I bumped up A Woman’s Lot and I have my review to share later too.)

Anne also said it was: “a treat for all the senses…totally …true to its time and setting”. In the same vein, Debbie (@BrookCottageBks) said: “the language is rich and fluid, reflective of the time and descriptions of village life transported me back to Meonbridge once more”, and Michelle (@thebookmagnet) thought it was “another fantastic piece of completely immersive historical fiction from Carolyn”. These are the sort of comments that really make you feel you’ve somehow “got it right”.

A number of readers have said how much they love the Meonbridge characters. “It’s about families and love and a desire to have your voice heard in a time when it took the bravery of women to push the boundaries for the right to stand alongside men and be recognised in equal measure… Readers will find themselves lost in the characters and invested in the outcomes for them.” And I loved this comment: “The charm of this book lies in the characters. They are so ordinary, and I mean that in the best possible way. They are your neighbours, your friends, facing very different circumstances, of course…”. That is very much how I want readers to feel about my characters: very different from themselves, and yet very much alike… I want readers to sense the difference between then and now, and yet also understand and empathise with those characters.

(You must be over the moon with these wonderful responses Carolyn.)

And what more can a writer ask than when readers declare that they can’t wait to read her next book! “I absolutely adored this book…I need book 3 now!” “I’ll definitely be at the front of the queue for her next book.” Eek – it’s just as well that book 3 is well under way!

(It is indeed!)

Anyway, I think that is probably more than enough trumpet blowing for one evening…

(Nothing wrong with a bit of personal trumpet blowing – especially when the responses are as wonderful as these.)

What else have you brought along and why?

handful of coins

A handful of silver coins!

I have a small collection of mediaeval coins – fourteenth century coins, to be precise, the century in which my Meonbridge Chronicles are set. All the coins were “hammered”, that is, beaten out by hand between two dies. Although I hope to increase my collection in time, right now I have just nine coins:

A penny and a farthing (a quarter of a penny) from the reign of Edward I (1239-1307, just about 14th century!)

 A penny and a halfpenny from Edward II (1307-1327)

 A penny, a halfpenny, a half groat (= two pennies) and a groat (= four pennies) from Edward III (1327-1377)

 A halfpenny from Richard II (1377-1400)

The Meonbridge Chronicles are actually set entirely in Edward III’s time, as they currently cover the years 1349 to 1358.

So why have I got the coins?

Well, (I think, anyway!) they are very attractive just to look at, and I keep them in a display case to protect them. But what I really enjoy doing is to take them out of the case (though not actually out of their protective wallets), and hold them in my hand. Some of them, like the ones in the picture, are in excellent condition, and so maybe weren’t all that much used. But others are quite worn and I like to imagine one of my halfpennies being passed across a market stall in return for a dozen eggs, or a penny handed to the alewife as the price of a gallon of ale, or a groat placed in the sweaty palm of a carpenter in payment for a day’s labour. Imagining them in the hands of real people living 650 years ago, the sort of people who appear in my novels – that is where the pleasure lies in owning these little discs of beaten silver.

(I have to agree with you. I have a collection of Roman coins my husband has bought me at various times. I love that physical connection with the past.)

It’s been utterly fascinating staying in with you this evening Carolyn, and finding out all about your Meonbridge Chronicles and A Woman’s Lot in particular. Let’s not leave it so long for you to come back again. I’ll just tell readers a bit more about A Woman’s Lot and whilst I do that, you can read my review Carolyn.

A Woman’s Lot

 9781781327883_300dpiRGB

How can mere women resist the misogyny of men?

A resentful peasant rages against a woman’s efforts to build up her flock of sheep… A husband, grown melancholy and ill-tempered, succumbs to idle talk that his wife’s a scold… A priest, fearful of women’s “unnatural” power, determines to keep them in their place.

The devastation wrought two years ago by the Black Death changed the balance of society: more women saw their chance to build a business, to learn a trade, to play a greater part. But many men still hold fast to the teachings of the Church and fear the havoc the “daughters of Eve” might wreak if they’re allowed to usurpmen’s roles and gain control over their own lives.

