Staying in with Little Bean Seeds

one century friendship

I have been amazed at how many authors I’ve had the chance to ‘meet’ through this Staying in with feature on Linda’s Book Bag. throughout the year. In my final post of 2018 I am meeting another new to me author, Little Bean Seeds.

Staying in with Little Bean Seeds

Hi Little Bean Seeds (LBS). 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?

one century friendship

I brought with me a book named One Century Friendship. One day while straightening up my bookshelf, I came upon a little story that I wrote during my teenage years.  It was the homework for a class for non-native English students, so you can imagine how “easy” it was for me to write.

As I flipped through the pages, grammatical mistakes were everywhere, word use was inaccurate, and the plot was a bit loose. However, reading from paragraph to paragraph, I could still remember the effort I put in to finish the book.

Yes, the teenage time is filled with trial and error. During that period, you may make many mistakes and have what adults call “unrealistic,” “impractical,” “totally unrelated to preparing to make a living” thoughts flashing across your mind every week. Oh! Those ideas may even hit you every second. And I was no exception!

(Actually, I don’t think those thoughts are confined to teenage years LBS!)

I was not aiming to be a writer, because I did not think I was good at putting my imagination into words. However, flipping through the self-written storybook was like talking to the teenage “me.” So, I decided to rewrite the story and dedicate it to the teenage me and let her know that it’s who she was in the past that has formed the present me.

(What a lovely idea!)

If you are a dad or mum now, share this book with your children and let them to have the courage to make friends and learn how to maintain friendship.

If you are in your teenage time now, I hope this book gives you a chance to think about your relationships with friends.

If you are an adult, I hope you enjoy reading the book and that it helps you to recapture some of your wild teenage experiences with your friends.

(Those are super suggestions LBS.)

What can we expect from an evening in with One Century Friendship?

In One Century Friendship, Helen and her three friends scamper off from the main campsite towards the ruined cottage. Despite Miss J. Smith’s warnings, Shelly’s persuasive remarks make each of the four friends grow even more curious as they wonder what the house contains. As they near the place, their fear starts rising. A peek through the window is not enough and soon they are inside the house. On the inside, the cottage seems disappointing until things start happening and Mark goes missing. What started as playful fun turns to dread as the remaining three friends notice his absence. Worse still, they are afraid of confiding in Miss J. Smith since they disobeyed her instructions from the start.

(One Century Friendship sounds fascinating.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

music

I bring along with me Miguel – Remember Me that blog readers can listen to here.

It is one of my favorite songs. If you play this song when you read One Century Friendship, you will have much deeper feeling.

I just listened and it’s a lovely song LBS. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about One Century Friendship. I wish you all the best for it.

One Century Friendship

one century friendship

 You might be wondering, “How long does a friendship last?”

If you ask Helen Macland, she will tell you, “More than a person’s lifespan.”

You say, “Is that possible?”

“Yes, if you meet Hollace William,” she will reply.

One Century Friendship is available or pre-order through these links.

About Little Bean Seeds

Little Bean Seeds (LBS) is a Certified Public Accountant who lives in Hong Kong. She has known herself to be a bookworm ever since she was a primary school student. While most of the other children were running and jumping in the playground during break time, she would go to the library and stick her face in a book until the bell rang. She loves many different kinds of books—self-help, detective, romance, finance, health—and more.

In her eyes, books are one of the best channels for communicating messages. LBS perceives a writer’s role as like that of a farmer planting seeds. What she wants is for her readers to understand the book’s message and be helped in some way: have their mood changed, be pleased and entertained, or even encouraged to build a better self. The seeding job takes time, and it is better to start the seed earlier than later. That is why she chose to get her writing start with children’s stories, and also where the pen name “Little Bean Seeds” came from.

Writing is also about stepping out of one’s comfort zone. That is actually much easier to say than to do, especially when no one in your social network doing the same thing, saying, “It is just too difficult for me!” But most of the time, the difficulty comes from yourself more than those around you.

LBS would like to hear thoughts on this from others too. Share with her your story about stepping out of your comfort zone on “jump out of the comfort zone” in her website.

Staying in with Alexander Watson

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One of the joys of blogging is that I get to find out about all kinds of books from all kinds of authors and I love the way in which fiction can blur and challenge so-called ‘usual’ boundaries. Today I’m delighted to feature a slightly different book as I stay in with Alexander Watson.

Staying in with Alexander Watson

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

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I brought River Queens: Saucy boat, stout mates, spotted dog, America because it represents two distinctive and unique journeys. It is an LGBTQIA+ travel memoir which follows two urbane and homosexual men, across the rural and conservative American Heartland from Texas to Ohio, the Buckle of the Bible Belt, in a vintage motor yacht. It is also my foray into self publishing—the result of a brilliant stroke of luck.

(Sounds intriguing. Tell me more…)

My draft read like those overly long captions people give to their holiday snaps: “We were here and we did this. We were there and we did that.”—hardly gripping stuff. I knew I needed help. I knew I needed a professional editor. And not knowing where to start, I asked everyone I could think for advice. One came up with this:

“Hire an agent. The agent will sell the book to a house. The house will supply the editor.” Then added, “But I gotta tell you. Self-publishing is eating our lunch.”

