Blog Tour: Playdate by Alex Dahl #BookReview

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It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover.
Now it’s an abduction.

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, her mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and shared a glass of wine with Josie’s mother. Then she kissed her little girl goodnight and drove home.

That was the last time she saw her daughter.

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation.

Who has taken their daughter, and why?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Playdate by Alex Dahl today. My thanks to Sophie Ransom of Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher, Head of Zeus, for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book gave me nightmares. I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean that I had an actual nightmare about being in a similar situation with my own youngest daughter the first night I started reading this book. The story is so profoundly realistic that I was actually able to imagine myself in the situation of Elisa in the book and my sub-concious acted that out in my sleep, jerking me awake in the early hours, sweating and heart pounding in panic. If you like a good horror story, this is it.

We are plunged almost immediately into a hellish scenario in the novel, which any parent will easily be able to relate to with a shudder. Remember one of those times where you lost sight of your child for a moment or two and felt a sudden panic that they were lost? Now imagine that was real and that you KNEW they were gone but had no idea where and how to find them. That they weren’t just lost but taken by someone whose motives were unclear. It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination for a parent to put themselves in that position, and that is what makes this book so chilling. The way it happens is so completely plausible that it will give you palpitations thinking of how this could easily happen to you. There is nothing more nightmarish than reality at times.

If I hadn’t started reading this book so close to bedtime, I would have devoured it in a single sitting. As it was, it took me less than 24 hours to read the book from start to finish, I simply could not put it down. The narrative is addictive, I just had to know what happened. The book is written from many different perspectives, so we get a fully rounded picture of events from every side – the grieving mother, the confused child, the abductor themselves, and other peripheral but pivotal figures in the drama. Each chapter starts by telling us who we are hearing from, so it is easy to follow, and it works perfectly to slowly peel back the facts of the matter and, more fascinatingly, the motives behind the behaviour of the individuals involved. Just when you think you have a handle on what is happening and why, we are thrown another snippet of information which changes the course of the narrative and leads us down another path. It is totally engrossing.

The chapters are short and punchy, with no words wasted, which leads to a pacy reading experience. There is action and information on every page, no slow spots, no needless descriptions or detours. The tension never lets up for a second and it will keep you on the edge of the seat all the way through. I know this book will be one that haunts me for a long while after I have finished it. It is all too plausible a set of facts for us to able to dismiss as far-fetched the way you can with some more extreme thrillers, and this makes it all the more unsettling (although I did wonder at the very beginning what the mother thought she was doing, giving in to something on the spur of the moment, but I guess it just shows we are all fallible and how easily we can make foolish, impulsive decisions that come back to haunt us.)

This book is an absolutely fabulous and riveting read for anyone who likes a fast-paced, enthralling thriller based on a credible premise that will terrify any parent who has ever watched the news. Close the curtains, lock the door, hug your child and be glad that, in your world, this is only a piece of fiction.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews (Meggy from Choc’n’Waffles wrote a much more eloquent one than this yesterday, you can read it here): 

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About the Author

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Alex Dahl was born in Oslo and is the critically acclaimed author of The Boy at the Door.  She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. and is a serious Francophile.

Connect with Alex:

Facebook: Alex Dahl Author

Twitter: @alexdahlauthor

Instagram: @authoralex

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Romancing The Romance Authors… with Jessica Redland

Romancing The Romance Authors

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write uplifting stories of love and friendship set in Yorkshire. There’s always a romance in them but I place a lot of emphasis on exploring friendships and family relationships too. Friendships in particularly fascinate me in the way they can change with time and circumstance.

I went through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and secured a publishing deal with the book I put through that but, after releasing four books with that company, they ceased trading. I republished those titles as an indie author and released several more but decided in 2018 that I wanted to try for a traditional publishing deal again. I was one of the first twenty authors to join the newly-formed Boldwood Books last year and my first book with them, The Secret to Happiness, was released in September 2019. Boldwood acquired my back-catalogue so I’ve had a whopping seven books released through them this year, which included six refreshed re-edited books. Next year, the final two from my back-catalogue will be re-released and at least two new titles.

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Why romance?

I love reading romance books so it felt like a natural choice to write in this genre when I first considered writing a book. I love that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you finish a really good romance novel and the leads whose journey has gripped you have their happy ever after or the promise of it. Lovely. It makes me feel uplifted and happy and who wouldn’t want to feel like that?