Not all men resist women’s desire for change – indeed, they want it for themselves. Yet it takes only one or two to unleash the hounds of hostility and hatred…

Published by SilverWood Books on 4th June 2018, A Woman’s Lot is available for purchase directly from the publisher here or from your local Amazon site such as UK or US.

My Review of A Woman’s Lot

Life in fourteenth century mediaeval England isn’t easy – especially if you’re a woman.

Now I haven’t read the first book in Carolyn Hughes’ Meonbridge series, and when I saw the list of characters at the beginning of the book my heart sank. I thought I’d never know who was who. Not a bit of it. Carolyn Hughes is such a skilled writer that she weaves in enough detail to ensure the reader is appraised perfectly without interrupting the flow of this second book. A Woman’s Lot works brilliantly as a stand alone story.

There is a very wide range of characters and usually I find this confusing but because there is a clue in the title and this is very much A Woman’s Lot, I found Emma Eleanor, Susanna et al realistic and distinct. Whilst they have similar attitudes and concerns as is to be expected for the time in which they are living, they have their own personalities too. I really felt I had got to know them and I don’t want to spoil the story but I really want to know what happens next to Emma in particular. I think it is the perfectly pitched style and the realistic dialogue that contribute so much to the corporeality of the people in the story.

The plot itself is so good. There are many layers and threads that provide interest and entertainment for any reader. I cannot imagine the hours of research that must have gone in to this novel as the social, political and familial threads that weave in and out are incredibly absorbing and so convincing. I didn’t so much feel as if I were reading about mediaeval England as actually experiencing it first hand. Carolyn Hughes caters for every one of the senses so that A Woman’s Lot is cinematic and vivid in its presentation. She also shows how the concerns and interests of society and women in particular have resonated down the centuries so that I could imagine any of the characters transported into a modern setting.

If I’m honest, I didn’t especially expect to like A Woman’s Lot quite as much as I did. Not only did I enjoy a hugely interesting and entertaining story about people whom I came to care about, but I learnt a considerable amount about the real lives of people living at the time and, even more, I developed enormous respect for Carolyn Hughes as a writer because her ability to create a realistic and still totally accessible world is outstanding.  A Woman’s Lot surprised me. I thought it was a crackingly good read.

About Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn publicity

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government. She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

A Woman’s Lot is the second of the Meonbridge Chronicles, her series of historical novels set in fourteenth century England. The first, Fortune’s Wheel, was published in 2016. The third in the series is well under way.

To find out more you can find Carolyn on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @writingcalliope and visit her website. Carolyn is also on Goodreads. If you’d like to be part of Carolyn’s ‘Team Meonbridge’ click here.

Staying in with Hannah R. Goodman

Till it stops beating

It’s half way through the summer here and what better time to feature a book just perfect for a summer or beach read? I took one look at the cover of Hannah R. Goodman’s book and had to invite her onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me all about it.

Staying in with Hannah R. Goodman

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Hannah. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

Till it stops beating

I have with me the delicious Till It Stops Beating, which was released on July 5, 2018. I say delicious because look at this cover!

(I couldn’t agree more. It really makes me want to lick the cover but I think you might find that slightly strange!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Till It Stops Beating

You can expect to have one of those I-can’t-leave-this-chair-until-I-finish-the-entire-book evenings. Till It Stops Beating is a beach read/summer read love story…it’s a story of all kinds of love: romantic love, family love, friendship love. I’ve had baby boomers, millennials, Gen-X-ers, and teens tell me they loved the book! Many of the older readers have started off their emails or messages with, “I didn’t think I would connect with a book for young adults…” What everyone forgets is, we have all been young and in love, at least once in our lives.

(Oh, I so agree with that sentiment. Love has nothing to do with age – it’s a timeless emotion. Till It Stops Beating sounds lovely.)

What else have you brought along and why?

shutterstock_bag-of-donuts

I have this box of munchkins because jelly doughnuts are a key component to this love story. Maddie, the main character, has a bit of a love/hate relationship with them for reasons she doesn’t uncover fully until the end of the story. So, you really do have to read the entire book to fully understand the jelly doughnut connection.

