An Interview With Sandra Howard, Author of The Consequence of Love

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I’m so pleased to be part of the paperback launch celebrations for Consequence of Love by Sandra Howard.

Published by Simon and Schuster, Consequence of Love is available for purchase in e-book, hardback and now paperback through the links here.

The Consequence of Love

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Perfect reading for fans of Joanna Trollope and Elizabeth Buchan, this is a novel of lost loves, deceits and second chances.

Nattie is now happily married to Hugo and they have two beautiful children, but no one knows that her heart has never truly been hers to give.

The love of her life was lost to her years ago, or so she thought. Now Ahmed is back, and although he knows Nattie is married, he just can’t stop himself from making contact.

Torn between Ahmed and her family, Nattie ends up meeting him in secret. But will her lies cause more trouble than the truth?

An Interview with Sandra Howard

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Sandra. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Consequence of Love in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thanks for having me, Linda! I’m a bit shy to say much about myself… hardly in my first flush as in my seventies now with five grandchildren. Two of the youngest were actually the inspiration for the children in The Consequence of Love. I was a photographic fashion model back in the 60’s which was an amazing time and my last book, Tell the Girl, set largely in that decade, is the only one of my books to be based personal experiences. Politics came into my life when my husband became an MP, though we don’t always share the same views!

(I bet that makes for a lively household!)

You’ve had a very varied life, being a model, journalist and married to a politician. How far do your own experiences influence your writing?

I think any writer draws on their experiences to some degree. I was told that it is good to have as your backdrop something you know a little more about than many others The characters are often a sort of kaleidoscope of people who have influenced you or you’ve loved, disliked or admired.

Why do you write?

It’s a passion. I enjoy every minute, the characters become part of the family and lead me just where they want to go.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

It’s impossibly hard to start a new chapter quickly and move on. I like to get the first page just right, but it’s a mistake – much better to get on and alter it as necessary when the chapter is complete. I actually find the conversation between people in love the best and easiest bit of writing! You sort of know what they’re thinking and feeling.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I write anywhere, whenever I can but my head is clearest in the mornings and sometimes late evening too – I keep pencil and paper by my bedside in case an idea comes to me in the night (though it’s a struggle to wake up enough to turn on the light and write it down!)

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Consequence of Love?

The story really revolves around the dilemmas of the heart that people face and the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made. Nattie, the girl in the story, is deeply fond of her husband whom she has helped through an earlier drug addiction; she has two small children, a good job, but she secretly pines for the man to whom her heart truly belongs. Even seven years on, not knowing where he is or whether he’s even still alive, she cannot get him out of her mind. And then one day he makes contact…

(Ooo!)

Ahmed is a character from a previous book. How did he come to feature in The Consequence of Love

 The book was A Matter of Loyalty (you can read the first chapter at the end of the paperback of The Consequence of Love) After a bomb went off in a London cinema foyer Ahmed, a reporter on a national newspaper then and who had fallen in love with Nattie, went undercover trying to foil threats of a further ‘dirty’ bomb. He saved the day, became a hero, but had to leave the country for his own safety. I really wanted to know what had happened to him – as did a number of readers – so The Consequence of Love is the story of his return to find Nattie, the girl he still loves…

Many of your novels have deception in various forms as a theme and in The Consequence of Love Nattie has a seemingly normal life but soon becomes embroiled in a web of lies. How far do you think we all have the potential to behave in similar ways?

I’m afraid that falling passionately in love is all consuming and however good and kind a person you are it is all too easy to become embroiled while trying to avoid the hurt your actions would cause. Many people have said they have been there…

The Consequence of Love has a cover that suggests a woman looking for something out of reach. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The publishers chose it and I bow to their imagery…

If you could choose to be a character from The Consequence of Love, who would you be and why?

Possibly Nattie’s mother and I’d try to do things a little differently!

If The Consequence of Love became a film, who would you like to play Nattie and why would you choose them?  

Natalie Portman or Keira Knightly perhaps, I see Nattie as delicate-looking and both those could play the role sensitively I believe.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Literary fiction, biographies sometimes, book clubs are great for widening the scope.

So, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Consequences of Love should be their next read, what would you say?

It is a story of the dilemmas of the heart and pulls of loyalty.

Thank you so much, Sandra, for your time in answering my questions.

About Sandra Howard

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in the l960s, Sandra Howard was one of the UK’s leading fashion models. Sandra has quickly established herself as a highly successful commercial novelist. Married to the former leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, Sandra lives in London and in Kent.

Sandra is actively involved with two national charities, Addaction, a charity helping people to fight drug and alcohol addiction, and as a vice president of Youth Epilepsy. Sandra also supports First Story, a charity that provides funds to enable well-known writers to hold creative writing classes in inner city schools.