What inspires your stories?

Different stories have been inspired by different things. My debut novel, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, tells the story of Sarah who finds a lost recording of a clairvoyant reading from when she was eighteen. Everything has happened so far except one thing: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams and his name is Steven. She relocates back to her childhood home of Whitsborough Bay to take over her auntie’s florist shop and becomes obsessed with meeting Steven. This is inspired by a real-life event where a clairvoyant told me I was going to meet Mr Right and he’d be called Steven. I opened up a specialist teddy bear shop at the time and suddenly Stevens were everywhere. Did I meet him? No. I met (and married) Mark instead so I didn’t find my Steven but I certainly found the inspiration for my story.

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is now the second book in a four-book series and the other three were all inspired by main characters from Sarah’s story, each becoming the main focus of another book. As their characters developed in Seaside Blooms, their stories came to me and I realised I had a series in the making. Most unexpected!

The inspiration for The Secret to Happiness came from the lyrics in a Leona Lewis song. On her ‘Glassheart’ album, there’s a song called ‘Unlove Me’ and, in the chorus, she laments “wish I could tell you goodbye”. It’s all about needing her partner to unlove her/let her go because she loves him too much to make the decision to walk away even though she knows the relationship is toxic, they’re both unfaithful to each other and it needs to end. This got me thinking about other scenarios where someone might have to let go but is struggling to do so and I came up with quite a few. This became the premise of The Secret to Happiness in which there are three women who are each struggling to say goodbye to someone or something. It explores whether, when they meet at a beach-based bootcamp run by one of them, the power of friendship can help them say goodbye.

I’ve had a couple of lovely moments where a random character I’ve introduced in a book has arrived fully-formed with an entire story of their own. Boldwood have re-released two of my Christmas books – Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – which were both developed in this way. Very serendipitous!

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

When I was in my twenties, I read my first Jill Mansell book – Millie’s Fling and absolutely loved it. I’d never read a romcom before. Shortly after that, I read Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes and loved that too. Those two amazing authors inspired me so much and I still read and love their work today.

I have been a fan of Lucy Diamond, Paige Toon, Lisa Jewell, Alexandra Potter and Sophie Kinsella for many years but, more recently, have enjoyed books by Samantha Tonge and Holly Martin. I’m really good friends with Sharon Booth and am lucky enough to beta read her books which are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve also been reading a lot of books by fellow Boldwood authors and have discovered some amazing writers, some of whom are debuts and others who’ve had many books out there. I’d better not name them all as it would be a long list and I’d be mortified if I inadvertently missed someone out!

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Oh my goodness, that is a hard question! There are soooo many so I’m going to completely narrow it down to the last handful I’ve read. I’ve loved them all but I actually laughed out loud at Time Out by Emma Murray and it’s very rare I do that with a book so I will go for that one as we all need a little cheer in our lives just now.

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Mother of one and professional writer Saoirse (pronounced Seersha, not Searcy – thanks a bunch Game of Thrones!) is still adjusting to the demands of motherhood, four years after the birth of her daughter, Anna.

Living in the claustrophobic London suburb of Woodvale, and being surrounded by passive-aggressive mum-wars, isn’t helping. Neither is her increasingly pent-up anger at her once-perfect husband. Her only comrade in arms, best friend Bea, is the one thing keeping her sane.

When Saoirse’s agent asks her to pitch for a book, she is horrified to discover the topic is motherhood. How can she possibly write a ‘warts and all’ account of being a mother without giving away what it’s really like?

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Another super tricky question! Like so many authors, I completely fall in love with all of my leading men so would happily go away with any of them (just don’t tell hubby!) As for more famous ones, I’d need to go back to one I read a very long time ago and a different era: Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. I loved the books and I adored the TV series from the mid-80s. Jonathan Crombie, RIP, was so dreamy in that role and really brought the character to life.

For my romantic weekend with Gilbert Blythe, I’d love to spend it in a gorgeous wooden property with a wrap-around porch on Prince Edward Island as it looks beautiful. I honeymooned in Canada in British Columbia and would love to go back and explore a different part.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I’m going to be greedy and pick two things.

I joined the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) in 2012 and put my debut novel through the scheme twice and the sequel through in my third year, after which my debut found a publishing deal. I found the feedback from my first two readers absolutely invaluable in shaping my novel and giving me the confidence to send it out into the world and hopefully secure a publishing deal.

