Discussing Ribbons in Her Hair with Colette McCormick

Ribbons in Her Hair cover

It was a real pleasure hosting a smashing guest post from Colette McCormick here on Linda’s Book Bag where she explained the process in getting to publication for her novel Things I Should Have Said And Done.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome back Colette as she stays in with me to tell me about her latest book.

Staying in with Colette McCormick

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Colette.

Thank you so much for having me Linda. It’s a joy to be here on your blog again. I love what you’ve done with the place.

Glad you like it. Those new carpets help I think! Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s my pleasure.

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

Ribbons in Her Hair cover

I’ve brought my new book Ribbons in Her Hair with me.

Love that cover Colette. What can we expect from an evening in with Ribbons in Her Hair?

I hope you’ll enjoy a conversation with Jean and Susan, the mother and daughter who are the main characters. It’s written in a conversational style because I wanted it to feel like they were there with you on the room telling you what happened. Maybe when you get to see both sides of the story you’ll understand why they both behave the way that they do, and while they see things very differently they both have a similar goal. I hope that at the end of the day some things are more important than keeping up appearances.

(Ha – that’s an important message I think!)

What else have you brought along and why?

Me in a red dress

I hate having my picture taken and I’m not one for sharing photos of myself but I’ve brought this one along as it has now found a special place in my heart. As you can see, my hair is pulled away from the front of my face and though you can’t see it, I can tell you that the front parts of my hair are tied at the back of my head with a black velvet ribbon. Mum wasn’t keen on the full pony tail. It was taken in a hotel in Jersey where my parents and I were on holiday and we had to ‘dress for dinner.’ I remember her doing her own hair and then doing mine and then we got dressed together. These were the things that I took for granted in my childhood.

(That’s such a lovely photo.)


I’ve also brought along a DVD of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ because my sister took me to see it at the cinema when I was a little girl and I haven’t seen it in years. My sister is twelve years older than me but unlike Susan’s older sisters who pretty much ignore her for the most part, my sister took me to the cinema and to pantomimes, she baked me birthday cakes and she taught me how to knit.

(My sister is nine years older than me and she took me to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when I was 7!)


Finally I’ve brought some chocolates for no other reason than I like chocolate and it’s a long film.

(Now you’re talking. And we won’t need to share them with my husband either as he doesn’t like this film so all the more for us!)

It’s been lovely spending the evening with you Colette. I think we share a very similar childhood and I’ve found hearing about Ribbons in Her Hair very nostalgic. Thanks so much for staying in with me.

Ribbons in Her Hair

Ribbons in Her Hair cover

Jean seems the perfect wife and mother but she struggles to love her daughters whose material comforts mask emotional neglect. When the youngest daughter, Susan, brings ‘shame’ on the family, Jean can think of only one response. She has to make the problem disappear.

Finding the strength to stand up to her mother for the first time in her life, Susan does the only thing that she can to save her baby.

What Susan doesn’t realise is that her mother’s emotional distance hides a dark secret of her own.

Examining the divide between generations, between mothers and daughters, this emotionally charged novel asks whether we can ever truly understand another, however close our ties.

Published by Accent Press yesterday, 23rd August 2018, Ribbons in Her Hair is available for purchase here.

About Colette McCormick

me in blue

Colette McCormick was born and raised in Sheffield but has made the North East her home for over 30 years. Writing is her love but her job is as a charity shop manager for a leading children’s charity. She has a husband, two sons and a daft dog.

You can follow Colette on Twitter @colettemcauthor, and find her on Facebook and Instagram or visit her blog.

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Tour poster

Giveaway: Smart Moves by Adrian Magson

Smart Moves cover

My grateful thanks to Emily Glenister at The Dome Press for a copy of Smart Moves by Adrian Magson in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for the book. Not only do I have my review to share today, but I have a copy of Smart Moves to give away to a lucky UK reader. You can enter at the bottom of this blog post.

Smart Moves was published by The Dome Press on 16th August 2018 and is available for purchase here.

Smart Moves

Smart Moves cover

International troubleshooter Jake Foreman loses his job, house and wife all in one day. And when an impulsive move lands him in even deeper water – the kind that could lose him his life – he decides it’s time to make some smart decisions.

The trouble is, knowing the right moves and making them is a whole different game. And Jake, who has been happily rubbing along things he always suspected were just a shade away from being dodgy, finds it all too easy to go with the flow. Now he’s got to start learning new tricks.

If he doesn’t, he could end up dead.

My Review of Smart Moves

Jake is not having a good day. Losing his job is just the start of his troubles!

Now, if I’m honest I shouldn’t really like Smart Moves. With a fairly ‘blokey’ man as a protagonist in Jake who often views women in quite a sexist way and sometimes shares similar humour with his friends, Smart Moves ought not to have appealed to me. However, it did completely! I thought it was a great book. I think it’s because at the same time as being a little bit sexist and ‘macho’, Jake is an enormously likeable person. Life keeps kicking him when he is down and he is actually quite diffident and self-effacing behind his public persona. Much of the sympathy for, and empathy with, him comes through the brilliant first person viewpoint, Jake’s sense of humour and the fact that he’s incredibly stoical so that I was really desperate for his life to improve. I think this is very skilled writing. Here’s a man, Jake, whom I found myself entirely supporting almost in spite of myself – so much so, in fact, that I’d like to meet him again in a future book.

Smart Moves begins at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up so that it’s a quick and highly entertaining read. From the very first moment I had a terrible sense of foreboding as far as Jake was concerned and he does lurch from one less smart move to another as the story progresses, but each is a really well crafted and self contained adventure as he runs frequently questionable errands in a variety of countries. Whilst I may have had willingly to suspend my disbelief at times, I think Adrian Magson may well have been introducing me to a whole world totally outside my own experience and I found it fascinating. I don’t usually make comparisons, but Smart Moves did remind me of Fargo in many ways because it has a similar pithy dark humour and sense of intrigue.