You can follow Sandra on Twitter @howardsandrac and find out more on her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Perils of a Kindle Virgin: A Guest Post by Peter Liney, Author of Beauty

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One of the rationales for Linda’s Book Bag that has emerged since I began blogging is to support authors who don’t always have a huge marketing team behind them. Previously conventionally published, Peter Liney is self-publishing his latest novel Beauty and I was interested to know how his promotion of the book was going. He agreed to come on to my blog and tell me more. I think his guest post will resonate with a great number of other authors!

Beauty is available for purchase in e-book here.

Beauty

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When cosmetic and transplant surgery get together and beauty becomes a commodity that can be bought and sold, the Rich become more beautiful, the Poor less. But if something can be traded, it can also be stolen – brutally, violently, by the feared face-stealers, and to a point where the rich finally cry ‘Enough! . . . Enough. Make us plain; make us ordinary.’ Now there is no beauty left, not as we once knew it, only photos, videos, exhibitions. And yet . . . you still hear the occasional rumor.

The Perils of a Kindle Virgin

A Guest Post by Peter Liney

I had a little lull in my writing. The film company extended their option on The Detainee for another year, I needed something ‘happening’, and I thought, ‘Why not try self-publishing on Kindle?’ I mean, why not? It looked easy enough.

the detainee

First I chose a novel of mine that hadn’t caught the eye of any conventional publishers. Beauty is a futuristic, page-turning thriller, but with a lot to say about social attitudes, particularly when it comes to men and female beauty. I’d already edited it a hundred times, of course, but I still went through it once more just to check there were no mistakes (I missed one – have fun looking. I should’ve made it a competition). I bought an image for the front cover that I really liked, wrote up the titles and a blurb, and there it was – my new book. Wow! In a matter of hours! Kindle publishing is remarkably easy. Really, I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it.

Ah, but you see, that the problem, everyone does do it – or so it seems. That’s where this venture become a whole lot more difficult. There are millions of books out there, a whole ocean, how do you attract people to yours?

You have to remember, I have a conventionally published trilogy on the bookshelves (The Detainee, the first book of which is to be made into a Hollywood movie) another script optioned, and a YA trilogy set to go. You might think that would give me some kind of advantage? Well, if it does, I haven’t spotted it yet. I’m just swimming around out here, waving at whoever I can, however I can, the same as everyone else.

I’ve tried Internet PR people in the past, though not with a great deal of success.  The thing about publishing on Kindle is that you can get absolutely accurate sales figures, so it’s not long before you discover what’s working and what’s not. I used Facebook ‘boosts’ – at a cost that was ridiculous for a 99p book – but found them no more successful than regular posting. A campaign on Twitter was much the same. I even considered getting one of those magnetic signs made up that go on the side of your car. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that probably the self-publishing writer’s best tool for getting their book into the public domain is the blogger (like Linda’s Book Bag). That it’s very often them who’ll get the ball rolling, and once they do, well, who knows?

So, if you happen to spot Beauty somewhere on the great Amazon ocean, do give it a try. Meanwhile, I’ll be out here, treading water, doing what I can to attract the attention of passers-by: waving but not drowning.

About Peter Liney

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Peter Liney is the author of Beauty, the Detainee Trilogy (The Detainee, Into The Fire, and In Constant Fear, published by Jo Fletcher Books), and has two movies (The Detainee and Honeyboys) in production in 2018.

Peter was born in Wiltshire, UK, though he has spent a lot of his life travelling. He has been everything from an English teacher to spending two days as a trainee stuntman (he gave that up because it was too dangerous). He loves photography, music – both listening to and playing, and is a great movie lover. If he wasn’t a writer, Peter would have loved to have been an opera singer.

You can follow Peter on Twitter @lineypeter and visit his Facebook page.

Cover Reveal: Only One Woman by Christina Jones and Jane Risdon

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I’m delighted to be helping reveal a brand new collaborative book, Only One Woman, by Christina Jones and Jane Risdon. I shall be part of the launch celebrations in November so do call back on 22nd November to read my review of Only One Woman too.

Only One Woman is to be published by Accent Press in e-book on 23rd November 2017 and paperback on 24th May 2018 and is available for pre-order here.

Only One Woman

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Two women, one love story.

June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.

December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stella meets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.

As the final colourful year of the sixties dawns, the question is: can there be only one woman for Scott?

About Christina Jones

Christina

Christina Jones, the only child of a schoolteacher and a circus clown, has been
writing all her life. As well as writing romantic comedy novels, she also contributes short stories and articles to many national magazines and newspapers.