My second thing is the people I have met. I’m part of a ten-strong writing collective called The Write Romantics. We were all unpublished NWS members when we met virtually and we’ve been together for 7.5 years now. We don’t blog or do much collective promotion anymore but we provide a support group for the highs and lows of the writing journey and I value that so much. I’d never have met my little writing family without the RNA.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Specific to this genre, I’d say to really think about the type of romance writer you want to be and the best way to do this is to read widely in the genre. What type of book excites you and makes you turn those pages? Perhaps that’s the type of book you might want to write. There’s so much variety across the genre and thinking about where you see your fit will help shape your characters and your story. A publisher will typically want to see a clear fit but if you’re going down an indie route, you do have more flexibility on doing something a little different.

I know it says one piece but my other piece of advice is related. It’s to write from the heart, not to try and chase a trend, and to write because you couldn’t imagine not doing so. If you’re passionate about, and believe in, what you’re writing, that should come across to readers.

Tell us about your latest book.

My first nine books are all set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay but I changed location for book ten and the start of a brand new series. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was released in July and, although the protagonist is from Whitsborough Bay, the location moves inland onto the Yorkshire Wolds. You can buy the book in all formats here.

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow

Can love really be found when you stop looking for it…? 

As Samantha Wishaw watches the love of her life marry another woman, she’s ready to give up hope of finding her happy ever after.

But when a chance encounter leads Sam to find friendship in Thomas – a lonely, grumpy elderly widower living at derelict Hedgehog Hollow – her life is about to change forever.

Glad to have a distraction from family feuds and match-making, Sam vows to fulfil Thomas and his wife, Gwendoline’s, dreams of restoring Hedgehog Hollow to its former glory, and to open a hedgehog rescue centre.

Throwing herself into the task at hand, little does Sam realise that the keys to love and happiness may also be found at Hedgehog Hollow, when she least expects it…

About the Author

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Jessica lives in Scarborough on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration behind the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay – with her husband, teenage daughter and sprocker spaniel, Ella.

She’s a stationery addict with a notepad obsession who loves chocolate (although it doesn’t love her), hedgehogs, 80s music, collectible teddy bears and lighthouses.

Her career has mainly been in HR as a trainer and recruiter but, in June 2020, she became a full-time author. She’s so very grateful to anyone who has bought or borrowed her books in whatever format, helping her fulfil a long-held dream of writing full-time. She still can’t believe she gets to spend every day chatting to her fictional friends and making stuff up.

Connect with Jessica:

Website: https://www.jessicaredland.com

Blog: https://jessicaredlandwriter.wordpress.com

Facebook: Jessica Redland Author

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Instagram: @jessicaredlandauthor

Pinterest: jessicaredlandauthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jim Miller

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for my Friday Night Drinks session by poet… Jim Miller.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Jim. First things first, what are you drinking?

Jameson with a Dr Pepper back.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

We’d be downtown Nashville catching some of the local music at the Exit/Inn, one of my favourite venues down there. Awesome vibes, great music and great people.

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Fabulous choice, I love Nashville. Looking forward to the day I can go back. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Jim Morrison

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So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

It depends, everything in general, or just the writing and personal sides of the coin? At the moment I have 15 different business ventures and/or projects that I’m financially and deep time invested in. Writing-wise though I’m finishing up a few extra manuscripts I somehow managed to pour out of my soul so far this year beyond the one I promised myself I would create. I got bored, laughing, really bored, so I continued to add more and more to my plate like a selfish beast until it was over-pouring and I was staring at myself in the mirror’s reflection thinking to myself what the hell were you thinking, laughing, I tend to do everything in life the most difficult manner possible. I love the challenge. I’m in the midst of the second issue of my literary journal Belladonna Literary Arts Magazine, we’re hoping to move from just digital to print and several other ambitious goals by the years end. I’m in the building and buying stages of a recording studio to begin using some of my degrees for something and making high quality audio books at a better price than I found while shopping around during my last two books. I’ve also been working on finding the missing writers for a chapbook series that we plan to launch in January.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment to date has been Ghost in the Reflection. It was the first writing I had done in over twenty years and it came out and found itself on paper so naturally that I knew it was right. Unfortunately, I pushed it out too soon and didn’t take advantage of that time in between to try to get the individual pieces out and published elsewhere which never hurts to make sales down the road with, I accept those learning errors and can only hope to not repeat the mistakes. My biggest challenge hands down is to get read and outsell my ambition, like so many other writers. I struggle to find my target audience and really struggle to find anyone whom I write similar enough to.