(Now that is intriguing. I will have to read Till It Stops Beating to find out now! I love the way you call jam jelly too!)

Thanks so much for staying in with me Hannah. What with the cover of Till It Stops Beating and the jam doughnuts I have a feeling reading your book might be a fattening experience!

Till It Stops Beating

Till it stops beating

Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman’s senior year begins with the good (the reemergence of The One That Got Away), the bad (a cancer diagnosis, not hers, but it might as well be) and the WTF (an anxiety attack that renders her writhing on the floor like an upside down crab).

Adding to her spiraling anxiety is Senior Project, in the form of I’ve Decided To Write A Book about The Other One That Got Away (And Crushed My Heart). Compounding it all is applying to college and keeping up with her friends. The ever mounting stress eventually rips her tight grip on all that she holds dear.

Her break down leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers she must risk everything in order to really live.

Till It Stops Beating is available for purchase here.

About Hannah R. Goodman

7

Often referred to as “the teenage whisperer”, Hannah R. Goodman’s twenty-year career working with teenagers includes the titles teacher, tutor, coach, and, more recently, mental health counselor. Hannah has written essays about mental health for various online publications. Her work has appeared on MindBodyGreenOC87 Recovery Diaries,  and The Mighty. Black Rose Writing released Till It Stops Beating on July 5, 2018.

You can find Hannah on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. You can also visit Hannah’s website and follow her on Twitter @hannahrgoodman.

Discussing A House Called Askival with Merryn Glover

Askival paperback

Almost exactly a year ago I was delighted to head off to Mussoorie in a smashing guest post (here) from Merryn Glover when A House Called Askival was published. A lot has been happening since then, including my on visit to India, so I invited Merryn back to stay in with me and tell us a bit more!

Staying in with Merryn Glover

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Merryn. 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? 

Askival paperback

This is A House Called Askival, my first novel and the one that arose out of a very deep place in me. It is set where I went to boarding school in India: Mussoorie, a hill-station in the far north, and although the characters are invented and their story is not mine, the novel still explores some very potent experiences from my upbringing. Mussoorie is an extra-ordinary place, with a town that looks ‘like the contents of an upended rubbish bin’ but spread across a range of the Himalayan foothills where the beauty stops you in your tracks. ‘The mountain fell away into the green swathe of the Dun valley where the twin sacred rivers coursed like ribbons of light.’

For more on why Mussoorie is ‘story gold’, I encourage readers to dip into this post I wrote for you last year. But far more than the setting, A House Called Askival is significant because it delves into some of the themes and questions that have been important throughout my life as the daughter of Australian missionaries in South Asia: crossing-cultures and finding home; the gifts and wounds of religious faith; reconciliation, forgiveness and the way of peace. I feel these questions are at the heart of many of the challenges facing our globalised world, a view expressed by Dr Carol Leon of The University of Malaysia when she reviewed Askival for Wasafiri magazine. ‘In the light of what is happening on the world stage today, A House Called Askival is a book which demands our engagement.’

(You make A House Called Askival sound utterly fascinating Merryn. I must try to get to is soon.)

What can we expect from an evening in with A House Called Askival?

Judging from the hundreds of responses I’ve had from the novel, it looks like you can expect a story that will take you to India, set up house in your being and fill you with characters who may never leave.  Perhaps there should be a Content Warning on the front about pesky tenants!

This is from Kerrie Warren, a gifted Australian artist:

‘Merryn Glover took me on an unexpected journey to A House Called Askival, all the way to India where my mind and emotions took up residence, and still linger. I’ve not been so affected by a novel for years and now miss being trapped within its pages.’

I always love that kind of response, because for me, a good book is one where you miss the characters at the end.  I’ve also been delighted at how many readers have found the portrayal of India so powerful, especially when they are Indian.  Here’s a review from Aditi Saha of Bookstop Corner

‘There are authors like Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitava Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Neel Mukherjee, Kiran Desai, etc who have brought alive this country with rich descriptions through their stories… I would gladly put Merryn Glover’s name on the same list.’