She has won several awards for her writing: Going the Distance was a WH Smith Fresh Talent Winner; Nothing to Lose, was shortlisted and runner-up for the Thumping Good Read Award with film and television rights sold; Heaven Sent was shortlisted in The Melissa Nathan Comedy Romance Awards and won a Category Award; Love Potions won the Pure Passion Award; The Way to a Woman’s Heart was short-listed for the Rom-Com of the Year; and An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding won The Reviewer’s Choice Award.

You can find all of Christina’s books here. There’s more about Christina on Facebook and her website and you can follow her on Twitter @bucolicfrolics.

About Jane Risdon

Jane

Jane Risdon began writing over six years ago having had a successful career in the International Music Industry which has taken her all over the world working with everything from Rock, Thrash Metal, and R&B/Pop to Chinese Opera. Her work has taken her to North America, Europe, and Singapore: even to Taiwan.

She’s been involved in Music Production, Television, Radio, and the Movies around the world.

Jane is a keen photographer and enjoys the countryside and visiting old buildings and historical locations and often uses photos as visual notes for her writing. She loves history and archaeology and is loves anything to do with science and astronomy.

With a background (early on in her career) in the Diplomatic Service in Whitehall, London, followed by a long career in International music, Jane has a wealth of experience and a huge pool from which to craft her stories.

You’ll find more about Jane on Facebook, via her blog and on Twitter @Jane_Risdon. There’s more about Jane’s writing here.

The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake

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I love a Rosie Blake book and have previously reviewed How to Stuff Up Christmas here,  How to Find Your (First) Husband here and How to Get a (Love) Life here so that when I heard her latest The Hygge Holiday was available to request on Netgalley I broke my own rule of never going on there and requested it! Luckily I was approved.

The Hygge Holiday is published today, 21st September 2017, by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown Books and is available for purchase here.

The Hygge Holiday

Hygge Holiday

The perfect recipe for hygge this autumn: make a hot chocolate, draw the curtains, snuggle under a blanket and read your way to happiness!

It’s autumn in Yulethorpe and everyone is gloomy. It’s cold, drizzly and the skies are permagrey. The last shop on the high street – an adorable little toy shop – has just shut its doors. Everything is going wrong for Yulethorpe this autumn. Until Clara Kristensen arrives.

Clara is on holiday but she can see the potential in the pretty town, so she rolls up her sleeves and sets to work. Things are looking up until Joe comes to Yulethorpe to find out exactly what is going on with his mother’s shop. Joe is Very Busy and Important in the City and very sure that Clara is up to no good. Surely no one would work this hard just for the fun of it?

Can a man who answers emails at 3 a. m. learn to appreciate the slower, happier, hygge things in life – naps, candles, good friends and maybe even falling in love?

My Review of The Hygge Holiday

Clara is on the move again, and when she witnesses a slanging match in Yulethorpe pub it will be the turning point of her life.

As The Hygge Holiday features small children from the very beginning I ought not to like it as everyone who knows me also knows I don’t ‘do’ children and they would be right. I didn’t like it. I loved it!

Reading The Hygge Holiday was akin to meeting up with an old friend or slipping into one of Clara’s scented candle lit baths. The Hygge Holiday felt familiar and new at the same time. I even think I may have an idea which book about 1950’s Devon Clara was reading even though the title isn’t given*.

The Hygge Holiday had all the warmth, humour and easy reading style I expect from Rosie Blake accompanied by real emotion too.

The characters are brilliant, from the parrot Lady CaCa who provides so many laughs through the taciturn, overworked and ambitious Joe to the wonderful Clara herself so that when I’d finished reading I didn’t want the book to end. I’d love to meet all the characters again to find out more about them and their lives beyond the story because they felt so real.

But for me, it was the themes that underpin Rosie Blake’s smooth and entertaining writing that make The Hygge Holiday such a satisfying read. We  live in a world where, for so many Joes, money rules, we work too hard and a we don’t spend enough time watching a sunrise or sunset or doing small acts of kindness for others. I thought the little things Clara does would be so easy to emulate and would make the world a much better place. The search for ourselves that both Clara and Louisa display is something many readers will relate to and I found it very emotional to read about.

The quality of Rosie Blake’s writing, the wonderful characters and settings and the warmth and relevance of her themes make The Hygge Holiday a wonderful book this autumn. I thought it was wonderful.

I loved The Hygge Holiday as the perfect antidote to a frenetic, greedy world. I’m off to rearrange cushions, lamps and throws for a total house hygge makeover!

*Oh and if you would like to see which book I think it is that Clara is reading, look here!

About Rosie Blake

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Rosie is an author of comic commercial fiction. She spent her university years writing pantomimes based on old classics (highlight: ‘Harry Potter: The Musical’) and went on to write short stories and features for a range of publications including Cosmopolitan,The LadySunday PeopleBest and Reveal magazines. She worked in television as a presenter on both live and pre-recorded shows in Bristol and London.