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What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

To simply write my words and they be read and remembered by a few. I’ve no super goals or expectations as a writer especially as one joining in the charade so late into their venture. A few more individual pieces published maybe another collection or two.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I have several manuscripts that I am currently working on and a few business projects, but my favourite would be my next full-length manuscript, A Lesser Man.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Hands down my favourite spot of all my travels has been Sedona, Arizona. There is a metaphysical pull/gravitation to the place that draws one there and makes them not want to leave. Besides the local stories, it’s just a marvellous sight for the eyes. Top of my bucket list is to somehow get across this giant ocean and see Great Britain and Ireland where the bulk of my heritage is rooted.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have an intelligent and mature side, seems most everyone pretty much assumes I’m a nonstop party beast.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

This is a difficult one, only one? If I only have one choice, then I am going to recommend On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

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Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young innocent, joins his hero Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat, on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream. A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac’s exhilarating novel swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, On the Road is the book that launched the Beat Generation and remains the bible of that literary movement.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Only failsafe plan that seems to work is to just not stop til you fall out but if I do and get starting to feel like death, then hair of the dog is the best prescription, alcohol.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Lost in the woods, backpacking some trail or kayak down a cool stream with my notebook and pen. Maybe even my acoustic guitar.

That sounds wonderful. Jim, thanks so much for joining me on the blog, it’s been a fascinating evening.

Jim’s latest book, a chapbook called Bottom Feeder will be released on Friday, November 13 and is available for pre-order here. Ghost in the Reflection-Letters to Erin is available and anyone who purchases Ghost and leaves a verifiable review can have a free e-book copy of Bottom Feeder. Verify by following Jim somewhere and emailing or instant message the link to the review and a pic of the review.

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Despair, paranoia, defeat, depression, anxiety. These describe the descent to the bottom one endures in their fall. This short collection of poetry depicts that fall and realization and the hopelessness that swallows one leaving them almost paralized. Its a sink or swim kind of world with no mercy. This is an unique portrait painted in the words of experience.

James (Jim) Miller was born in the late 1970s in a rural northern Indiana farm community. He grew up between Indiana, Florida and a short stint in the New York area. He attended Vincennes University (Indiana) where he majored in English-Creative Writing, Journalism and Music-Audio Recording. During his time as a student he held an editor position for 4 semesters at the university newspaper, The Trailblazer.

James is a lifelong writer, a lover of new experiences, people, music and travel. After college, he took a few years to find himself traveling the states penniless with a notebook scribbling the images in words that filled his eyes and with working around in the various music scenes around the country. Currently he is self employed and running his family’s garage door installation business and a small indie publishing press that publishes chapbooks and magazines. A couple earlier poems of his were published in The Tecumseh Review (Vincennes University) in 2000 as well as various anthologies between 1997 and 2000, also he has released two full legnth collections, A Footnote for Tomorrow (2019) and Ghost in the Reflection-Letters to Erin (2020).

You can find out more about Jim and his work via his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Book Review: Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons

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Eudora Honeysett is done – with all of it. Having seen first-hand what a prolonged illness can create, the eighty-five-year-old has no intention of leaving things to chance. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland she takes her life into her own hands.

But then ten-year-old Rose arrives in a riot of colour on her doorstep. Now, as precocious Rose takes Eudora on adventures she’d never imagined she reflects on the trying times of her past and soon finds herself wondering – is she ready for death when she’s only just experienced what it’s like to truly live?

This week I have been taking part in the One More Chapter Readalong for Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons, and today I am sharing my review of the book. I want to thank One More Chapter for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s going to be very difficult to do this book justice in my review without giving away any spoilers because what I would really like to do is gush endlessly about how marvellous every word of the novel is and tell you in excruciating detail exactly why. However, this blog is, and always will be, guaranteed spoiler-free, so I’ll do my best by the book in more limited terminology.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is one of those gems of a book that comes along quite quietly, without huge fanfare, but when you discover it you are torn between wanting to tell everyone you meet that they must read it immediately and hugging it to yourself as a cosy little secret. But since I am a kind and generous book blogger, I am going to share the secret with all of you. Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is going to be one of my books of the year, without a shadow of a doubt. I absolutely loved it, have already bought the paperback, want to tell everyone I ever meet about it and am telling you that you absolutely must, must read it at once.