I was drawn into Smart Moves by the hectic pace initially and became ensared by great writing, smashing chapter endings that drew me on and a character I truly believed in. I love an author who knows when one word can convey everything without embellishment and Adrian Magson has that ability in spades. Smart Moves is quirky, funny, pacy and exciting. What more could you want for a book?

About Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of 22 crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book, a YA ghost novel and 2 collections of short fiction.

You can follow Adrian on Twitter @AdrianMagson1 and find him on Facebook. You can also find out more by visiting Adrian’s website or reading his blog.

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Smart Moves poster

Giveaway – A Paperback Copy of Smart Moves by Adrian Magson

Smart Moves cover

For your chance to win a paperback copy of Smart Moves by Adrian Magson, click here.

UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Monday 27th August 2018.

Please note that I am not responsible for sending the winner’s prize and that I will not retain personal details once the competition closes.

Discussing Death in Provence with Serena Kent

Death in Provence

A couple of years ago I was delighted to feature 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson here on Linda’s Book Bag when Deborah wrote all about A Question of Identity. Since then Deborah has been having a bit of a change of identity herself and today I’m so pleased to welcome her back as one half of Serena Kent with her husband Robert Rees!

Staying in with Serena Kent


Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Robert and welcome back again Deborah! Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for having us, Linda!

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

Death in Provence

Death in Provence. It’s a cosy mystery but also the story of how a middle-aged Englishwoman makes a new life for herself on her own in France. Divorcee Penelope Kite is intelligent and optimistic, and the countryside, the people she meets and her personal circumstances are just as important as the mystery, and serve to deepen her understanding of the region made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.

It sounds a delightful read. What can we expect from an evening in with Death in Provence?

Some good laughs, we hope – with an edge of psychological truthfulness and an accurate picture of the Luberon area of Provence, a landscape of perched hill villages, orchards, vineyards and lavender fields. We own a crumbly old farmhouse, similar in some respects, to Penelope Kite’s and know well the joys and pitfalls of owning such a property. Some of the incidents – not the body in pool! – are based on fact, though imaginatively enhanced, naturally.

(I’m quite relieved to hear you haven’t had a body in the pool – yet!)

We’ve been thrilled with the early readers’ reviews like this one on Amazon:

After years at everyone’s beck and call, Penelope Kite’s had enough. She leaves behind her ex-husband, ungrateful adult step-children, and chilly old England to pursue the good life in Provence. Blissfully busy with a beautiful – though dilapidated ‒ new house and a never-ending supply of pain au chocolate, Penelope’s found her paradise … until a dead body turns up in the swimming pool. She must channel skills learned at the Home Office Department of Forensic Pathology to unravel the murderous mysteries of her adoptive French town. And if that’s not enough, attempts on her life, hot flushes and non-existent willpower over the siren call of the local patisserie leave her convinced retirement’s not for sissies.

This humorous and entertaining romp is coloured with delightful Provençal details that will have you booking flights long before the murderer is revealed. Quirky characters abound, like the petitely perfect Madam Valencourt, who avoids croissants like a delivery of anthrax, and Penelope’s larger-than-life best buddy, Frankie, who pours third (fourth? fifth?) glasses of wine with no apology. A drop-dead gorgeous mayor, a secret love and unsettling neighbours add to the fun.

(…)How refreshing, therefore, to meet Penelope Kite; smart and funny with all the strengths and flaws of maturity. She deserves her own book series – as do we, the well beyond thirty-something crowd looking for a relatable laugh.”

(What a smashing response. You must both be thrilled.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Robert: I would bring along a chilled bottle of rosé. There is little better in life than sitting on a vine-covered Provençal terrace while the sun goes down, sipping a glass of cold rosé. Apart maybe from repeating the exercise immediately when the glass is empty. And as with wine, so with food. I could discuss the myriad of French dishes that we love, from bouillabaise to ratatouille, and the happy evenings spent devouring such dishes under the stars with friends. But my single greatest food love comes from a local baker. Simply the most delicious bread in the world – the pain tradition from the Boulangerie St Pierre in Apt.

Rob's piano in music room. Provence

Rob’s Music Room

For more spiritual pursuits, I would bring my piano and a few special pieces. One or two songs and miniatures of my own composition, as I suffer (along with most performers) with an acute desire to show off (especially after the rosé).

(Sounds like we’re in for an entertaining evening then Rob!)

But also something by Chopin, the greatest of all piano composers, and something by Debussy, Ravel from the host of French genius which flowered at the beginning of the 20th century. Music, and in particular piano, is my greatest passion. My father (a better pianist than I and an amateur composer) inculcated a great love of classical music in me for which I can never thank him enough. He never quite got pop, but for anything before that he was like a walking encyclopedia. He also taught me the greatest lesson in life. Just before the curtain rose on one of the greatest operas, he leaned over and whispered ‘You know, we are terribly lucky to be living in this day and age, aren’t we!’

Candle lantern

Deborah: I’d bring some of our collection of candle lanterns, and some of the glass jars we put tea lights in and wire to the fig tree in the courtyard to make the evening feel special. If I could bring the fig tree, too, I would. Especially in that summer phase when the leaves release their sweet, milky, musk-spice scent in the warmth of the sun.

cheese - dinner outside

At the end of August, you could even have some of the purple fruit that we and our guests gorge on with goats’ cheese and jambon cru. Also the twenty minutes each evening when the sun’s last rays send red flames up the hillside and turn the rippled mountain russet and indigo.