Rosie likes baked items, taking long walks by the river and speaking about herself in the third person. Her greatest ambition in life is to become Julia Roberts’s best friend.

You can follow Rosie Blake on Twitter and visit her web site. You’ll find her on Facebook too. You’ll find all Rosie’s books for purchase here.

An Extract from The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

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Like many people I’m permanently watching my weight so one of the delights of blogging is that I get to visit bakeries that won’t lead to me putting on more ponds! Consequently, I’m delighted to be bringing an extract from The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry as part of the launch celebrations because I know I can read it with impunity!

Published on 7th September 2017 by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane is available for purchase here.

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane

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If you want to move forward, sometimes you have to go back …

Prepare to fall in love with beautiful village of Burley Bridge.

Growing up in a quiet Yorkshire village, Roxanne couldn’t wait to escape and find her place in the world in London. As a high-powered fashion editor she lives a glamorous life of perennial singlehood – or so it seems to her sister Della. But when Roxanne gets her heart broken by a fashion photographer, she runs away, back to Della’s welcoming home above her bookshop in Burley Bridge.

But Burley Bridge, Roxanne discovers, is even quieter than she remembered. There’s nothing to do, so Roxanne agrees to walk Della’s dog Stanley. It’s on these walks that Roxanne makes a startling discovery: the people who live in Burley Bridge are, well, just people – different from the fashion set she’s used to, but kind and even interesting. Michael, a widower trying to make a go of a small bakery, particularly so. Little by little, cupcake by cupcake, Roxanne and Michael fall into a comforting friendship.

Could there be a life for Roxanne after all, in the place she’s spent 46 years trying to escape?

An Extract from The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane

‘Hang on a minute . . .’ She rushed off to her second bedroom – a box room really, that served as overspill storage for clothes and accessories – to retrieve the gift she had wrapped so beautifully in matt duck-egg blue paper with a perfect silver bow.

Sean was lounging on the sofa in her living room when she handed it to him.

‘Here you go. Happy fiftieth, darling.’ As she curled up beside him, she experienced a rush of pleasure at having tracked down a wonderful gift for a man who really did have everything.

‘Thanks, sweetheart.’ He peeled away the wrapping paper with care. ‘Oh, wow! This is amazing, Rox. You know I love his work . . .’ He gazed at the hefty coffee-table book of photographs by Laurence Grier, one of his photographic heroes.

She snuggled close as he turned the pages reverentially. Grier, who had been active since the 50s, specialised in black-and-white photographs of achingly beautiful women in rather shabby surroundings. They always looked as if they had been caught off guard, applying lipstick in a dingy cafe, or drawing a picture with a finger on the steamed-up window of a bus.

‘Glad you like it,’ she said with a smile.

‘Of course I do. You’re so thoughtful. I love you, babe.’ He kissed her gently on the lips.

‘I love you too, darling,’ she murmured, beaming with pleasure. ‘Look, there’s something else too.’ She leaned over and turned to the book’s inside front cover, on which the photographer himself had written: Happy 50th birthday Sean, with all good wishes, Laurence Grier.

Sean stared at the inscription. ‘It’s signed! Is this for me?’

‘Well, yes,’ she said, laughing, ‘unless it’s a remarkable coincidence.’

His eyes widened. ‘How on earth did you get this?’

‘I bribed him with enormous amounts of money,’ she said with a grin.

He closed the book and placed it on top of a muddle of magazines and newspaper supplements on her coffee table. ‘Seriously? You actually met him?’

She nodded. ‘Yes – when I was in Paris for the shows.’

‘Really? Wow. You planned ahead . . .’

‘It was just luck really,’ she said quickly, a little embarrassed now: Paris fashion week was back in October. Did it seem overly keen to have planned Sean’s birthday present seven months ago – and only two months after they’d started seeing each other? ‘He was staying at my hotel,’ she added.

Sean kissed her again. ‘You’re amazing, Rox. Gorgeous, sexy and amazing . . .’

She smiled and pushed back her tangled hair. ‘And I noticed that he liked to sit with a gin and tonic in the hotel bar every evening, so I went out and bought a copy and hoped he’d be there, just one more time . . .’ She omitted to mention that it taken visits to four different bookshops before she had managed to track down a copy, and even then, it had a torn cover so they had to order another for her to pick up the next day.

About Ellen Berry

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Ellen Berry is an author and magazine journalist. Originally from rural West Yorkshire, she has three teenage children and lives with her husband and their daughter in Glasgow. When she’s not writing, she loves to cook and browse her vast collection of cookbooks, which is how the idea for this story came about. However, she remains the world’s worst baker but tends to blame her failures on ‘the oven’.