This is a story about loneliness and friendship and family and disappointment and giving up and not giving up and intergenerational relationships and death and all kinds of love and how life isn’t over until it’s over. It has a dual timeline, amazing characters and every single emotion you can think of ranging through it. It will make you laugh and possibly cry (don’t read it at bedtime unless you want to have to sleep on a soggy pillow) and, as soon as you have turned the last page, want to immediately go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Annie Lyons has created a superb character in Eudora Honeysett. She goes on one of the most transformative journeys of any fictional character I have come across in fiction this year. The Eudora I met in the first chapter of this book is a totally different person to the one I left on the last page. The author’s deftness in peeling back the layers of Eudora’s back story over the course of the book at the same time as showing her emotional journey in the present is a thing of joy to behold and I am full of awe and admiration for her skill in playing with the reader’s emotions in this way. Despite being a very prickly character when we first meet her, she is totally sympathetic and, by the end of the book I was completely and irrevocably in love with her as if she were real and a member of my own family. Anyone who loved Eleanor Oliphant, Susan Green from The Cactus or Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things is going to adore Eudora Honeysett.

But Eudora doesn’t go through this transformation in isolation. All changes need a catalyst, and Eudora’s comes in the form of a tiny, rainbow tornado of a next door neighbour who shakes up Eudora’s ordered but sterile life, completely against Eudora’s will. Rose is a bright force of nature and a more delightful character has never been written. She represents all that is good and pure and positive in this cynical world and is the perfect antidote to all the stress and worry and loneliness that we are currently experiencing. This book could not have come along at a more opportune time for all of us and, if you are looking for a cheering, uplifting, escapist read that addresses a lot of issues that we are all currently facing, look no further.

There are a host of other fantastic characters to support these two, including the adorable Stanley ,who everyone must want as their grandad, Rose’s mum and baby sister, and Montgomery, a cat full of personality. The plot is unique and thought-provoking. It really made me think about getting older, loneliness and what it must be like to contemplate your death in old age. The author does an impeccable job of capturing the unique perspectives of the different generations and their individual concerns. Every word of this book is believable and informative and reading it was an enriching experience, as well as being fun and emotionally moving. Quite an accomplishment.

I really cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough. If you haven’t realised by now, I adored it and think everyone should read it. I hope it gets a lot of attention, because it really deserves it. I know it is a book I will continue to think about long after I’ve finished it and will return to again. The pinnacle of uplit and the perfect book for a lockdown lift.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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After a career in bookselling and publishing, Annie Lyons published five books including the best-selling, Not Quite Perfect. When not working on her novels, she teaches creative writing. She lives in south-east London with her husband and two children.

Connect with Annie:

Website: https://annielyons.com/

Facebook: Annie Lyons

Twitter: @1AnnieLyons

Instagram: @annielyonsauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Michelle Kidd

Desert Island Books

This week’s Desert Island Books have been chosen by author Michelle Kidd. Let’s see what she has picked to take to keep her company in her isolation, shall we?

Book One – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

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Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The magic starts here!

It’s almost impossible to choose just one Harry Potter book!  I love each and every one, but I guess the sensible thing is to choose the very first, as that is where it all started! When they first came out, I always believed that the Harry Potter books were for children – but how wrong could I be! They may start out as children’s books, but with each and every new book I think they mature and grow into something completely different, something that manages to transcend all ages. JK Rowling’s ability to set a scene and create characters is impeccable. Characters, for me, make or break a book, and she creates such vivid characters that you cannot help but feel as though you transported into each scene and see it first-hand. Every so often I have a Harry Potter binge and read them all from start to finish.

Book Two – The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

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Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again.

I was probably about twelve when I first read The Hobbit. It remains one of my favourite all-time ‘go to’ books – I have lost count of the number of times I have read it, but each time always feels like the first time. I remember that, as a child, I bought myself a set of limited edition hardbacks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with my pocket money, and they still take pride of place on my bookshelf today. Although I love the whole set, The Hobbit remains my favourite as this is where I was first introduced to the notion of a Hobbit. And second breakfasts. The descriptions Tolkien manages to convey into The Hobbit, and the magical and mythical creatures he creates, for me mark this book out as a masterpiece.