As you can imagine, I felt hugely honoured by that praise!

(I bet! And having been to India earlier this year I now want to read A House Called Askival even more!)

The novel has a strong historical thread, going back to the 1930s and the Indian Independence movement (including a cameo appearance from Mahatma Gandhi, as described to me by a man who attended one of his meetings) but there is also a contemporary time-frame in which the estranged father and daughter must face the truth of history – their own and the nation’s – in order to forgive.

(Oo. I visited Ghandi’s house in Mumbai which is now a museum.)

It explores religious conflict on every level: the political and national, within communities and families, and within ourselves; and asks the simple, difficult question: How do we make peace? And it’s in the examining of those questions through the relationships that many readers have found real resonance, as in this response:

‘What will grab every reader: the deft portrayal of character, family dynamics, inter-cultural relationships … you will care deeply about the people of Askival.’

It’s only when we grasp that at the heart of every conflict and every story there are people – for whom we must care deeply – that we can begin to answer the difficult questions.

(You’re absolutely right Merryn. I think it is the place of literature to help us confront and answer those questions. A House Called Askival sounds a really important read as well an an entertaining one.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

DSC_3375

I have brought cake.  Because I’m aware that my book may sound terribly serious and, actually – though it has made several grown men cry – it is also quite funny. And there’s food. Lots of it, because threaded throughout the novel is the story of a unique cookbook.  It’s based on a real one that drew on the wide culinary experience of the international community of the Mussoorie hill-station. Begun in the 1930s as a collection of typed recipes from missionary women raising funds for a community library, it kept selling out and was expanded and developed over the years, becoming increasingly international in flavour. (Sorry about the pun!) There’s more about the cookbook on the My Reading Corner blog here but this is the chocolate Wacky Crazy Cake from it.  It’s a recipe I made as a teenager, it features in the novel and I still use it – making this one for my son’s seventeenth birthday.  He’s happy for me to share!

(Now, if you’re going to bring chocolate cake Merryn, you can come back at ANY time!)

Aradhna

Music is another important element in the story, as the main character, Ruth, is in a high school musical in Delhi that goes terribly, tragically wrong.  Another key character, Iqbal, is a singer of ghazals, a form of Urdu poetry and happens to be, like his father Iqbal, an exceptional cook. If Askival was made into a film, I’d love the soundtrack to be written by my high school friend Christopher Dicran Hale, whose music captures the India and Nepal we both grew up in.

(I love this music. It transports me right to India.)

Finally, I could also have brought an old rifle and a hundred beetles, but that could make folks a bit nervous, so I’ve left them safely tucked inside the pages of the novel where they wreak their own havoc.

(Phew! I’m glad to hear that!)

So, you can rest easy, listen to exquisite Indian music, eat chocolate cake and meet the people that inhabit A House Called Askival. Be warned, though: they may never leave you!

After everything you’ve told me Merryn, I won’t mind if they stay as long as they like. Thanks so much for staying in to tell me about this fascinating book. I am very much looking forward to reading it.

A House Called Askival

Askival paperback

James Connor is a man who, burdened with guilt following a tragic event in his youth, has dedicated his life to serving India. Ruth Connor is his estranged daughter who, as a teenager, always knew she came second to her parents’ missionary vocation and rebelled, with equally tragic consequences.

After 24 years away, Ruth finally returns to Askival, the family home in Mussoorie, a remote hill station in the Northern State of Uttarakhand, to tend to her dying father. There she must face the past and confront her own burden of guilt if she is to cross the chasm that has grown between them.

In this extraordinary and assured debut, Merryn Glover draws on her own upbringing as a child of missionary parents in Uttarakhand to create this sensitive, complex, moving and epic journey through the sights, sounds and often violent history of India from Partition to the present day.

A House Called Askival is available for purchase here.