Ellen Berry is a pen name of Fiona Gibson and you can follow Fiona on Twitter @FionaGibson and visit her website. She’s also on Facebook.

Bakery Blog Tour (1)

Giveaway and Extract: Wildest of All by P. K. Lynch

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Generally I love blogging but occasionally there are some real frustrations. One for me is that I haven’t had time to read Wildest of All by P.K Lynch and it looks exactly my kind of book. Fortunately, I do have an extract to share today on Linda’s Book Bag from the very beginning of the book and I am able offer a paperback copy of Wildest of All to one lucky UK reader in a giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.

Published by Legend Press on 1st September 2017, Wildest of All is available for purchase here.

Wildest of All

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The Donnelly family are a tight-knit bunch, but when one of their own dies without warning, the mother, the daughter-in-law, and the daughter, despite being united in grief, are each sent hurtling in wildly different directions.

From the churches of Glasgow to the nightclubs of London, can they find their way back to each other before it’s too late?  And in the wake of a parent’s death, who exactly is responsible for looking after whom?

An Extract from Wildest of All

CHAPTER ONE

Monstrous

They called her Sissy because her red hair made them think of the actress in that movie they’d both loved where pretty much the whole town winds up dead. But names are a big deal in Catholic families, so it was agreed the birth certificate should say Cecilia. That way, Anne could tell everyone that her first granddaughter was named after the patron saint of music. Everyone was happy. No one anticipated any problems.

Of course, the baby didn’t have much of a say in anything, though she became very clear she preferred Sissy to Cecilia, no matter what the kids in the playground had to say about it. Despite the shock of the first grandchild being born out of wedlock, Anne took comfort from the fact that Sissy’s arrival was sure to bring Peter back to his senses. He’d return to the law, and in time she was sure Peter and Jude would marry. The baby, like all babies, was a marvellous opportunity to put everything back on track.

But seventeen years later, none of that had come to pass, and now the family were gathered in Peter’s hallway awaiting the arrival of the cars for his funeral. His sister, Susan, had travelled from Manchester with her three boisterous sons and unfaithful husband, from whom she would never be parted, because that is the Catholic way. His brother, Danny, was there with his two well-behaved daughters, but not their mother because she – the vixen – had left him, and although Lauren had wanted to attend the funeral, Danny had forbidden it because you don’t get to pick and choose your loyalties; you’re either with the Donnellys or you’re not, and if you’re not, then you might as well be against them.

The assembled family looked to the top of the stairs where Sissy stood, wearing a dress for a thirteen-year-old child that she’d found in M&S a couple of days previously. Her dad would have laughed at that. On her feet were a pair of navy blue cowboy boots he’d brought back from a tour around the States. He’d made a mistake with the sizes and bought a couple of sizes too large.

‘You’re not wearing those, are you?’ said Anne, as Sissy clumped down the stairs, fascinated by the strangeness of her own feet. When she reached the bottom, she smiled widely and clicked her heels together: there’s no place like home there’s no place like home there’s no place like home. Nobody laughed, but Lucy, who was the youngest of Danny’s girls, gave a watery smile and whispered to her that they were awesome.

Danny leaned over and kissed Lucy on the head. ‘Good girl,’ he said, and Sissy experienced it as a stab to the heart. No more daddy kisses for her. She searched for her mother and found her leaning against the wall behind Grammy. Red-eyed and vacant, Jude was no longer the mother she’d always known. It remained to be seen who she was now, indeed, who they were, and what they would become together.

‘The cars are here,’ said Susan, from her look-out post at the living room window. A barely perceptible pause followed, then Danny said, ‘Right. Everyone move out.’ The front door opened and everyone began to shuffle out. The three youngest cousins darted through the grown-ups, desperate for exercise.

‘Wait,’ said Susan, catching Sissy by the arm. She brought her into the downstairs bathroom. Taking the corner of the hand towel, she soaked it, squeezed it, and wiped Sissy’s face. Then she reached into her handbag and retrieved a comb with which she teased out the tangles in Sissy’s hair and twisted it into a low ponytail.

‘It’ll be windy at the cemetery,’ Susan said.

How clever she is to know that, Sissy thought.

‘And here,’ said Susan, pulling out a pair of tights from her bag. ‘Your feet’ll get sore in those boots otherwise.’

Susan knelt down and tapped on Sissy’s knee, triggering a long forgotten morning routine. Sissy raised first one foot and then the other to allow Susan to pull her boots off.

‘Right,’ said Susan, running her fingers down the leg of the tights and stretching out the foot. Sissy wiggled her toes into the little cave Susan had created. So many times she had done this with Jude, holding onto her head to keep balanced, always forgetting her mother preferred her to use her shoulders.