Traditional publishing, thusly stated, loses its luster.

Interviews with prospects numbered into the dozens before I emailed John Baskin at Orange Frazer Press: Wilmington, Ohio who said, “Send me some stuff.”

We started with the basics.

“Alexander,” Mr. Baskin said, “You have to write a line; then write another line; and the two have to have something to do with each other.”

(That sounds like pretty good advice to me!)

Had I not contracted Mr. Baskin, Bryan Mealer (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) would not have written the back-cover blurb; Melissa Fay Greene (The Temple Bombing, Praying for Sheetrock, The Underdogs) would not have written the foreword—both were beyond my reach. Orange Frazer would not have pressed my book, and Ms. Hawley, the publisher, would not have called and said, “River Queens is here. There’s a problem. Can you drive up?”

Wilmington is an hour away of my Cincinnati, Ohio home.

A greenhorn like me would never have seen that the dust jackets had been trimmed infinitesimally short; a bookie would spot it instantly. And, even though the launch was only days away, Ms. Hawley saw to it that I did have plenty of books with well-fitting jackets to sign.

It was a vanity press experience which defies the prevailing consensus.

(It all sounds rather exciting to me. I’m sure other writers will be envious of how it all worked out for you Alexander.)

What can we expect from an evening in with River Queens?

River Queens welcomes the reader on board a boat, Dale’s and my boat, a 1955 Chris-Craft Corsair named Betty Jane. Together with our dog, Doris Faye, we travel across an America few really know exists. The reader meets the people who live and work according to the seafarer’s code: “Always render aid.” It is my countrymen contradicting the persona we broadcast through our media and politics.

River Queens is also a bromance which candidly depicts the adaptations of our same-sex union made to accommodate conditions beyond homo-safe and familiar big-city Dallas, Texas. How we handle the ever changing conditions of the boat, the river, and landlubbing life beyond its banks drives the narrative.

What else have you brought along and why?

Doris Below cropped

I brought Doris Faye.

(She’s utterly gorgeous.)

Sit. No, sit.

She can’t sit bless her heart, she’s Dalmatian. That tail never stops wagging either.

(I’ll just move a couple of breakables aside…)

Dale and I got her when we owned rental property. If I wasn’t working on our own units, I handymanned for other landlords of low-income, subsidized housing.

I hired—usually a resident, usually in exchange for cigarettes—someone to keep an eye on my truck. One day an addict said, “Man, I don’t wanna do some other guy out of a job, but you oughta get a dog. Junkies aren’t afraid of dirty needles, but we sure are afraid of dog bite. You oughta get yourself a dog, Man.”

(Doris Faye doesn’t look much of a guard dog to me Alexander. She looks as if she’s smiling.)

Doris Faye was ten pounds underweight, had kennel cough, inexpertly spayed, dumped and abandoned to her own devices because the cute little black and white puppy she was one Christmas morning after the re-release of One Hundred and One Dalmatians grew up to be a dog. She figures largely in River Queens as our morale officer on board and our goodwill ambassador in port—whatever Dale and I were; we had a good-looking dog.

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I also moored Betty Jane out there just beyond your back stoop. I hope you don’t mind.

(Not at all, though I thought our pond was looking crowded!)

Even with the evening fog settling in over the river, you can make out her mid-century lines, the smoothed corners and bull-nosed edges. She’s forty-five feet long with twin Chevrolet 350s to push her about ten miles per hour depending on wind and current, of course. We found her sinking on a Texas lake one cold February night. What you see there is two years of hard restoration and sixteen years of meticulous maintenance.

Deckhouse in the Aftnoon

(She looks fantastic now.)

What is not apparent is how much joy and pleasure she has brought us. She has tempered us into almost one choreographed unit, capitalizing on our individual strengths. Dale is captain; I am the deckhand. We anticipate each other’s decisions and trace each other’s movements almost without speaking though moments of pique are in the book. Otherwise it would be a fairy tale (pardon the pun) rather than a story of two men whose appreciation of life comes from the people met while aboard a boat. That is the story of River Queens.

I really like the sound of River Queens Alexander. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it. And thanks for bringing Doris Faye too.

River Queens

RQ_frontcover_7-27-18

The river – any river – is another planet, with its own language, rules, and culture.

River Queens is a story of the unlikeliest of fellows (and a dog) coming to the river-and what happens to them once they arrive.

At first glance, it seems to be a how-to manual for any adventuresome (but perhaps foolhardy) type who’s ever thought of restoring a wooden yacht and sailing it halfway across the country.

Second glance, however, shows that it’s a classic travel narrative in which two intrepid (but perhaps foolhardy) explorers head out to tour what is usually called “a distant, alien world.”

To Alexander Watson and his partner, Dale Harris, the river is as exotic as any foreign locale they’d previously traversed. There is danger, of course – unpredictable nature, lurking water hazards, quickly rising human squalls but the initial difficulty is language: can they become fluent in the argot of harbormasters, helmsmen, navigators, and the various deck hands, skippers, and swabbies? The language of river people is gloriously colorful and idiosyncratic, and Watson has a gift for capturing it. River talk is the animated essence of River Queens, in which these typically hard-working people are rendered so specifically, in all their salty humanity, that they become a kind of tribe, passing Watson and Harris along from outpost to outpost, encumbered by their hospitality.