Book Three – BIKO by Donald Woods

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‘You are either alive and proud or you are dead … and your method of death can be a politicizing thing’ Steve Biko Founder of the Black Consciousness Movement

Steve Biko was a natural target for the South African authorities. On 13 August 1977, Steve Biko was arrested, interrogated and beaten. On 12 September he was dead. Editor of a leading anti-apartheid paper, Donald Woods was a friend of Steve Biko and went into exile in order to write his testimony about the life and work of a remarkable man.

As a teenager I read a lot about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and became totally obsessed with books and films on the subject. I even bought myself an ANC badge and wore it with pride! I was lucky enough to see Nelson Mandela in the flesh when he attended the concert in his name at Wembley after being released from prison in 1990.  For many reasons, BIKO is a book that has always remained with me from the minute I read it. It formed the basis for the Oscar nominated film ‘Cry Freedom’ starring Denzil Washington (one of my all-time favourite films!) and tells the true story of Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. It is a highly emotive book; as thought-provoking now as it was when I first read it in the 1980s. The research and detail that went into this book is astounding. The content is, at times, upsetting – and pulls no punches in detailing how cruel human beings can be towards each other.

Book Four – The Shining by Stephen King

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Danny is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny’s visions grow out of control.

As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217 and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel – and that, too, is beginning to shine . . .

I was a voracious reader from a very early age, and I basically grew up reading Stephen King’s books. The man is such a phenomenal author and classic storyteller, it is hard to choose just the one book – but I think The Shining has to be one of his very best. The book is chilling to read and still gets my heart pumping even after all this time. I read it as a teenager, long before I watched the film, and I still feel that it is the pinnacle of a classic horror book. You don’t get much more frightening than the goings on at the Overlook Hotel!

Book Five – Murder at the Farm by Paul Foot

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A revised edition of an investigation into the murder of schoolboy Carl Bridgewater in 1978, updated to include coverage of the release in February of the three men accused of his murder (a fourth one also wrongly convicted died in prison). Foot questions why the men remained in prison for so long, and asks who did kill Carl Bridgewater.

Another one of my obsessions is true crime and miscarriage of justice books. As a former defence lawyer, I find them fascinating and upsetting in equal measures. This book tells the story of the wrongful conviction of four men for the killing of Carl Bridgewater. It took seventeen years to clear their names. This book is incredibly detailed, analysing all the facts and evidence, enabling the reader to see where the grave mistakes were made. This book is a favourite of mine because of the way Paul Foot shows how the mistakes and inadequacies in the way crimes were investigated back in the 1970s led to such a devastating miscarriage of justice, and then just how hard it is to turn the scales of justice back in your favour. A thought-provoking read.

My luxury item:

It would have to be my tabby cat, Livi! (Assuming animals are allowed!) Livi came to live with us in November 2015 from our local stray cat rescue centre. She was only seven months old at the time. After a cautious and anxious start, she has now firmly stamped her authority on the house as her territory, and sleeps on my bed nestled up against my legs. I’m not sure I would be able to sleep on the desert island if I couldn’t feel her pressed up against me! She may well decide that the sandy beach is just one large litter tray, but she might make up for it by being an expert hunter!

About Michelle Kidd

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Michelle Kidd is a self-published author known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels.

Michelle qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

But the dream to write books was never far from her mind and in 2008 she began writing the manuscript that would become the first DI Jack MacIntosh novel – The Phoenix Project. The book took eighteen months to write, but spent the next eight years gathering dust underneath the bed.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and has not looked back since. There are currently three DI Jack MacIntosh novels, with a fourth in progress.

Michelle works full time for the NHS and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She enjoys reading, wine and cats – not necessarily in that order 

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Michelle’s latest book is The Fifteen, the third book in the DI Jack MacIntosh series and you can buy a copy here.

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When the past finally catches up with you, is it murder? Or justice?

When a bedbound, defenceless man is found dead in his London nursing home, nobody saw his killer. But the killer left their mark.

Detective Inspector Jack Macintosh soon discovers that this was no random killing; this one was personal.

And it was just the beginning.

As the case unfolds, Jack is forced to think the unthinkable as the evidence begins to point disturbingly close to home.