But today Sissy held onto the sink for balance, and studied her aunt’s head, which she didn’t think she’d seen from this angle before. Susan’s roots were an inch long and greying. Something about this moved Sissy. She felt sorry for her aunt who’d be seeing absolutely everyone in the whole extended family today. It was the sort of day you’d normally want to make an effort for.

Three stretch limousines carried them to the church because Anne said it had to be done properly. Even among the principal mourners there was a hierarchy: Sissy and Jude travelled in the first car, Anne, Danny and Susan in the second, and all five cousins in the car behind, with Susan’s husband their reluctant chaperone.

Sissy and Jude took a window seat each. Jude wondered later if perhaps it was the car being so big that put all that space between them. And perhaps it was Anne’s tiny stature that made Susan and Danny sit so close, as though their presence was required merely to keep the old lady propped up. And Susan’s husband, Phillip, stared at his phone the whole way, while the eldest girls, Lucy and Emma, kept his three boys entertained with a series of games ranging from I Spy to Yellow Car Touch in an effort to keep them calm.

‘There’s glasses in here!’ shrieked the youngest, Andrew, having pressed a button to reveal a drinks cabinet hidden in the door. Lucy and Emma shared a look, a silent agreement to tolerate this now, but tell all to their dad afterwards about how inappropriate the boys had been in the funeral car, knowing already that Danny would nod, then shake his head, and say what else could you expect from boys as wild as they?

Jude had some pills from the doctor, one of which she had swallowed an hour before with one of her special teas, Earl Grey laced with vodka. Her journey to the church passed in a pleasant fuzz, although she was acutely aware of all the edges of her reality, and somewhat amused by the expanding hole at the centre of her which seemed to creep closer and closer to the boundary of her existence. She deliberately let her right arm trail into the centre of the back seat in case Sissy needed something to hold onto. She would always be there for Sissy.

Sissy was the most important thing. For Sissy, her hand would always be open, lying between them like a half-built bridge.

About P.K. Lynch

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Pauline Lynch trained as an actor and her first professional job was playing Lizzie in the film of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting.

After having a baby, P.K. completed her first stage play, Promise. Her second play, King of the Gypsies, played at the Edinburgh fringe, and then toured.

She then enrolled on the MLitt Creative Writing programme at Glasgow University where Armadillos was awarded the Sceptre Prize for Fiction.

You an visit Pauline’s blog here. You can also follow her on Twitter @lynchpinpauline.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Uk Paperback Giveaway of Wildest of All by P.K Lynch

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UK only I’m afraid, but thanks to the lovely folk at Legend Press I have a paperback copy of Wildest of All by P.K Lynch to giveaway. To enter, just click here. Giveaway closes UK midnight on Sunday 24th September 2017.

An Extract from Letters to the Pianist and Publication Day Guest Post by S D Mayes

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I love fiction with an historical theme so what could be better than to be celebrating publication day of Letters to the Pianist by SD Mayes than with a guest post delving into how the book came about and an extract for you all to read?

Letters to the Pianist is published today 19th September 2017 by BHC Press and is available for purchase here.

Letters to the Pianist

Letters to the pianist

Letters to the Pianist is a poignant, suspense story about a broken family, struggling to find an anchor in the midst of loss.

In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.

Four years on, Ruth, stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe.

Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets.

Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?

An Extract From Letters to the Pianist

Chapter One

Way back, in 1941, when I was still young and naive, in that twilight world of adolescent confusion, I could fritter away time daydreaming for hours. In truth, all three of us: the Goldberg children, escaped into a magical world, immersing ourselves in books like The Secret Garden and Peter Pan, or transforming into castaways wrapped up in old towels pretending we were on Treasure Island foraging for food. We grew to thrive on fantasy as if it were an energy fuel, always searching for a new diversion. Anything to block out the bitter reality of London life.

Our home was a red-brick terraced house on Sandringham Road in Hackney, known as the heart of the East End, a cosy haven despite the peeling paintwork and windows so thick with dust you couldn’t see in or out.

There weren’t many families like us that remained. Our once friendly neighbourhood, with the sound of children’s laughter and neighbours chattering in the street, had long gone. It was now eerily quiet; the pavements strewn with rubble and a swamping sadness that hung in the air like the reek of burning flesh.

Most of my school friends had been evacuated, disappearing to the countryside without time for goodbyes, whilst others were horribly maimed or killed in the blitz. But our daddy was adamant. ‘We’re not staying in a stinking shelter,’ he’d say, ‘home is our anchor and they can take me on bare knuckles an’ all before I’d send you three away.’ And I felt truly blessed that he kept us together despite the dangers.