This is the genius of River Queens, in which Watson’s sensibility is so adroit that he captures perfectly the two sides of America that seem elsewhere on permanent outs. Here on the river, though, they become assembled in a near-perfect unity, displaying a charity that seems to be missing on the inland geography. With happy authority and never a condescending glance (well, only where one is deserved), Captain Watson gives us a striking, often hilarious picture of river life, elevating its savvy inhabitants into the first rank of admirable Americans and showing us finally how little divided America actually can be.

River Queens is at once a romance of men and the river, a fantasy come to life, an unparalleled adventure story, one of the best travel journals around and a glad picture for our turbulent times.

River Queens is available for purchase through the links here.

About Alexander Watson

alex

Alexander Watson’s interest in writing came at an early age. His grandparents were world travelers, the Mame Dennis and Beauregard Burnside of their day. They sent postcards and letters from around the globe; but for young Alexander to receive, he had to give. Reading of their exploits and reciprocating with his own cultivated Alexander Watson’s ability to convey the color of places even as remote as a child’s imagination and render fascinating the petty businesses of the people who lived therein.

You can find out more through visiting the River Queens website, and following Alexander on Twitter @riverqueenbook and Goodreads. You’ll also find River Queens on Facebook.

Staying in with Andrew Carter

The Thing Is

Having reached a point where I’m probably two thirds of the way through my life, I seem to be reminiscing about the past increasingly frequently these days. When Andrew Carter got in touch about his latest book I realised I’m not the only one so I invited Andrew to stay in with me on Linda’s Book Bag and tell me all about it.

Staying in with Andrew Carter

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

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to do this feature. As a relatively new author starting out, any opportunity to get my work out to potential readers is massively appreciated.

(It’s my pleasure. I’m hoping to be in your position myself one day and I know how hard it is to get your book noticed.)

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

image2

I have brought my second book, The Thing Is, which has just come out, published by Proverse. The book is a collection of (hopefully amusing and entertaining) anecdotal tales from my life so far. I’ll admit, this doesn’t sound too spectacular and I probably need a new pitch but, if you stay with me, hopefully, I can sell it a bit…

(Oh, I don’t know. If your life has been anything like mine The Thing Is could be a real eye opener!)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Thing Is?

The book begins with one of the strangest, and worst, days of my life. I was 19 and on my gap year. It is impossible to say gap year without sounding middle class and annoying, isn’t it? To be honest, I imagine I was pretty annoying at 19. I was an idiot.

(Many 19 year olds frequently are I think…)

Anyway, after saving up through call centres by day and fast food outlets by night, my pals and went on a (insert cliché here) round-the-world travelling trip. We’d had an incredible time in Asia, Australia and South America, experiencing new cultures and traditions, trying exciting new activities, and forming lasting bonds with like-minded souls (drank too much, run out money, crashed a scooter and attempted to romance foreign women with little success.)

(That sounds like a pretty compulsory approach!)

Our trip culminated in Rio De Janeiro and we arrived at the airport for our flight home hungover, exhausted and ready for some boiled vegetables. Sadly I realized I’d left my passport in the pockets of some shorts I’d spilled red wine on and thrown in a bin at our hostel the previous evening. I urged my pals to go home without me and, following a fairly severe public breakdown where I was moved along by airport staff, went to an internet café to cry a bit and email my mum. On opening my Hotmail account, I discovered a new email in broken English from the one foreign lady I’d had a modicum of romance with. A Bolivian. She said she was pregnant and the baby was mine. Bad day, eh?

(Er – probably not your most stress-free I imagine. Having been to Rio I can see that the location might have been tricky too Andrew.)

Hopefully this tale gets readers invested in the book, which then goes back to my childhood days with stories of playground tough guys, Sunday League football and bizarre family traditions, such as the time my mother made me wear half a boiled onion strapped to the side of my head to supposedly cure a bout of an earache.

(That made me laugh. I immediately had a vision of you complete with onion.)

The book then explores my formative years with park cider sessions, fake IDs, clumsy attempts at finding a girlfriend, and my time as a guitarist in a (fairly appalling) punk rock band. I particularly enjoyed writing about this period when life was, in turn, exhilarating and excruciating. Indeed, these years have shaped who I’ve become and my taste in fashion, music, films and friends has not changed all that much in the subsequent 15 + years. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m not sure.

In the final third, I share anecdotes from my twenties including the gap year travels, meeting my wife at university and trying that little bit too hard to look cool (spikey sideburns and an overplaying of my interest in drum and bass music). There are also chapters about a range of poor to terrible jobs I’ve had, as well as my clueless post-university period, which resulted in clearing off to China to teach English.

I’ve been fortunate to have a good upbringing and travel around the world etc., but I haven’t climbed Everest barefoot or wrestled sharks and I’m aware that on paper my life hasn’t been all that remarkable. I hope, though, this is where the charm lies and people will enjoy reading stories they can relate to.