About Merryn Glover

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Merryn Glover was born to a missionary family in a former palace in Kathmandu and brought up in Nepal, India and Pakistan.  Australian by passport, she did a teaching degree in Melbourne and has worked in education and the arts in Australia, India, Nepal and Scotland, now her home for twenty-five years.  Her writing has won awards and been published in anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Also a playwright, her fiction and drama have been broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. A House Called Askival, published in 2014 by Freight Books, is her first novel, and her second, set where she lives in the Highlands of Scotland, is with agent Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown.

Two days a week she works in the library at Kingussie High School where she loves being surrounded by books and young people, and works hard to get them together.  Travelling more with her imagination than a backpack these days, much of her writing explores themes of culture, identity, belief and belonging.

You can find out more about Merryn on her website, on Facebook, on Goodreads and by following her on Twitter @MerrynGlover.

Staying in with Robert Crouch

No Accident Front 2017

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome back Robert Crouch to Linda’s Book Bag. Robert has been kind enough to provide a guest post (here) shortly after Fisher’s Fables was released and another here to celebrate No Bodies. I simply had to invite Robert back to the blog to find out what else he’s been up to.

Staying in with Robert Crouch

It’s lovely to have you here this evening Rob. Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag.

Hi Linda. Thank you for inviting me.

I know you’ve been here before so which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

No Accident Front 2017

I’ve brought along the first Kent Fisher mystery, No Accident, because it’s a testament to persistence and refusing to throw in the towel.

When I wrote the first draft many years ago, I had to abandon it two-thirds of the way through, unable to find a way for my protagonist, Kent Fisher, to solve the murder. It seemed I had created the perfect murder.

(That makes me smile! I love the idea of books getting away from authors!)

Several years later, I wrote an ending, though I still hadn’t solved the murder. A friend, who’s a published author, offered to help, but told me the story needed a lot of work. “Set it aside,” she said. “Write something different rather than waste any more time on it.”

But I couldn’t move on until I’d found a way to solve this murder. No Accident became a test of my will as much as my skill.

In 2015, I rewrote the first three chapters and sent them to an American publisher. He liked them, particularly the humour and asked to see the rest of the book. Then I spotted the publishing contract, attached to the email.

(Oh. How exciting.)

How could I even consider or sign the contract until I was satisfied with the story – and found a way to solve the murder?

Whether it was the publisher’s interest after years of rejection, or rewriting and cutting to produce the best novel possible, I don’t know, but I found a way to solve the murder and the novel was originally published in 2016.

Having finally got there, what can we expect from an evening in with No Accident?

Something different, maybe even unique in crime fiction, I hope.

When I created Kent Fisher, I had two aims.–

I wanted to show that an ordinary person could solve a murder.

Let’s be honest, whoever heard of an environmental health officer (EHO) investigating a murder? It sounds as implausible as it is unlikely until you learn that EHOs investigate workplace accidents. Having investigated several fatal work accidents, I knew it was a great way to disguise a murder, which is where the book gets its title.

(Oo. My next door neighbour is a retired environmental health officer. I’ll pop and get him when we finish our chat and you can compare notes!)

Having successfully solved a murder, EHO, Kent Fisher, then has the credibility to go on and solve more complex cases in No Bodies and No Remorse.

image003

Naturally, he’s weighed down by more baggage than an airport carousel. This allows me to create an interesting backstory and cast of characters to make his life as complicated as it can be. Many bloggers and readers comment and become involved with these characters and relationships, which is music to an author’s ears.

(I bet!)

I wanted to pay tribute to the mysteries that inspired me – Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and the late Sue Grafton’s feisty Californian detective, Kinsey Millhone.

I wanted to write the kind of book I loved to read – an entertaining murder mystery/whodunit with a complex, twisting plot full of surprises, colourful characters, and humour to counterbalance the murders.

Crime Fiction Lover, which gave me my first ever review, summed it up beautifully:

Expect sharp dialogue and irreverent humour in this whodunit, which manages to pay homage to the traditional murder mystery, while striking a contemporary and irreverent note.

Since then, another reviewer said:

Kent Fisher is a wonderful creation, unique in crime literature.