At night, when darkness came along with the night raids, I often thought of my old friends as I tried to sleep, wondering if their spirits were rejoicing in heaven or aimlessly wandering the shadowlands of Sheol. I prepared to die so many times; the sirens screeching in my ears as I’d dive under the covers frantically reciting the Shema, trying to block out the grinding roar of planes overhead and the whistling bombs raining down, the deafening boom, boom, boom as they crashed into buildings and tore them apart. It all felt monstrously chilling, the cruelty of it all; in awe that our lives were so fragile, knowing we could be snuffed out in seconds and ready for a coffin.

In the morning, I’d clamber out of bed rubbing my gritty eyes, exhausted from lack of sleep, and walk straight into my warm fuzzy bubble, brushing away my worst fears as I awaited my handsome prince, hoping he would come and save us as promised in every happy ending.

That was all I had: pretence to help save my sanity and give me some kind of antidote to pain.

Until one day my bubble popped, bursting open.

And finally, I knew.

That dreams and wishes and fairy tales were like icing on a mouldy cake – they can’t hide the truth – because when you take a proper bite, you choke.

Saturday morning, 8th March 1941

‘I’m coming to get you,’ I whispered in a sing-song voice. ‘Something’s going to bite you, rip you in two.’ I leant across the breakfast table staring at my younger siblings menacingly as they ignored me, scraping up the rest of their porridge. I waited, ready to pounce. ‘Last one out’s a dead-un.’ This was our favourite game; goading, teasing, scaring each other witless with our safe form of ‘terror’ until their spoons slammed down and in a shrieking mad scramble, we all hurtled outside like cannon balls ready to play.

I threw down a penny, hopping onto each numbered square, drawn out with chalk on the pavement a few yards from our house.

A stone skittered in front of me and I stumbled outside the chalky lines.

‘Ha-ha you forfeit a point,’ Gabi shouted, punching the air in victory.

‘That’s not fair, Gabi. You’re cheating.’

‘Boohoo,’ he cried, wiping away fake tears as he broke into that big silly grin; so like our daddy’s magnetic smile that could put a spell on you in a heartbeat and charm you into submission.

‘Wow, see that?’ squealed Hannah, interrupting our spat.

We spun round to look.

She pointed at the roadside, her blonde ringlets falling across her face as she crouched down scrutinising something that glittered on the kerb edge, near the drain that went down to the sewers. That was typical of her; she was such a magpie, always finding shiny things amongst the rubble, like marbles or bobby pins.

Gabi and I bent over, peering closely.

She took a breath and picked up a chain from the dirt and held it in the centre of her palm, wiping off some of the sludgy grime with the sleeve of her jumper. ‘Woo, look at this little sparkler. I bet it’s worth a fortune.’ She draped it between her fingers and then glared at us. ‘It’s mine, all mine, do you hear? Finders keepers.’

I gazed at the gold chain with the Star of David dangling from it and instantly knew whom it belonged to. Looking back at the roadside, my heart raced as something caught my eye, lying in the kerb about a foot away. A bloody lump partly hidden under a heap of broken red bricks.

‘What’s wrong, Ruth?’ asked Gabi.

I gulped. He must have noticed my fixed stare. ‘Nothing,’ I said, looking away.

‘Have you seen an icky diseased rat scuttling about, because I’ve seen lots?’ He laughed and pulled out a sticky humbug from his trouser pocket and popped it in his mouth making slurping noises.

‘Yuck, rats,’ said Hannah, wrinkling her nose.

‘Can both of you cover your eyes, please?’

‘Why? I don’t want to.’ Hannah stamped her foot in defiance.

Gabi smirked.

‘Do it! Or you might see something you really wished you hadn’t.’

As with all our little scraps, they reluctantly obeyed, and I could breathe easier. Mama told me countless times, ‘Ruth, get out of that pink fog!’ She said being at war meant facing the ugly facts of life, especially now I was over fourteen and able to apply for work. Gabi was twelve and Hannah only ten and in my mind they were still the ‘little ones’ and I didn’t want to give them nightmares.

Forcing myself to be brave, I leant forward, carefully moving the brick fragments out of the way.

I jumped back in fright.

A severed hand swarmed with maggots, one of the most disgusting insects of all time, and they were crawling everywhere, burrowing into the flesh. I covered my mouth to stop myself screaming, heaving at the sickening sight. Catching my breath, out of morbid curiosity I dared to look again, watching the maggots crawl around revealing patches of bloodstained skin.

Something seemed familiar: the glimpse of chipped nail polish and a pink Bakelite ring on the right forefinger. I looked down at my own matching ring.

This was my friend, Jane Beckerman’s hand, discarded in the gutter like a piece of rubbish along with her necklace that she’d always treasured, a family heirloom her much-loved grandmother had passed down the family. I swatted away the swarm of flies that gathered from nowhere, flitting in circles, taunting me like a gang of bullies.