(I think The Thing Is sounds very entertaining.)

What else have you brought along and why?

carling

I have brought four pints of Carling with me. I don’t particularly like Carling but it used to be £1.29 in The Three Horseshoes, my local pub. In my teens and early twenties, if I scrabbled together £6, I could have four pints, a packet of KP nuts and one go on Deal or No Deal on the quiz machine. What more do you need in life? There were periods where my friends and I would do this 3-4 nights a week and we had some wonderful evenings.

(Having lived on rum and black whilst playing the space invaders machine every lunch time at university, I can see where you’re coming from here Andrew.)

When I read a book, I like to feel that the story could have been told by a pal in the pub, and I hope The Thing Is has this effect. For the most part, it’s a fun, light-hearted read, but I’d like to think there are deeper, more touching parts too. A bit like when you’re on that fourth pint and open up about how you feel about that girl at work, or how life isn’t necessarily going as well as you make it out to be.

Now that I have a wife, a son and a mortgage, I don’t go to the pub and have four pints of Carling with my friends all that often. I’m not complaining as life is great now and spending nursery fees on lager is frowned upon, but I do miss those carefree evenings. In many ways, writing The Thing Is replaced the role of The Three Horseshoes. It’s been a chance to blow off steam, talk nonsense and reminisce, and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

I hope they do too Andrew. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about The Thing Is and good luck with it.

The Thing Is

The Thing Is

Andrew Carter is a man in his thirties with a wife and child, greying hair and a tendency to go to bed before 10pm. His second book, The Thing Is, is a collection of charming and hilarious tales about all that went on before.

From a childhood where he cheated in chess tournaments and tough kids stole his SNES games, he grows into an adolescence including dalliances with drink and drugs, attempts at punk rock stardom and an overwhelming desire to look cool in front of girls.

Wanderlust takes him across the globe where there’s a spot of bother in Bolivia, Australia in a battered van, a police chase in the Greek mountains and a stint as a minor celebrity in Hong Kong.

There are late nights and fistfights, Sunday league struggles, call centre hell, a campus love story and a whole lot more.

Like a perfect conversation with your pals in the pub, you’ll feel fuzzy with nostalgia, wince in recognition and laugh out loud.

The Thing Is is available for purchase here.

About Andrew Carter

image1

Andrew Carter is an author from Leeds. His first novel, Bright Lights and White Nights, a comedy crime caper inspired by the three years he spent living in Hong Kong, was published by Proverse in 2015 and received critical acclaim.

Since then, Andrew has written articles for Forbes, Coconuts Hong Kong, and Leeds City Dweller.

His second book, The Thing Is, a hilarious collection of anecdotal tales, is out now.

Andrew has a day job as a probation officer and lives with his wife and young son in Leeds.

For regular blogs and book excerpts, please visit Andrew’s Facebook page. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter @andyc1421.

Staying in with Leslie Jones

SPIRAL FRONT COVER NOV JPEG

It’s been a busy 2018 with Staying in with… posts on Linda’s Book Bag and I’m delighted to welcome another new to me author, Leslie Jones, to stay in with me today to tell me about one of their books.

Staying in with Leslie Jones

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

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

SPIRAL FRONT COVER NOV JPEG

I’ve brought along my debut novel, Spiral. If you’re sharing this then you will have, like me, strong recollections of England in the ‘Sixties, or curiosity about an era when many of the things we take for granted now did not exist. You might recall a time when our lives were not dominated by smartphones or social media. Can you remember, or imagine, when phone calls were often made from call boxes – when the nearest thing to social media was a library – and when social networking meant going to the pub?

(Having been brought up in a village where entertainment meant pressing button B in the red phone box, I can relate to this entirely Leslie. We did have a pub but the nearest library was 16 miles away via a weekly bus.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Spiral?

When I started writing Spiral four years ago, I decided to set the story in the early part of the ‘Sixties to create an interesting backdrop. However, I soon realised the joy of writing had turned into a cathartic exercise in unpacking from my mind the memories lying hidden in the recesses – perhaps before age faded then too much. Throughout the novel, I have threaded in much of what I can recall of the early part of the decade: sometimes small details that, for some reason stuck in my mind.

I have tried to write in a way that will enable the reader to see what I am depicting – in that way, an evening in with Spiral should be a great alternative to watching a film on TV.

(I think an evening in with a book is always preferable to watching a film on TV actually…)

A reader left a very encouraging review to this effect:

I found the main character very reminiscent of Joe Lambton who was at the centre of John Braine’s Man at the Top book and TV series. In fact, the characterisation was so well done that in my mind I cast a young Phil Daniels (Eastenders) as the cheeky, ever optimistic, Frank.

(That’s a smashing response.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

steak pud

Well, I’ll cook supper first. It will, of course, be meat and two veg – perhaps my favourite steak and kidney pudding!

(Ooo. You can come back again if you’re going to cook comfort food Leslie.)

Maybe some background music: some of the UK chart hits from the early ‘Sixties, especially the Beetles. Of course, smartphones, tabs and laptops will be banned!