Revenge – how long would you wait?

Connect with Michelle:

Website: https://www.michellekiddauthor.com

Facebook: Michelle Kidd Author

Twitter: @authorkidd

Instagram: @michellekiddauthor

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Blog Tour: Love & Pollination by Mari Jane Law #Extract

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I’m very happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Love & Pollination by Mari Jane Law and I’m thrilled that I can share an extract from the book with you. My thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tours for offering me a place on the tour.

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Perdita Riley is facing the greatest dilemma of her life. Why had she taken Violet Freestone’s advice on how to make herself look more alluring? It led her into the arms of a womaniser. And now Perdita has to deal with a huge setback. Actually, Setback Number One isn’t huge yet, but it won’t be long before it is.

To cheer herself up, Perdita goes shopping, where an extraordinary encounter deposits her, literally, into the lap of Saul Hadley. She would like to stay there, but Setback Number One is going to get in the way.

Will she find a way to deal with what has happened? Can she manage the complications of her growing attraction to Saul?

Extract from Love & Pollination

“Perdita glimpsed her reflection in the bathroom mirror.

If she’d been attacked by an over-ripe tomato, she wouldn’t have appeared much different. But peering at her blotchy skin and swollen eyes was not going to help with either Setback Number One or Setback Number Two. She splashed her face with water, smoothed down her brown bob and went back to the sofa to bury herself under her duvet and think.

The doorbell rang. It was too early for the post.

Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, she buried herself deeper under the bedding. But the doorbell pealed again.

‘Perdita?’ A male voice sounded through the letterbox. And she recognised it. ‘Perdita, we know you’re in there. We heard you moving about.’

Damn. What had happened to privacy? Although Luke and Gavin were the closest thing to family she had, taking her under their wing from the day she’d moved into the flat in Clifton, she didn’t want them to see her like this. Nevertheless, she donned her dressing gown, padded to the front door and opened it a crack.

‘Hi,’ Luke and Gavin said in unison, smiling brightly at her. They were dressed ready for work: Luke in fitness instructor gear, and Gavin, an undertaker, wearing a smart dark suit.

‘We’re worried about you,’ Luke said. He was bigger than Gavin, taller and broader.

‘We heard you crying last night,’ Gavin explained.

‘And, if it’s a matter of life or death, you have both of us calling so you can take your pick.’

Opening her mouth to comment on the lack of sound-proofing between the floors of the flats, and to say she was okay and that she didn’t need any assistance, she suddenly blurted, ‘Can you find me a job?’”

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If this extract has whetted your appetite for the book, you can buy a copy of Love & Pollination here.

Make sure you look out for reviews and other content for this book as it takes a tour around the blogosphere this week.

About the Author

Mari Jane Law lives in the UK. She loves books, TV series and films that make her laugh and, through her writing, discovered she could make other people laugh as well. She hopes those who buy or borrow her work have as much fun reading it as she had in writing it! 

Love & Pollination is the first in a series of whacky romantic comedy novels she is working on. Her characters appeal so strongly to her that she is unable to let them go – hence the series. She enjoys their humorous behaviour, quirky personalities and sharp, witty dialogue.

She was very pleased to have been shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2019 Search for a Star competition.

Member of Cambridge Writers.  

Connect with Mari Jane:

Website: https://marijanelaw.com

Facebook: Mari Jane Law

Twitter: @MariJaneLaw1

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Romancing the Romance Authors… with Colette Kebell

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today I am thrilled to be quizzing author Colette Kebell on all facets of romance writing.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hello Julie, thanks so much for having me on your blog.  

I write mostly Contemporary Female which would fall under the umbrella of chicklit or romcom They are light-hearted, fun and quirky.  The aim is to bring a few smiles and laughter to the reader to brighten their day.  That’s not the only genre I write in though.  I also have a financial crime thriller out there in the world, which does have an element of both romance and suspense and the one I don’t talk about, an erotic historical western set in pre-Civil War America.

As to my journey I knew little or nothing about being an indie author when I set out, or any kind of author for that matter.  I’d read plenty of books and had quite a good grasp of the English language, thanks to my days as a legal secretary, but had to jump through quite a few hoops and navigate a steep learning curve to get to where I am.  I had some help though, from an American indie author called Donna Jane McDonald, which was invaluable and thus was mentored by her for a time.  Once in a while I have a go at approaching traditional publishers, out of curiosity more than anything else, but nothing has come from those approaches to date.  I guess I like the control and freedom of being an indie author and might find it quite strange to have to work to deadlines as this point in my writing career, though, having said that, if the right deal came along, I’m sure I would manage.