I know this could put off as many readers as it attracts because crime readers are more familiar with police procedurals and hard-boiled private detectives, but the review always reminds why I write these stories.

(Actually, Rob, there are so many hard boiled private detectives that your series sounds like a breath of fresh air.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

DSCF1044

Well, as you can tell from the attention you’re getting, I’ve brought my West Highland white terrier, Harvey. Apart from being cute, he’s the embodiment of Kent Fisher’s spirit (and mine). Harvey’s tenacious, determined (or stubborn, if you prefer) and independent, refusing to give up or conform.

(I love Harvey – and not just because he shares a name with my Grandfather! He’s quite friendly isn’t he? Doesn’t he distract you from your writing?)

While I was revising No Accident, he often slept by my feet. If I struggled with a passage, I often talked it through with him. He would sit there, ears pricked, tilting his head from side to side as he listened. Sometimes he would bark and wag his tail. I don’t think he was trying to tell me which solution to choose, but he always made me feel better and return to my writing with renewed enthusiasm.

(Brilliant.)

That’s why he had to be a part of the novels.

(I can imagine. Harvey is a real star!)

During the revisions of No Accident, I realised I had to create an animal sanctuary for Kent Fisher to live in and run in his spare time. It contained some rescue dogs, including a Westie that Kent rescued after it had been badly beaten by its owner. Kent loves the dog, finally taking him off the rehoming list to be his own. Kent names his new companion Columbo after his (and my) favourite TV detective.

And if you’ve watched the TV detective in the crumpled raincoat, you’ll know he never gives up either.

(I loved those programmes.)

Neither will Harvey until you give him another treat.

Then he must have one. Thanks so much for staying in with me tonight Robert and for bringing Harvey along. It’s so lovely hearing how No Accident came into being (with Harvey’s help) and I’m sure many aspiring writers will be encouraged by your story.

No Accident

No Accident Front 2017

A former gangster is dead. It looks like an accident. Only Kent Fisher suspects murder.

When the police decide Syd Collins’ death is a work accident, they hand over the investigation to environmental health officer, Kent Fisher, a man with more baggage than an airport carousel.

He defies a restraining order to enter Tombstone Adventure Park and confronts the owner, Miles Birchill, who has his own reasons for blocking the investigation. Thwarted at every turn, Kent’s forced to bend the rules and is soon suspended from duty.

He battles on, unearthing secrets and corruption that could destroy those he loves. With his personal and professional worlds on a collision course, he knows life will never be the same again.

Inspired by Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton, Robert Crouch brings a fresh voice and a new twist to the traditional murder mystery.

No Accident is available for purchase here.

About Robert Crouch

robert

Inspired by Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and Columbo, Robert Crouch wanted to write entertaining crime fiction the whole family could enjoy.

At their heart is Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer with more baggage than an airport carousel. Passionate about the environment, justice and fair play, he’s soon embroiled in murder.

Drawing on his experiences as an environmental health officer, Robert has created a new kind of detective who brings a unique and fresh twist to the traditional murder mystery. With complex plots, topical issues and a liberal dash of irreverent humour, the Kent Fisher mysteries offer an alternative to the standard police procedural.

Robert now writes full time and lives on the South Coast of England with his wife and their West Highland White Terrier, Harvey, who appears in the novels as Kent’s sidekick, Columbo.

You can find Robert on Facebook and visit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter @robertcrouchuk.

All That Was Lost by Alison May

all that was lost

My enormous thanks to Lucy Chamberlain at Legend Press for a copy of All That Was Lost by Alison May in return for an honest review. I have previously welcomed Alison May to Linda’s Book Bag with a fantastic guest post about Shakespeare as the ultimate romance writer that you can read here.

However, All That Was Lost marks a change in Alison’s writing and it is the first of her books that I have reviewed.

All That Was Lost will be published on 6th September 2018 by Legend Press and is available for pre-order here.

All That Was Lost

all that was lost

In 1967 Patience Bickersleigh is a teenager who discovers a talent for telling people what they want to hear. Fifty years later she is Patrice Leigh, a nationally celebrated medium. But cracks are forming in the carefully constructed barriers that keep her real history at bay.