Before committing to an evening in with Spiral, I thought it might be worthwhile to gain a feel for the main character, Frank. This is not an excerpt from the book but I have brought a ‘Day in the life of Frank.’ This reflects his character and will also give you an idea of how the story is written.

Thursday 24th January 1963

Frank squeezes his eyes closed as the familiar intensifying light of the Goblin Teasmade penetrates his eyelids. He knows the persistent buzzing indicating the tea was ready would follow and, his eyes still shut, he leans across and switches off the alarm, avoiding the unwelcome intrusion to his waking moments. A dull throb towards the back of his head reminds him of the “lock in” at the Stag’s Head. If only he’d avoided the invitation to stay for one more.

Helen is already up and about, he notes with no surprise – she would be downstairs preparing breakfast. He wonders if he’s in trouble. Perhaps a tad – after all, he didn’t get in ’til 1 pm, and he probably woke her despite his efforts to be quiet. But things were going well – and Helen acknowledged he was working hard to provide a secure and prosperous future for her and Peter. A late night might be forgiven every now and then.

After pouring himself a cup of tea, he sits up in bed, reaches for his packet of Rothmans, lights one and lays his aching head back on the pillow. The first drag on his cigarette makes his head spin – but a few sips of over-strong tea helps to calm that down. He smiles contentedly.

‘Peter! Come on, your breakfast is ready!’

This was Helen. He imagines her standing at the foot of the stairs, holding a pan of Quakers Porridge Oats, staring impatiently upwards towards their son’s bedroom door. Seconds later, Frank hears the door across the landing banging open followed shortly after by the sound small feet tapping rapidly down the stairs. Peter had roused. Frank grins, knowing his son would be eager to administer the ritual swirling of Tate & Lyles syrup into the grey glutinous mass that represented his breakfast.

The smell of cooking bacon drifts upstairs. Despite his hangover, Frank realises he is hungry. He climbs out of bed and lurches uncertainly to the bathroom across the landing. ‘Bloody hell it’s cold!’ he mutters, hoping Helen had lit the fire downstairs.

‘Come on Frank, you’re going to be late if you don’t get a move on!’ Helen yells up the stair well

‘I’m getting dressed, darling! Be down in a minute!’

Frank studies himself in the mirror as he adjusts his woollen tie, a recent birthday present from Helen. He smiles at his reflection, admiring the “rugged but handsome”, Helen’s description, face staring back at him. He grabs his tweed jacket from the back of the chair where he had placed it with surprising neatness, given his inebriated state the night before, scoops up his packet of Rothmans and zippo lighter from the bedside table, and heads downstairs.

***

He stares at his empty plate, full only a few minutes ago with bacon, two crisp rashers with rind on, two fried eggs, slightly runny, the way he likes them, a pork chipolata, black pudding and, his favourite: fried bread.

‘That was smashing darling, just what the doctor ordered,’ he says. He sees that Peter, having demolished his bowl of porridge, is now mashing egg soldiers into his mouth.

‘Well, no wonder you’re so hungry – you didn’t make it home for supper last night and…’

‘I did tell you I wouldn’t be home ’til late. I couldn’t let old Fred down. He’s been with the company since before the War.’

Frank’s good humour vanishes in anticipation of the nagging he thinks he’s about to receive. He fumbles in his pocket for his cigarettes and lights one.

‘Well, you might have called. I didn’t expect you to be that late. I take it you’ll be back early today? Oh Frank, didn’t you agree you wouldn’t smoke at the table when Peter’s around?’

‘You’re right, I did. Sorry. Look, I’d better be off. See you later.’

‘Aren’t you forgetting something?’

Frank leans down and brushes the top of Helen’s head with a brief kiss, ruffling Peter’s hair as he passes his high chair. Peter grins up at him, his mouth plastered in egg yolk; Frank hopes his son would not insist on kissing him goodbye.

‘Don’t be late tonight, Frank, I’m cooking your favourite: “Mixed Grill”.

***

The saloon bar in the Avondale is full of the normal throng of lunchtime drinkers.

‘One more?’

Frank glances at his watch. ‘I shouldn’t really – I’m interviewing at three – the new sales position.’

‘Go on, one more won’t hurt. I’ll drop you back at the depot by quarter to.’ This was Bob, one of the depot van drivers and a regular drinking acquaintance.

‘Aren’t you supposed to be in Guildford this afternoon?’

Bob grins. ‘No problem, I’ll put my foot down. Never been late before.’

‘What if the Police stop you? Come on, Bob, you’ve necked four pints so far!’

‘They’ll have to catch me first! Oh, stop worrying Frank – a few pints won’t affect my driving. Why would the Police want to stop me?’

‘Suppose you’re right. Okay, but only one more!’

***

Frank studies the young woman sitting across the other side of his desk. ‘Not bad, not bad at all,’ whispers his inner voice, as his eyes appraised he with the expertise of a serial womaniser.

‘Well, you do have an impressive record – at least on paper. But how do you think you’ll cope in this type of work? After all, most of our sales reps are men, and the customers you would be dealing with are as well. You might find it a bit…’

‘Oh, I don’t think that would be an issue. I can handle men and…’

‘I’m sure you can,’ Frank replies, grinning back and trying hard not to stare at her cleavage. ‘Anyway, I’ll be in touch.’