Luberon sunset

(I’m not sure I’m inviting you two back. You’re making me so jealous!)


We’d also bring our tales of Provence, the trials and tribulations (no house renovation ever goes quite to plan) as well as the incomparable memories of laughter with friends and outdoor concerts and dancing in village squares under the plane trees.

Oh my goodness. What wonderful photographs. Thank you both so much for being here and staying in with me as Serena Kent. I’ve loved hearing about Death in Provence and having a look at your beautiful home and surroundings. It’s been lovely and has made me want to dive right in to Death in Provence.

Death in Provence

Death in Provence

When Penelope Kite swaps her humdrum life in Surrey for a picturesque farmhouse in the south of France, she imagines a simple life of long lunches and chilled rosé . . . What she doesn’t imagine is the dead body floating in her swimming pool.

Convinced that the victim suffered more than a drunken accident, Penelope plunges headlong into local intrigue and long-simmering resentments to uncover the truth.

But with a meddling estate agent, an unfriendly Chief of Police, a suspiciously charming Mayor, and the endless temptation of that second pain au chocolat, life in the delightful village of St Merlot is certainly never simple. . .

Death in Provence is available for purchase through the publisher, Orion’s, links here.

About Serena Kent

authors (2)

Serena Kent has been a journalist, a banker, a music composer and a sheep-shearer – and is also the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They live in Kent in a house full of books, and own a ramshackle old farmhouse on the slopes of the Luberon hills in Provence which is also in desperate need of some more bookshelves.

You can follow Serena Kent on Twitter @SerenaKentBooks and visit the website. You’ll find Serena Kent on Facebook too.

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Wilderness Wars by Barbara Henderson

Wilderness Wars

I’m genuinely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Wilderness Wars by Barbara Henderson – partly because I’ve met Barbara who is utterly lovely, but also because she is a fantastic author. I’ve featured Barbara here on Linda’s Book Bag before and you can see the following posts:

My review of Fir For Luck here (also one of my books of the year in 2016).

A smashing guest post from Barbara about Fir For Luck publication day here.

Another super post about why a book launch matters to celebrate Punch here.

Today, alongside my review of Wilderness Wars I have another fantastic guest post from Barbara, this time about the nature in her childhood.

Wilderness Wars is published by Pokey Hat, an imprint of Cranachan Publishing and is available for purchase here.

Wilderness Wars

Wilderness Wars

What if nature fights back?

Still in a daze, I take it all in: the wind, the leaden skies, the churning moody sea.
And, far in the distance, a misty outline.
Wilderness haven. Building-site. Luxury-retreat-to-be.
And now, home.

When her father’s construction work takes Em’s family to the uninhabited island of Skelsay, she is excited, but also a little uneasy. Soon Em, and her friend Zac, realise that the setbacks, mishaps and accidents on the island point to something altogether more sinister: the wilderness all around them has declared war.

Danger lurks everywhere. But can Em and Zac persuade the adults to believe it before it’s too late?

Nature and Me

A Guest Post by Barbara Henderson

My new novel Wilderness Wars celebrates the beauty of natural world, but it also warns of imposing our will on it lightly. A respect, an awe, a reverence for the wild places all around us – for me this goes right back to my childhood and to my father. My mother loved the water, the garden, the flowers and the vegetable patch. My dad was about the wild places.


Barbara with her father around 1980

My earliest memory? It is often hard to be sure, but I am certain Dad was part of it. He passed away five years ago, but he was a child of the woods. His parental home, still in the family, was the last house of the village, where scattered houses gave way to sweeping forest. He was a child of the war, too – foraging for mushrooms, berries and goodness knows what else: if you needed to know what is edible and what isn’t, my father was your man. The most exciting mornings of my young life involved heading into the woods, going off-piste. He made me clamber up a hide and sit still. It wasn’t long before roe deer grazed on the clearing, oblivious to my presence, or his. I was hooked.


Another walk in the woods

Like most young people, I went through a phase where going for a walk simply didn’t cut the mustard anymore. But when my father added ‘through the forest’, there was a sense of adventure, of possible danger, however imagined. To my young mind, this was undoubtedly the forest of Hansel and Gretel. Rapunzel’s tower was bound to be around here somewhere, and there was even an old water spring with circular stonework. The Frog Prince dwelt there, I was sure of it. The imagination and the wilderness are connected in my mind still.


Climbing trees was one of Barbara’s favourite pastimes

Holidays invariably took us away from the small town where I lived: beaches, mountains – the wider (and wilder) the view the better. My father was a treasure hunter, a spotter, a counter. Someone who needed a mission. Thus, the car screeched to a halt when a bird of prey soared over, until that bird could be identified. Bird houses were erected, and soon you’d hear his voice, calling me over, demanding my attention: Barbara, come, quick. Look, a male bullfinch, look at those clouds, have you ever seen lightning like this before. Look, look: two, four eight, nine deer! Look at those antlers. Look at those tracks, see them? Wild Boar, that’s what that is. (not common, but not unheard of in the area of Germany where I grew up). Look, a wasps’ nest. Look, that moving mound of earth; there is a mole under that right now. Look, a grass snake.

My mum, in turn, tried to interest me in flowers and shrubs, neatly planted in rows of tidy rows. Beans climbing up domesticated poles, salad leaves bending under the dew. But my eyes were always drawn to the wild things. Wild and unpredictable creatures, wild waves, dramatic rocks, sweeping sands, trees towering high against the sky: the untamed.

I am convinced that this was part of the reason I was so attracted to Scotland and why we eventually chose to live in the Highlands. When my children came along we began to spend endless summers rock-pooling, walking and spotting. I had grown into my father’s daughter.  Now it was my turn to say: look, a coral beach. Look, a golden eagle. Look, look at the colours of all the wildflowers on the machair.