Leo is the journalist hired to write Patrice’s biography. Struggling to reconcile the demands of his family, his grief for his lost son, and his need to understand his own background, Leo becomes more and more frustrated at Patrice’s refusal to open up.

Because behind closed doors, Patrice is hiding more than one secret. And it seems that now, her past is finally catching up with her.

My Review of All That Was Lost

Celebrity medium Patrice finds she can’t see everything that might be about to happen in her life.

I am used to the concept of Alison May as a romantic novelist so I wasn’t sure what to expect from All That Was Lost, but it is a triumph. What Alison May has produced is an intimate and affecting study of loss, grief and identity that is just wonderful.

As the cast list is quite narrow, having a focus mainly on Patrice, with Leo and Louise to a lesser extent, there’s a real sense of understanding and knowing the characters. Their lives interweave in a spellbinding way that ensnares the reader and makes them want to know what will happen to them. That said, the more peripheral people like Barney add a colour and depth that adds definition to the main characters, especially to Patrice who is such a magnificent creation. She is deceptive on so many levels, including to herself, and yet she is a heartbreaking individual too because Alison May gradually reveals her to the reader in such a convincing manner. I’m still worrying about Patrice after having finished reading!

The structure of All That Was Lost is so clever. As the narrative reaches its denouement in the present, the 1960s past is increasingly brought into focus, giving clarity and empathy. Alison May shines a very bright light onto the 1960s era so that society is conveyed painfully sharply through the microcosm of Pat’s family. I thought this was such skilful writing. There’s a fabulous story here that is all absorbing and engaging, but more important I think, are the themes explored. We see first hand how our lives are manipulated and changed by others, how we can lose sight of what is important, including our own identity and how we sometimes need extremes of grief and loss to redefine us and show us who we truly are.

I thought All That Was Lost was a glorious read. I enjoyed it so much because I found it touching, compassionate and human. Magnificent!

About Alison May

Alison Maynard_low res

Alison was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester. She is a History graduate from the University of York and has a Creative Writing degree from the University of Birmingham. Alison has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and as a creative writing tutor and freelance trainer for charities and voluntary organisations.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and won their Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012 for her short story Feel the Fear which was published in the RNA’s 2014 anthology.

You can follow Alison on Twitter @MsAlisonMay and visit her website. You’ll also find Alison on Facebook.

Staying in with M.J. Mallon

deep pink cover-contest-2017-the-curse-of-time-5-1504444953

Recently I’ve seen quite a bit about Young Adult (YA) fiction claiming it is a lesser cousin of adult fiction. I couldn’t disagree more. Some of the best books I’ve read have been YA books and I’m delighted to welcome M.J Mallon to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about her YA release.

Staying in with. M.J. Mallon

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

Thank you so much for inviting me Linda I really appreciate it.

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

deep pink cover-contest-2017-the-curse-of-time-5-1504444953

I have chosen The Curse of Time Book One Bloodstone because it’s my debut novel.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Curse of Time?

We can expect an intriguing evening with The Curse of Time. Take a seat, grab a drink and let me entice you to find out more about my YA Fantasy debut novel, The Curse of Time.

Here’s what Colleen M. Chesebro (Editor) says:

“This delightful book will appeal to teens and young adults who love stories filled with magical crystals, dark family curses, and mysteries waiting to be solved around every corner. Each chapter leads you on a journey of discovery where Amelina earns the right to use three wizard stones to reset the balance of time and finally break the curse that holds her family hostage. A captivating tale!”

(That makes The Curse of Time sound very appealing Marjorie. I bet you were thrilled with that response.)

It’s the first in a series of three intended books. All three will focus on the power of a magical crystal –Book One introduces you to the blood cleansing power of the Bloodstone.

The Curse of Time series features three fascinating Chronopage clocks invented by Dr John C Taylor, OBE: Book one: showcases the grasshopper, Book Two: the medieval fly and Book three: the dragon. All three images courtesy of Dr John C Taylor.