A few minutes after the young woman had left, Bob, the Managing Director, stands framed in the doorway.

‘Don’t tell me you’re taking her on, Frank,’ he says, lighting his pipe.

‘I’ve not decided yet, Bob, there’s a few more to interview yet. But she seems very capable and I reckon if…’

Bob waves his pipe, cutting him off. ‘She’d be with us for five minutes before she’s pregnant – and where will that leave us? Are the other applicants all men?’

‘Yes, they are, but shouldn’t we…?’

‘Oh, stop being so gallant, Frank. We’ve got enough women working here doing what they’re good at: administration. Round pegs, round holes, eh Frank?’

Franks stares at the empty doorway for several seconds after Bob made his exit. He frowns, wondering if it was Bob’s pre-emptive overruling of his employment decision, which undermined his authority, or the fact he had lost a possible prospect for a dalliance.

***
Frank takes a circuitous route home. Helen’s instruction that he should not be late plays repeatedly in his mind. But he needs to make a phone call, one that could not be made from the office in case it was overheard, and not from somewhere where someone might see him and wonder what he was up to. He drives to the next town and stops at the Red Lion where he knows a coin operated phone booth outside the gents offered the prospect of a private conversation.

That’s so evocative of the era Leslie. Thank you, both for introducing Frank and for staying in with me to chat all about Spiral. Now, where’s that steak and kidney pudding you promised me?

Spiral

SPIRAL FRONT COVER NOV JPEG

At the dawn of the 1960’s, Frank Armstrong had it all: a flash car, smart clothes, a good job with career prospects. With his foot firmly on the corporate ladder, rapid promotion seemed certain. Of course, winning the affections of the Boss’s daughter, Helen, went some way to providing a leg up – but Frank is a man of charm and wit, someone for whom doors will always open.
If only he’d realised what he had! Unfortunately, contrary to his carefully manicured persona, Frank has a flawed side to his character, one anchored in a past he can never quite let go of. He has a liking for booze, and a wandering eye – a lethal combination! He makes rash decisions, each one his last – at least that’s what he promises himself. But an apparently well-intentioned act of bravado sets him on a course for disaster, one that will see him losing everything: his wife, his son, his job – his self-respect.

Ever the optimist, he plans his way back. But is it too late?
With several interconnecting sub plots, the reader will follow Frank’s journey against the backdrop of the emerging recreational drug culture and the attitudes of the time – a time when phone calls were made from call boxes, and social networking meant going to the pub.

Spiral is a tale of love and betrayal, obsession and addiction, good and evil. Ultimately, it is a story about human fallibilities, self-awakening, and the realities of life at a time very different from the one we live in today.

Spiral is available for purchase here.

About Leslie Jones

LES AUTHOR

Leslie Jones is an avid reader but new to the writing game – Spiral is his first novel. His job, which involves teaching leadership and management and HR qualification programmes in the Middle East means that he is abroad for a week or two most months when he uses down-time productively for writing.

Leslie is a baby boomer – and Spiral is aimed at that generation. Leslie writes in a way that might appeal to those who can remember the joy of reading library books – perhaps a slightly old-fashioned style – or perhaps retro!

After a lengthy career as a naval officer, which Leslie enjoyed (mostly), his career followed an erratic path through event management, management consultancy, operational management, and finally learning and development. Leslie likes to teach.

Leslie is married, lives in beautiful West Sussex with his wife, Jean, and his younger (adult) daughter Chloe, who has learning difficulties, and their Golder Retriever, Darcie. He enjoys staying fit, sailing his veteran dinghy on the local reservoir, and coarse fishing.

You can follow Leslie on Twitter @lesliejones45 and find him on Facebook.

Linda’s Book Bag Top Reads of 2018 from @CatherineIsaac_, @HilsRobinson and @Martin_Impey, and @fionnualatweets

2019 books of the year

I was going to post this on Christmas Eve but I think you might all be busy so here goes:

Each year that I have tried to put together my top reads I have struggled to decide which books to include so I came up with a plan for 2018.

I don’t like star ratings as a 5* on Amazon could be a 4* or 5* on Goodreads and my 5* may not equate to anyone else’s. Consequently, I decided to award marks out of 100 so that I would then easily be able to select my favourite books of 2018, including all those scoring 90% or more and I’d end up with around a dozen to make a post without it becoming like War and Peace in length.

How wrong can you be! As the year progressed and I read more and more utterly stunning books that touched me heart and soul, I decided I’d narrow down my books of the year to those achieving 95% or above.

Yes. Well. That didn’t work.

I honestly have been privileged to read some absolute scorchers this year, some of which aren’t out until 2019. According to Goodreads, I have read 163 books in 2018 but as not all of them were on Goodreads I’m not quite sure how many I have actually read. Narrowing down my choices for an end of year post became impossible.

However, I have three books that scored 100% from me and that I simply couldn’t fault. So instead of a ‘book of the year’ or a list of 10 or 20 books, I’m returning to the three I loved equally and unequivocally, calling them my top reads. Here they are in the order I read them:

You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac

You Me Everything

You and me, we have history.
We have a child together.
We have kept secrets from each other for far too long.
This summer, in the beautiful hills of the Dordogne, it is time for everything to change.