It’s funny how memory works, isn’t it?

It is indeed Barbara. And I can see how those memories have woven themselves into Wilderness Wars. Here’s my review:

My Review of Wilderness Wars

Em’s family relocate to the remote Scottish island of Skelsay where her father will be part of a team building a new leisure complex, but not all will go according to plan!

Oh my goodness. Wilderness Wars is an absolute cracker of a book. It may be aimed at children, who I know will be utterly captivated by it, but I adored it too. Barbara Henderson really is the most fantastic storyteller. She holds the reader captive so that it is impossible to put down the book until every last drop of it has been drunk.

The characters at the heart of the story are perfectly drawn – and this includes the island of Skelsay too. Within just a few pages I felt as if I’d known them for years. Em and Zac are so identifiable for children and it is a stroke of genius to give both sexes a starring role as all children will find a character just right for them. I usually find children in fiction completely unrealistic creations but in Wilderness Wars the are such vivid and three dimensional people who feel completely real.

The plot is fabulous. It races along with a pitch perfect balance between the mundane elements of a child’s life, like homework, acting as a foil to dramatic and exciting events that take the breath away. There are some hugely pulse racing moments. I loved the way in which these events are set against the concept of nature, of how we exploit and manipulate nature and how we ought to be just that bit more respectful and careful in our actions. There’s so much to think about and enjoy in Wilderness Wars.

I’m finding it hard to praise Wilderness Wars highly enough. I think it is absolutely brilliant. If I were to write a children’s book, Wilderness Wars would be the one I would have liked to be able to put my name to. Fantastic!

About Barbara Henderson


Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.

Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.

You can find out more by following Barbara on Twitter @scattyscribbler and reading her blog. You’ll also find her author page on Facebook.

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Wildernes Wars poster

Staying in with Paul Rimmasch


Anyone who knows me also knows I am a complete wimp and don’t read anything that might scare me. As a result I have asked Paul Rimmasch to stay in with me to tell me about one of his books to see if he can change my mind and encourage me to be afraid!

Staying in with Paul Rimmasch

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Paul and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?


I brought my new book, Fingerprints and Phantoms: True Tales of Law Enforcement Encounters with the Paranormal and the Strange. I chose this book because it is an ideal summer read. The anthology format makes it perfect for quick literary snacks between dips at the pool. The chilling stories it contains are impeccably suited for sharing on those long summer nights on the patio or around the campfire.

(Ah. The pool I can deal with. Chilling stories might take a bit more persuasion!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Fingerprints and Phantoms: True Tales of Law Enforcement Encounters with the Paranormal and the Strange?

The reader can expect a collection of creepy and/or strange stories that have happened to myself or other law enforcement professionals. The chapters also include a healthy dose of law enforcement insider talk. As one reviewer on Amazon put it, “An excellent collection of paranormal stories that leave you inching a little closer to the light as you turn each page. This book was a perfect mix of terror, intrigue and a touch of humor.”

(Eek! Terror you say? I think Fingerprints and Phantoms sounds brilliant. I might just have to brace myself and dive in…)

What else have you brought along and why? 


I have brought with me a picture of my trusty magnetic fingerprint powder brush in action. This tool has been with me through many years of looking for “fingerprints” and had probably seen its share of “phantoms” along the way!

That looks amazing! Thanks so much for staying in with me this evening Paul. I’m still not entirely convinced I’m brave enough to read all of Fingerprints and Phantoms: True Tales of Law Enforcement Encounters with the Paranormal and the Strange, but I’ll give it a go!

Fingerprints and Phantoms:

True Tales of Law Enforcement Encounters with the Paranormal and the Strange


In a profession dominated by logic, law, evidence, and science, are there some things you can’t explain?

Join a veteran crime scene investigator exploring 26 chilling experiences spanning two decades. His true stories will leave you wondering if it is a criminal, or something else, going bump in the night.

Meet a young girl who receives a visit from her mother…the day after her mother is murdered.

Find out whether spirits follow those investigating their deaths home . . . and then stay.

Discover whether it is possible for someone who is not dead to be haunting his own office, and investigate a child’s toy telephone acting as a link to the other side.

Can you believe in something incredible?

This collection of strange and frightening tales is perfect for any campfire experience!

Fingerprints and Phantoms: True Tales of Law Enforcement Encounters with the Paranormal and the Strange is published by Schiffer Books and is available for purchase here.

About Paul Rimmasch


Paul Rimmasch graduated from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science and a minor in Photography. He has worked as a crime scene investigator for Weber-Metro CSI for the past 19 years and is a three-time recipient of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office Medal of Merit. Paul has certifications through The International Association for Investigations in latent fingerprint examination and forensic photography.

Paul’s first novel, The Lost Stones, was published in 2011, followed by a sequel The Lost Mine in 2015. Paul has also published scientific papers in The Journal of Forensic Identification and Ancient American magazine, and is also a contributing writer to KSL.com. He is an adjunct professor at Weber State University and is active in the training of law enforcement officers and crime scene investigators.

A Single Journey by Frankie McGowan

A Single Journey

My enormous thanks to Hannah Groves at Endeavour Media for sending me a copy of A Single Journey by Frankie McGowan in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to have my review to share with you today. Even better though, I’m so pleased that Frankie McGowan has agreed to stay in with me and tell me a bit more about the book.

A Single Journey is available for purchase here.

A Single Journey

A Single Journey

Harriet has begun to despair of her life.

With a failed relationship behind her, a business on the rocks and a flat that’s falling apart around her ears, she could really use some luck.