‘Can I look now?’ asked Hannah, the chain still draped across her fingers.

‘No, not yet!’

‘Hey, don’t be mean!’

‘Sorry, Hannah. Another minute, that’s all.’

I scooped up rubble to re-cover Jane’s rotting hand, ensuring it was completely camouflaged. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I whispered.

I turned to look at Gabi, the pupils in his eyes dilated with ghoulish fascination as he chewed on his plump bottom lip, the way he always did when he was nervous. Gorgeous Gabi we all called him, labelled ‘pretty’ ever since he was a baby, given his mop of wavy dark hair and those long feathery lashes that fanned his copper-coloured eyes.

‘You saw, didn’t you?’

He nodded.

‘Well, I hope you don’t get nightmares.’

‘It’s no big deal.’ He leant forward so Hannah couldn’t hear. ‘I’ve seen worse collecting shrapnel off the bomb sites.’ He tilted his head to one side as if monitoring my face for shock value. ‘Once I tripped over a decapitated head.’

I sighed at his flippant bravado. He didn’t know the hand belonged to my best friend and I felt it best to say nothing. It wasn’t unusual for body parts to be torn off in explosions and fly into the air landing randomly. Usually, though, the relief workers cleared them away before you stumbled across them.

‘You can look now, Hannah,’ I said, my voice choked, ‘but the necklace … can I have it, please?’

She opened her eyes. ‘Why? Might be worth a bob or two.’

‘It belongs to Jane. She always wore it, remember?’

‘Oh, yes, Jane, she gave me some liquorice.’ She handed me the chain, pouting sulkily. ‘Best give it back to her then.’

I cupped it in my hands as if it were a priceless treasure, placing it in the front pocket of my pinafore. It was all I had left of my best friend. We’d been close for years, more like sisters really; our arms always linked as we walked to the shops, giggling at any silly thing that caught our eye. This was all so unfair, a mockery of her life. Where was the rest of her body, I wondered. I pictured her gap-toothed smile and that frizz of ginger hair and my eyes filled with tears. It hit me hard. I’d miss her, really miss her, and now I’d never see her again.

I decided to sneak back later, wipe away the yucky maggots and put her abandoned hand in a shoebox along with her necklace. I would get daddy’s trowel from the shed and dig a hole in our bomb-blasted back garden, in a private spot behind our leafless, charred apple tree. I’d recite a prayer and give her the humane burial she deserved. She was my friend and I had to make that count, because whatever they tell you, there are no gold stars for good behaviour; a perfect angel or a nasty monster, it’s pot luck how you peg out.

The Inspiration for Letters to the Pianist

A Guest Post by S.D. Mayes

I can still remember when the story for Letters to the Pianist dropped into my consciousness three years ago. It was about a man called Joe, of Jewish descent, who appeared to have lost his wife and children, along with his memory in the war. Having to start again, he ends up with a new identity and unknowingly marries into a family with dark secrets. When his long lost daughter tracks him down, and writes him a letter, fragments of his memories return, and he realises the dangerous trap he’s fallen into.

I remember thinking, wow, I’d love to read what happens next.  I guess it’s that ‘what would happen if …’ that inspires most writers.  It took me a while to get going. But a downpour of February rain drove me on – a good excuse not to go outside.

I  had to do a huge amount of research and it was tricky summoning a wartime atmosphere to mind, but that changed when I discovered my mother, Ruth’s diarised memoirs, when she sadly died a few months after I started the book. I knew she had a traumatic childhood, but was intrigued to flick through the pages and read about her past – something she never discussed – and was amazed how well she vividly described her family home being bombed in the blitz, as her and her siblings were left orphaned after their parents were killed overnight. It was shocking and deeply emotional. And so the bomb scenes at the beginning of the story are an authentic account of what actually happened, along with the children’s separation as they were evacuated to stay with different relatives.

I also did some fascinating in depth research on Hitler and his occult activities, where he employed psychics and practised rituals in order to influence the mind of a nation.  Of course Hitler will go down in history as one of the most evil men that ever lived, but there is no denying that he was a bizarre and fascinating character, and without giving away the plot, it is that supernatural aspect, that also made me wonder – what would happen if a character stumbled into all this ritualistic madness? And with that, I will leave you to discover exactly what I mean …

About SD Mayes

S D Mayes

S.D. Mayes worked as a journalist for nearly twenty years before turning her hand to fiction. Inspired by the bizarre but factual events of Hitler’s pursuit of power and his obsession with the supernatural, Letters to the Pianist is her first historical suspense novel.

Originally from the West Country, she currently lives in Caversham, Berkshire.

You can follow S D Mayes on Twitter @authorMayes.