You, Me, Everything was published by Simon and Schuster on 19th April 2018 and is available for purchase through these links.

You can read my review here and an interview with Catherine Isaac here.

Peace Lily by Hilary Robinson and illustrated by Martin Impey

Peace Lily children

Ever since she was small, Lily wanted to be a nurse. Her dream becomes real when she takes the brave decision to follow her childhood friends, soldiers Ben and Ray, to the dangerous battlefields of Western France. Will she ever see them again?

Peace Lily is the fourth story in the award-winning series by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey, set during World War 1. It not only pays tribute to the valuable contribution of women to the war effort but also shows how, after the chaos and distress of the long and painful battle, peace is eventually found both on land and in hearts.

The final book in this delightful and moving series brings all four stories together in a celebration of life and in the eternal hope of a new beginning.

Peace Lily is available for purchase here.

There’s a lovely trailer for Peace Lily that you can watch here. Peace Lily is a children’s book and you can read my review here.

The Book of Love by Fionnuala Kearney

book of love

One love. Two people. Twenty Years.

From the moment they met, Erin and Dom loved each other too much, too quickly. Everyone said it wouldn’t last. But they knew differently.

A wedding present, a notebook, brings them together through the good times and the bad. On the blank pages of their love story, they write down everything they can’t always say – the secrets, the heartbreak, the highs and lows. It’s where they see the best and worst of each other.

Falling in love is easy but staying in love is where the story begins…

This is The Book of Love.

Published by Harper Collins on 25th October 2018, The Book of Love is available through these links.

You can read my review of The Book of Love here.

Previous Years

Although it seems as if I’ve been blogging forever it will actually only be four years in February. If you’d like to see how the blog has evolved and the books I have enjoyed most in the previous years I’ve been blogging, here are the links:

2015

2016

2017

The three books aside which I adored and have featured above, I genuinely have read some beautiful, disturbing, moving and entertaining books this year and I’d like to thank every author who has appeared on the blog and all of those whose books are still awaiting reading. Being a blogger is a real privilege and I appreciate every moment each writer has spent agonising over their books. You all bring such joy to readers. Thank you.

xmas

How To Be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax

How to be Human

My enormous thanks to the folk at Penguin for sending me a surprise copy of How To Be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax in return for an honest review. I have to confess this book has been sitting on my TBR for a year, but as it comes out in paperback next week I’m delighted I finally got round to reading and reviewing it.

Published by Penguin Life in paperback on 27th December 2018, How To Be Human is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

How To Be Human

How to be Human

“It took us 4 billion years to evolve to where we are now – completely brilliant and yet, some might say, emotionally dwarfed. The question is: can our more empathetic side catch up in time to save us and the world? I’ve got nothing against smarts, but it’s smarts without emotional awareness that got us into this position of being able to nuke each other into oblivion and rape the earth for oil.”

With a little help from a monk (who tells us how our mind works) and a neuroscientist (who tells us how our brain works), Ruby Wax answers every question you’ve ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, sex, kids, the future and compassion.

Filled with witty anecdotes from Ruby’s own life, and backed up by smart science and practical mindfulness exercises, How to be Humanis the only manual you need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you’ve upgraded your iphone.

My Review of How To Be Human

A non-fiction look at how we live our lives and become who we are – and what to do about it!

Not having read anything by Ruby Wax previously I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. What I got in How To Be Human was an honest, open and insightful look at the way we behave, how we are programmed and, more importantly, how we can take back control. Ruby Wax writes with such integrity, warmth and humour it is impossible not to be drawn in, and affected by, her book.

I found myself completely captivated by How To Be Human. I laughed aloud at some of the ways Ruby Wax exemplified her points with anecdotes from her own life and I adored her candid and charismatic approach. She isn’t afraid to voice her own frailties and concerns so that the effect is to make the reader more convinced by her arguments.

The balance between the Ruby Wax’s prosaic examples and the more scientific aspects from Ash Ranpura and the spiritual ones from Gelong Thrubten works so well, particularly through the transcripts of conversations between them. All three open themselves up in a manner that allows the reader to feel they are simply eavesdropping a conversation and technical aspects are made clear and accessible. I confess to being glad I wasn’t Ash Ranpura’s child and I developed a great deal of sympathy for his wife, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.

I really appreciated the manner in which the examples and theories in the other chapters are given practical approaches in Chapter 11 so that there is something there from which any reader might benefit. For me it was being mindful with every day activities such as cleaning my teeth. I usually physically wander when I’m doing this, checking emails, looking out of the window and so on. Having read How To Be Human I’m learning to give an activity my full attention and then move on and I definitely feel more in control of my life as a result.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the section where Ruby Wax describes the making of her episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Having watched the programme, I could see how the book’s messages of forgiveness and compassion could be applied practically. I’m not saying How To Be Human has completely revolutionised my life, but it has helped me think about others differently and to have more compassion in my day to day life. I’ve learnt to be easier on myself and I think that’s probably a very good place to start.