Elena Banbury, née Guseva, an elderly but imposing Russian woman who is Harriet’s neighbour and landlady, frequently entertains the punters at Harriet’s jewellery stall with tales of the palaces of St. Petersburg and the treasures of Fabergé. But Harriet sometimes feels, guiltily, that she could do without the endless errands that seem to fall to her as Elena’s friend.

Then, unexpectedly, when Elena dies, she leaves all her worldly goods to a grateful Harriet. In time, however, it becomes clear that others are shocked by Harriet’s good luck, too. Shocked… and very, very unhappy.

Challenged in court by Elena’s family who live in Berlin, Harriet is forced to give up her inheritance and long-dreamed-of plans for a new business, and start her life again. But with her reputation in tatters and the memory of Elena tainted, Harriet knows a great injustice has been done.

Against the advice of her friends, family and lawyers, Harriet sets off on her own, very singular journey to Berlin.

In the weeks that follow she meets rich and poor, the glamorous and the criminal, the honest and the secretive, and begins to see that perhaps she has something to learn from them all. Something to learn about herself, and something to learn about her priorities.

She knows she has to fight for justice. But, when she meets the scholarly, perceptive Neil, who generously tries to help Harriet in her mission, but who is struggling with a complicated marriage, she must also decide if she’ll fight for love, too.

A Single Journey is a compelling and lively story, combining colourful characters with a page-turning plot and romantic highs and lows.

Staying in with Frankie McGowan

I’m delighted to welcome you to Linda’s Book Bag Frankie. I’m delighted you’re here. I think I know the answer but which book have you brought along this evening?

A Single Journey

I’ve brought A Single Journey, my latest novel, which was the only book out of the dozen or so I’ve written that took me well out of my comfort zone while researching it.  I went from mugging up on antique jewellery, to understanding the lives of women in Berlin in the aftermath of the Second World War. I became incapable of knowing where to cast off, even when it strayed completely from the point of my story.  History had taught me about the dreadful atrocities that took place at that time, but it needs to be a book on its own, so who knows? Maybe one day.

(Well if A Single Journey is anything to go by, I can’t wait for that one Frankie.)

Between you and me, Linda, fairly early on during the writing phase, I was so annoyed when I realised I would have to delete a whole irrelevant chapter along with all that research, I was forced to eat practically my bodyweight in Galaxy to get me through.  Well, I say forced, but you know what I mean…

(I do indeed! And actually, I can offer you another square or two now if you like. There’s always ’emergency’ chocolate available in this house!)

I know the answer as I’ve already read it, but what can those who haven’t expect from an evening in with A Single Journey?

First of course, I’m just really hoping that readers will find it interesting enough to read to the last full stop.

(Oh they will! I speak from experience!)

My first reaction to a good review is always one of relief to know that I haven’t been wasting their time. Frankly I genuinely think readers who bother to write and tell me, or post a review online – and I take all their points really seriously – are so nice, actually trying to adopt them has crossed my mind.  Although perhaps not the one who thought his pet dog had a greater grasp on writing than me – only it turned out when he sent me an apologetic email, that he’d meant it for someone else.  But still it gave me a nasty turn I can tell you! However, I’m still basking in the view of that brilliant thriller writer, Lisa Hall, who said that A Single Journey was: ‘the perfect epic holiday read’.  Excuse me a mo, Linda, need to jump up and down again.

(I bet you do! I might join in actually – if we’re going to keep eating all that chocolate we need to burn off some calories!)

But I also hope that in reading A Single Journey, readers will discover the more sobering fact that often the law has very little to do with justice.  Take Harriet, my heroine, making just enough money to get by,  but in no way able to raise the funds needed to pay lawyers to challenge the ambitions of a very rich – actually obscenely rich – man. She has no choice but to rely on her wits, good friends and a burning sense of injustice to have any hope of competing with his money and power to succeed.  Frankly, I think buying Belgium would be cheaper.

Now, I’d vote for anyone who can find a way to make sure that money, now matter how empty or deep their pockets, is not necessarily the winner, when it comes to the price of justice.

(I loved this aspect of the novel actually. I hate injustice and felt quite enraged at times…)

Finally, so far I’ve never written a straightforward romance because, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m all that romantic myself.  Well, especially not after that business last Christmas when I mistakenly thought the host was gripped with indigestion when it turned out he was trying to come on to the woman sitting next to him, and, truly concerned, I asked him if he was feeling alright. Very awkward that.


The problem is, I’m not good at writing when it comes to the smouldering looks department, so I long ago decided to leave it to others in the Pulitzer class to do it convincingly and believably. These days I feel more comfortable with more realistic heroes who tend to have flaws. Neil, for example, in A Single Journeyis a Maths professor who knows more about right angles than romance and is constantly concerned for his health.

(He’s still a hero though!)

The truth is though, I do thoroughly enjoy reading romance – big classics like Jane Eyre or Persuasion – and I would have added Gone with the Wind only where to find the time? – are re-reads for me, but I find it difficult – and don’t think I haven’t tried – to write a convincing description of anyone who is apparently capable of making the knees of every woman within reach of his chiselled jaw and manly chest turn to rubble and –  sorry, Linda, laughing so much at such an image, I can’t finish that sentence!

(Ha! My hero is Bryan Ferry and I don’t think his chest is especially manly! Have another square of Galaxy whilst you compose yourself and I’ll ask another question.)

What else have you brought along this evening and why have you brought it?


Well a good Merlot – of course.


But I wouldn’t mind having Atticus Finch along to share a glass.  No, he doesn’t exist, but I’ve just watched To Kill a Mockingbird again, and wonder how he might have dealt with Harriet’s dilemma. Not to mention a few other current cases in court. However, having enjoyed the decades old movie – I know, I know, I should have been writing –   I might well have got him muddled up with Gregory Peck, you can’t be too careful with me.  Anyway, I’m sure either way we’d find both gentlemen compelling.