Corpus Christi Chronophage Detail

There are many intriguing elements within the narrative which will take you on a mystical, magical journey. Expect an abundance of light and hope in the beautiful, magical crystals that Amelina discovers. But with light elements of darkness, shadows, and sadness linger nearby. Meet Esme, a young girl captured in the mirrors of Amelina’s house. Discover Amelina’s dad – the victim of a terrible curse. Mysteries abound, and magical gifts bring art to life. The Curse of Time is a coming-of-age story. Fifteen-year-old Amelina must cure her father of a terrible curse that has struck at the heart of her family’s happiness.

(This sounds as if it’s going to be a brilliant series Marjorie.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I’m bringing along some very special guests.

My friend, artist Carolina Russo who lovingly painted two of my characters: Esme The Mirror Girl. And Eruterac, The Creature. Carolina’s blog is here.

Esme And The Mirror ©Carolina Russo - Online Use

(Oh – welcome along Carolina!)

Imagine what it would be like to chat with the mirror girl, Esme. She hasn’t had it easy. In her recent past poor Esme self-harmed whilst trapped in a cycle of self-hatred. Now a captive, she is no longer able to self-harm but her mood swings continue.Will Esme escape the double prison of her self-harm and the mirrored prison that she is locked in?

(Crikey – now I want to know more!)

The Creature ©Carolina Russo_Online Use

The Creature’s coming too! He might want to sit next to you. Perhaps he might hold your hand but if he does he will drop a few bugs, worms, and the like in your lap. Does he scare you?

(Erm. He does. And I’d really rather he didn’t drop worms. I’m not keen on things without legs…)

untitled

Also why don’t you cuddle my black cat character Shadow? If you dare! Shadow is friendly but he doesn’t like to be picked up. He is the most powerful cat I have ever met but he has the kindest heart too. I adore the idea that looks can be deceptive. Do you agree?

(Aha. Shadow is MUCH more my kind of guest than The Creature. If you look round you’ll see cat items all round my home. He does look friendly, but maybe I’ll just stroke him first.)

The image of Lily (aka Shadow,) comes via my friends blog here.

IMG_3419 (2)

I’ve brought along Amelina because well it would be wrong of me not to. She’s my main protagonist and I love her very much. She has had a tough life too. Who wants to be stuck in a terrible situation? She copes by writing Tanka, short-form poetry, she paints, and plays guitar. Amelina is a soulful girl who develops powerful skills using magical crystals.

(Amelina sounds far too talented for her own good. But she’s still welcome too!)

FullSizeRender2

Then there is Ryder. The enigma. Who is he? And why is there smoke coming out of his mouth? Is that just a smoke-screen? Read The Curse of Time to find out whether he is a loveable character…

(Ooer! I hope that’s NOT cigarette smoke as I can’t abide cigarettes. If so, he’s going to have to stay in the garden as far away from the house as possible.)

The photos of Ryder and Amelina were created by my daughter Georgina Mallon.

Gosh – that’s quite a collection of things you’ve brought with you Marjorie. It’s been a breathless evening staying in with you and not just because of that weird smoke from Ryder! I’ve really enjoyed finding out all about The Curse of Time. Thanks so much for being here and chatting to me about it.

Thanks for having me Linda.

The Curse of Time

deep pink cover-contest-2017-the-curse-of-time-5-1504444953

Fifteen-year-old Amelina longs for someone to confide in.  Her once carefree mother has become angry and despondent. One day a strange black cat and a young girl, named Esme appear. Immediately, Esme becomes the sister Amelina never had.

The only catch is that Esme must remain a prisoner, living within the mirrors of Amelina’s house.

The Curse of Time is available for purchase here.

About M. J. Mallon

Marjorie

M. J. Mallon is a debut author who has been blogging for three years at her lovely blog Kyrosmagica. Her interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. Marjorie write Fantasy YA, middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and tanka. She loves to read and has written numerous reviews here.

You’ll find Marjorie on Facebook and can follow her on Twitter @Marjorie_Mallon.