How To Be Human is a book that practises what it preaches so that I finished it feeling enlightened and empowered. It is intelligent, witty, accessible and helpful. What more could you ask?

About Ruby Wax

ruby wax

Ruby Wax began her career at the Royal Shakespeare Company and is a successful comedian, TV writer and performer of over 25 years. Ruby additionally holds a Master’s degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy from Oxford University, and was awarded an OBE in 2015 for her services to mental health.

She is the author of books Sane New World and A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, and has toured all over the world with the accompanying one-woman shows. Both books have reached the number one spot on the Sunday Times bestsellers list.

She is Visiting Professor in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey, an Ambassador for the charities Mind, Time to Change and Sane and sits on the board of the Anna Freud Centre. In November 2017, she was announced as the president of the UK’s leading relationship support charity Relate.

You can find out more by visiting Ruby’s website, following her on Twitter @Rubywax and finding her on Facebook.

There’s also a tour coming for How To Be Human and you can find out more here.

Staying in with Andrew Wilmot

Death Scene

Now you all know how I try to avoid horror in my reading because I’m such a wimp! To try to persuade me to give it more of a try I am delighted to welcome Andrew Wilmot to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about his debut which falls into the horror genre.

Staying in with Andrew Wilmot

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

My pleasure—thank you for the invite, Linda!

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

Death Scene

I’ve brought my first novel, The Death Scene Artist, because nothing says “let’s have a quiet, cozy evening” like an anti-love story about body dysmorphia, Hollywood, and losing one’s identity in a desperate bid to win another’s affections! Also, there’s death. A lot of it. Some dismemberment, too. Did I mention this was literary horror?

(I’m feeling unnerved already. I’ll just get a cushion in case I need to hide behind it as we chat!)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Death Scene Artist

Oh, gosh… well I already mentioned that it’s horror, and *checks notes* the bits about death and dismemberment. Apart from that, you can expect, well, lies, I suppose. A great many of them. This is a novel starring a desperately unreliable narrator about an equally unreliable former love interest centred in and around an entire industry that exists only to sell the world bad bills of goods and impossible hopes and dreams. Beyond that, though, the core of the story has to do with envy—with what we hate about ourselves, what we see and want in the lives (and bodies) of others, and just how willing we are to lose our personal humanity in a quest to achieve someone else’s ideal life while not living our own. And envy is nothing if not violent and (self-) destructive…

(Actually, Andrew, I think The Death Scene Artist sounds utterly fascinating. I may just have to get over my fear of horror in fiction. I can always sleep with the light on…)

What else have you brought along and why? 

grab bag

What else have I brought, you ask? A YouTube playlist of some of cinema’s greatest death scenes (chief among them, Johnny Depp’s fountain of blood from A Nightmare on Elm Street), a grab bag of horror films and TV shows ranging from good (Halloween) to great (Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) to so-bad-it’s-great (Event Horizon… okay, I know, it’s terrible, but… also… kinda amazing).

(Would you mid if I just closed my eyes for a while…)

No food or drink, though. As a matter of fact, though, given that some of the book deals explicitly with body dysmorphia and eating disorders, I’d like to instead be serious for a moment and mention instead the other thing I brought alone: the NEDA helpline and website for anyone in need of help.

That’s actually a very important thing to do Andrew. If it’s OK with you, I’ll add the UK eating disorder link to BEAT too. Thanks so much for staying in with me and telling me about The Death Scene Artist. It sounds an amazing book.

The Death Scene Artist

Death Scene

M_____ is dying of cancer. Only thirty-two, an extra with a meagre list of credits to their name and afraid of being forgotten, M_____ starts recounting the strange, fantastic, and ultimately tragic path of their love affair with the world’s greatest living “redshirt”–a man who has died or appeared dead in nearly eight hundred film and television roles.

In a compelling narrative of blog entries interspersed with film script excerpts, The Death Scene Artist immerses readers in a three-act surrealist exploration of the obsessive fault-finding of body dysmorphia and the dangerous desires of a man who has lived several hundred half-minute lives without having ever experienced his own.

Published by Wolsak and Wynn, The Death Scene Artist is available for purchase here and directly from the publisher.

About Andrew Wilmot

Wilmot - PC Jaime Patterson from Hidden Exposure Photography

Andrew Wilmot is a writer, editor, and artist living in Toronto, ON. He holds a BFA in Visual Arts (with a minor in Film and Video Studies) and a master’s degree in Publishing, both from SFU.

In his day job he works as a freelance book reviewer, academic editor, and substantive and copy editor with several independent presses and publications, including the online zine Anathema: Spec from the Margins, for which he is Co-Editor-in-Chief.

By night he spends his time writing and painting large, synaesthetic canvases.

Much of Andrew’s written work focuses on the intersections of art, identity, and the body, often with a healthy dose of surrealist horror. To date his work has been published in Found Press, The Singularity, Glittership, Drive In Tales, Turn to Ash, and Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories, and he was the winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Story Contest. The Death Scene Artist is his first novel.

You can find Andrew on Facebook and Tumblr and follow him on Twitter @AGAWilmot for more information.