(Oh yes indeed. And he has a touch of Bryan Ferry about him don’t you think…)


Also, this Edwardian fan with hand painted roses and butterflies, sequins and lace.  I saw one just like it while I was wandering around antique markets researching A Single Journey, dead cheap too it was, when you think what fans can go for. But I dithered, and then when I went back a few days later, it was gone.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw this one online, and for a moment thought it was the same one I’d seen all those months ago. It wasn’t, but it is as near as dammit.

(A lesson there then. Get it whilst you can…)

Having just finished A Single Journey and still full of Elena Guseva – who would, I know, have had several more ornate and covetable fans – I bought it anyway from a lovely lady called Hannah at QuaintlyQuirky and love it.

(And I know Hannah has posted all about the fan and A Single Journey on her Instagram page too!)

Thank you so much for staying in with me Frankie. I’ve loved hearing more about A Single Journey because I so enjoyed reading it. In fact, here’s my review so you can see what I thought…

My Review of A Single Journey

Harriet’s business is about to be scuppered and just when she thinks life can’t get much worse – it does!

Well. I was not expecting that! From the blurb and the cover I was anticipating reading a perfectly pleasant, chick-lit style, novel that I would enjoy and then forget. How wrong could I be? A Single Journey has a depth, substance and, above all, a corker of a plot I simply wasn’t expecting.

I so enjoyed this novel. Firstly, I found Frankie McGowan’s style really engaging. She uses such a brilliant range of sentences and her syntax is is quite unique so that direct speech feels natural and real. I thoroughly appreciated the way in which her descriptions are woven throughout the narrative so that they provide vivid images without ever feeling forced. I loved being transported to Berlin.

Harriet is such a well defined character. She’s flawed, frequently behaves impetuously and rashly, and makes decisions that the rest of us can see are going to cause her problems but we are still with her all the way. It seems somewhat exaggerated to say I respected her but it’s true. She is so much more than an author’s words on the page. I found her to be the kind of woman I’d like to be friends with.

And actually, that’s true of the whole novel. A Single Journey offers so much more than a mere story, albeit a cracking one at that. There’s mystery and intrigue, romance and menace, loyalty and vengeance – far more than I had imagined when I first began reading. The underpinning theme of violent relationships is magnificently handled. Whilst it forms the glue holding the narrative together, it is never overdone so that Frankie McGowan has produced a totally believable and all the more realistic story as a result.

A Single Journey was not the book I expected to read. I was completely absorbed in the story, the people and the themes. I didn’t want to stop reading and was completely entertained. I think it would make a corker of a film or television series and I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to read it.

About Frankie McGowan


My career began on teenage magazines before joining Fleet Street writing features for among others, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror (where I was an assistant editor and columnist).

Later as a magazine editor and while bringing up Tom and Amy, my now grown up children I launched and edited New Woman and Top Sante before switching to writing the first of my novels. My short stories have been published in a variety of magazines, including You, (Mail on Sunday) Women’s Own, Home and Life, Image (Ireland), Redbook (US) The Lady and Woman’s Weekly.

You can find out more on Frankie’s website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Tour poster

Scottish Allure: A Guest Post by Maggie Christensen, Author of Isobel’s Promise

Isobel's Promise Cover MEDIUM WEB

I’m delighted to welcome back Maggie Christensen to Linda’s Book Bag. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie on publication day for The Good Sister in a post you can read here.  Then, when I began my ‘staying in with…’ posts. Maggie kindly agreed to come along and tell me about another of her books, Champagne for Breakfast in a post you’ll find here.

With Maggie’s latest book Isobel’s Promise released earlier this month I wondered what it was that drew Maggie to set part of her story in Scotland and luckily she agreed to tell me in today’s guest post.

Isobel’s Promise is available for purchase here and there is a smashing trailer you can see here.

Isobel’s Promise

Isobel's Promise Cover MEDIUM WEB

A promise for the future. A threat from the past. Can Bel find happiness?

Back in Sydney after her aunt’s death, sixty-five year-old Bel Davison is making plans to sell up her home and business and return to Scotland where she has promised to spend the rest of her life with the enigmatic Scotsman with whom she’s found love.

But the reappearance of her ex-husband combined with other unexpected drawbacks turns her life into chaos, leading her to have doubts about the wisdom of her promise.

In Scotland, Matt Reid has no such doubts, and although facing challenges of his own, he longs for Bel’s return.

But when an unexpected turn of events leads him to question Bel’s sincerity, Matt decides to take a drastic step – the result of which he could never have foreseen.

Can this midlife couple find happiness in the face of the challenges life has thrown at them?

A sequel to The Good Sister, Isobel’s Promise continues the story of Bel and Matt which began in Scotland.

Scottish Allure

A Guest Post by Maggie Christensen

When I left Scotland for Australia in my mid-twenties, I never thought that, fifty years later, I’d still be here. I loved Scotland and thought that a two-year stint on the other side of the world would satisfy my wanderlust and I’d return to live in the land of my birth and perhaps even find the little cottage on Loch Lomond that I pictured myself living in.

But it wasn’t to be. After two years I wasn’t ready to return and, after many trips back ‘home’ to visit family and friends, in 1980 I and my American-born husband took out Australian citizenship. I was here to stay.

But, as they say, you can take the girl out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out of the girl. And I’ll always have a soft spot for what is still my native land.

I have fond memories of youth-hostelling in the highlands, of walking up the side of Loch Lomond, hiking across Rannoch Moor, and evading the midges on summer evenings.

From my student days in Glasgow, I remember drinking in pubs on Byres Road on lazy afternoons, moving my student lodgings every year from tiny rooms to large shared houses, walking in Kelvin Park on long summer evenings, and queuing for the cinema on Saturday nights.

As a younger child, my memories are of playing peever in the backyard, eating Edinburgh rock, drinking IrnBru and collecting bees in jars during the summer holidays that seemed to last forever.

But not all memories are pleasant ones. I don’t miss the cold and snow which always gave me chilblains, the icy pavements I skidded on when I was hurrying to work, or the seemingly constant light rain which made my hair frizz.

It strange to me now that, when I started writing fiction, it didn’t immediately occur to me to set my books in Scotland. But when a reader asked me why I hadn’t, I suddenly realised that I had a wealth of memories to draw on – of places I knew and loved and could visit again, albeit virtually through my writing.

So, a couple of years ago, I decided to give one of the minor characters in my book, Broken Threads, an old aunt in Scotland. This was prompted by the passing of an aunt of mine who would call me every year on my birthday and, in her thick Scottish accent, ask ‘Do you know who this is, Margaret?’

Broken Threads

While Bel’s Aunt Isobel is not modelled on this aunt – she’s modelled on another one – she became the basis for my first Scottish novel, The Good Sister, which was published last year. I loved writing that book so much. As I wrote the places of my childhood and teenage years came alive for me again and it was as if I was back there – in Scotland. Even words and phrases I hadn’t heard for years came back into my mind as I wrote.

The Good Sister

It was inevitable that I would continue Bel and Matt’s journey in Isobel’s Promise. Writing this book took me back to Scotland again, to the beautiful Loch Lomond where Matt lives, to the Glasgow of my student days – Byres Road, the pubs, now much gentrified and into the heart of the city whose renaissance I had first researched while writing The Good Sister.

While I’ll never go back to Scotland to live, I will set more books there. It’s too tempting a prospect to once again steep myself in the countryside I still love and to bring back memories that I’d all but forgotten. While Scotland may be a world away from where I live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I can open my computer and be there in a flash – enjoy the scenery, hear the dialect, and visit all my favourite places with my characters.

(And not only have you made us want to read your books, Maggie, but you’ve made me want to visit Scotland.)

About Maggie Christensen


After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.

From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound.

A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.

You can follow Maggie on Twitter @MaggieChriste33, find her on Facebook and visit her website. You’ll also find Maggie on Goodreads.

Staying in with Ian Kennedy

Florida Station - Broken Cosmos - Ian Kennedy

A genre I very rarely feature on Linda’s Book Bag is sci-fi and so I’m determined to put right that omission. With that in mind, I’ve invited Ian Kennedy to stay in with me today to tell me about one of his books!

Staying in with Ian Kennedy

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Ian and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thanks for allowing me this opportunity!

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

Florida Station - Broken Cosmos - Ian Kennedy

I have brought along my first book which is the start of my sci-fi trilogy. It’s called Florida Station: Broken Cosmos Volume One. It has been self-published on Amazon for a few months now. In fact, the entire trilogy is up on Amazon all at once. I chose this book as it was my debut novel. I am constantly writing new work, but this started it all.


I’m not particularly au fait with sci-fi so what can we expect from an evening in with Florida Station?

The best way to describe the Broken Cosmos trilogy and Florida Station would be to expect a dystopian cyberpunk space opera. It’s quite a mouthful, but it sums it up nicely. Each book flows into the next and it is more one story in three volumes rather than three separate books.

(This sounds interesting. Tell me more.)

The novel deals with the dangers of belief, addiction, and propaganda. It also deals with what it is to be a good person, mental health and the costs of war. It also looks at the danger of letting technology become all controlling in the process of zetting (a term I made up to describe the process of logging one’s consciousness into a computer and debugging the system with one’s mind.)

(I think I could do with a bit of zetting myself Ian actually!)

I’ll continue with someone else’s words. This is part of a review from someone on Amazon:

This book was a blast to read, the basic storyline follows three major characters as they struggle to survive in a dystopian future that’s both fascinating and bizarre. Their struggles are engaging in a sophisticated way — there are no heroes here, just humans scrabbling for existence. And although there are conflicts with physical enemies (i.e., other humans), the internal conflicts (addiction, suicide, loneliness) were much more moving, and were explored thoughtfully.

The world Kennedy has created is a post-apocalyptic one — humanity has achieved spaceflight, but only to the edges of our own solar system. In many ways though, humanity has become vastly ignorant and deeply superstitious, both tribal and violent. There are some fun flourishes here — religion has changed in ways that are both recognizable and grotesque. It’s a low technology world — no hyperdrives or ansibles or “beam me up Scotty” here, just a grim struggle for survival.

And finally the writing — there’s startling emotional resonance in places, where the book was really moving. And I loved the description of zetting — as a computer programmer by profession, I got a real kick out of that part!” – Ying Xiao

(That must have made your day – what a smashing review.)

What else have you brought along and why?

I have brought along YouTube.

(Eh? The whole of YouTube?)

Bear with me, please. I love writing, and I find inspiration from all over, but I love to write to music. I just find that if I put on some music while I write things just flow. My favourite type of music for writing is most forms of electronic music especially trance music. It just lets me think and write easily.

There are some forms of music I cannot write to, particularly death metal. It is just too jarring. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes death metal is fine, but not for when I’m writing.

(Death metal is not for me – ever!)

Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Dash Berlin, Deadmau5 and artists of the like are what I’m talking about. But I also like listening to rock-ish style music like Placebo, Muse or Yellowcard.

It’s difficult to describe but if the music is right, the words will flow.

Unfortunately, I need silence to edit as I have to concentrate hard on what I have written. It is a shame, as I like listening to music. But the editing must be done!

(It must indeed! A crucial part of the writing process I think!)

Thanks so much for staying in with me and enlightening me about Sci-fi and Florida Station in particular Ian. All the very best with your writing.

Florida Station

Florida Station - Broken Cosmos - Ian Kennedy

It is the 26th century. Zetting is the process of debugging a computer system by inserting a needle into one’s skull and navigating the computer’s circuits with one’s consciousness. Zetting is addictive and dangerous, but a huge rush.

​Alfred is a zetter. He lives and works on the run-down Florida Station, a space station orbiting Jupiter, controlled by the Solar Solutions Corporation.

​Alfred uncovers evidence of a conspiracy during a zet. It leads him down a path that will endanger everything he holds dear as he figures out what is going wrong on Florida Station.

Draz is a scavenger on a destroyed Earth ruled over by the Collective Zone. She becomes caught up in a civil war that has raged for decades after she finds an ancient hard drive, while scavenging, that contains important plans. To put things right she has to fight for her survival in a hostile Solar System.

​Artisius, the captain of the merchant ship Green Dragon, must negotiate a passage between Solar Solutions and the Collective Zone, which are in a state of cold war. He is trying to make a not so honest living.

​Never underestimate the power, and the danger, of hope.

Florida Station is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

About Ian Kennedy

Ian Kennedy - interview picture

Ian Kennedy is a new author. He has been published a number of times in the Flinders University Writers’ Journal. Ian has always enjoyed writing and while completing a law degree at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, he never stopped writing small pieces of fiction, particularly science fiction. The work in the law degree helps Ian construct persuasive dialogue and use language effectively.

Ian worked as a lawyer before turning to writing full time.

Ian has a passion for science fiction. With his debut science fiction space opera novels of the Broken Cosmos trilogy: Florida Station, Martian Flight, and Neptune’s War, Ian explores humanity, war, mental illness and what it is to survive in a hostile Solar System.

You can visit Ian’s website, follow him on Twitter @ikennedyauthor and find him on Facebook.

Staying in with Lizella Prescott


Here on Linda’s Book Bag I’m really rather partial to a psychological thriller so it gives me very great pleasure to stay in with Lizella Prescott today as she has a new psychological thriller out.

Staying in with Lizella Prescott

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Lizella. Thanks so much for staying in with me. What book have you brought to share and why have you chosen it?


Thank you for inviting me to stop by! Because it’s a warm summer night and you might be feeling a little sleepy, I brought Killing the UnicornJust recently released, this psychological thriller will inject some life into this quiet evening at home. It has an unreliable narrator who will keep you guessing and lots of action at the end. It also touches on how power imbalances between men and women can distort relationships.

(Congratulations and a belated Happy Publication Day. I love an unreliable narrator so I’m very glad you’re here this evening with Killing the Unicorn.)

Tell me, what can we expect from an evening with Killing the Unicorn?

You can expect to feel a cool, creeping dread as you enter the story of Helen and Mann, a wealthy, late-thirtysomething couple in Silicon Valley who decide to open their marriage. While they seem like loving partners, you may get the queasy sense that something is wrong. Helen is still suffering PTSD from the traumatic delivery of her twins two years ago, and Mann is frustrated that she’d rather sleep or eat chocolate than be intimate with him.

When they bring Julia into their marriage, you may begin to question their judgment. Only twenty-four years old, Julia has a tragic back story and tries too hard to win the affection of the couple’s two-year-old daughters. She also does a few strange things that make Helen think she’s lying about her past and even engaging in risky behavior. However, because Helen enjoys her wine a bit too much, you will also wonder if her fears are all in her head, driven by her own demons rather than anything real.

If you’re not careful, you’ll stay up late trying to figure out what’s really going on.

(Wooo. I like the sound of Killing the Unicorn very much indeed.)

What else have you brought along and why?


I brought a soft pillow for when Mann and Helen’s dysfunctional antics make you want to hit something and a cup of soothing herbal tea to help you fall asleep, just as soon you’re ready to put the book down.

herbal tea

Given what you’ve told me about Killing the Unicorn, I can’t see me wanting to put down the book very quickly! Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it Lizella. Enjoy what’s left of your publication day.

Killing the Unicorn


She inhabited my dull, threadbare marriage and made it into something glamorous and exciting. Gentle reader, I hated her…


Since having twins, Helen has lost her waistline, her libido, and her edge. Mann, her wealthy, high-flying husband, has tried to be patient. But he needs more than she can give. A lot more.

When he asks to open their marriage, Helen reluctantly agrees. She would rather bend than risk a high-stakes divorce.


When Mann connects with Julia, Helen is relieved. At first. She likes Julia, a gentle woman with a tragic history. But her husband is moving fast. Too fast. And a series of odd events unnerves Helen and makes her wonder if Julia is lying about her past…or worse.

Helen becomes obsessed with Julia even as she questions herself and her motives. To protect her children and her sanity, she is driven to discover the truth: is Julia a danger to her family, or is she?

Killing the Unicorn is available for purchase on your local Amazon site.

About Lizella Prescott


Lizella Prescott colours outside the genres. She routinely travels between the realms of suspense, fantasy, and experimental short fiction. She also dabbles in domestic noir, Greek mythology, and Dystopian. You can read her work and weirdness on Medium.

When she’s not dreaming up new ways to torture fairy princesses, Lizella writes corporate copy under a different pseudonym and tries to keep up with one husband, two kids, and four large dogs.

You’ll find Lizella on GoodreadsFacebook and Medium and you can follow her on Twitter @LizellaPrescott. There’s more information on Lizella’s website too.

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.