Why romance?

For the feel-good factor.  There are many categories that fall under that umbrella, but I read light-hearted books, on the whole and so it felt natural to me to write books under that sub-category

What inspires your stories?

Any number of things have inspired my stories.  My first two I drew partially, at least, on my past experience as a legal secretary.  There are elements of each of those books which are true to my own past, though I’m not about to let on which those are, I like to keep the readers guessing…  Other than that, it depends on the book.  My financial crime thriller was partly inspired by my Dad, who was a stock broker, and my raunchy was inspired by Roots and The Colour Purple, as well as good old fashioned westerns such as Calamity Jane.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I’m a fan of Jill Mansell’s books, then there are the likes of Jackie Collins, whose books I grew up reading.  I came across Donna McDonald by having loved her books and so I have a varied taste you could say.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Do I honestly have to pick one?  If that’s the case, I would say it would have to be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  Is that truly classed as a romance novel… I think so, though there is a whole plethora of emotions to experience from reading that book.

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Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Hugh Jackman when he played the character of Leopold in the film Kate and Leopold would be my ideal date.He is a perfect gentleman, but is also an intellectual with a very good grasp on life despite having been thrown out of his own time zone. Due to the nature of his character I’d like to take him to a museum where there were plenty of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions on display as although I would also find it fascinating I know he would. A private viewing would be even better as that’s one character I’d quite like to … erm… well I won’t go there… with perhaps a candle lit meal at the end of it where we could discuss the day and get to know each other better.  

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The RNA to me is all about camaraderie and support.  I have met some fabulous fellow members despite not having attended one of the major events yet.  Don’t worry though, all things being well, I shall attend one next year, given the chance.   

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Read, read and read, write, write and write.  Exercise your writing every day, whether it be answering interview questions, writing a blog, a review or entering a competition, as well as writing that first all-important novel.

Tell me about your latest book.

My latest book is called I Don’t Do Mondays! and the tagline is ‘Anything can happen on a Monday… even love…’ You can buy a copy of the book here.

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How can Mia find happiness?

Lawyer Mia’s picture-perfect dream life in New York is imploding. Her job has become too stressful, she’s exhausted from carrying her friends and what’s up with her striking, wealthy fiancé?

But when life-changing decisions force her to move to Maine, where she’ll face her often critical father and hard truths about what truly matters in life, she re-discovers a passion of her youth.

What begins as a low moment in her life quickly pushes her to consider what she genuinely wants and leads her down a new path where she must embrace the future and let go of the past.

Will this move help Mia to fix her life, once and for all, and will she finally find true love?

About the Author

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Colette Kebell is an eclectic author, though a relatively new one and thus far has self-published her books. Her books are light-hearted, fun and quirky and even considered by some to be inspirational. She publishes mostly for the English speaking market and the Italian one. Colette Kebell does not stick to just one genre when writing though, as you shall discover from her latest book which launched on 5th April 2019.

As a career, Colette spent her later years as a legal secretary. After a first attempt at writing many years ago (a book that still remains in her drawer) she resumed this passion a few years back, after being made redundant. After few book signing events and a book talk, which almost caused her to collapse with nerves, Colette now spends her time between her home in the UK and her home in France.

Colette has two adorable dogs and, when not writing and marketing her books, she likes cooking for herself and her husband, gardening or designing various items for their home. Amongst her other hobbies, she has also experimented with furniture upholstery, and she might, from time to time, have a paintbrush in her hand.

Connect with Colette:

Website: http://colettekebell.com/

Facebook: Colette Kebell Author

Twitter: @ColetteKebell

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Tempted By… Over The Rainbow Book Blog: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox

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A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of murder. Who can save Pale Harbour from itself?

1846. Desperate to escape the ghosts of his past, Gabriel Stone takes a position as a minister in the remote Pale Harbour, but not all is as it seems in the sleepy town.

As soon as Gabriel steps foot in town, he can’t escape the rumours about the mysterious Sophy Carver, a young widow who lives in the eerie Castle Carver: whispers that she killed her husband, mutterings that she might even be a witch.

But as strange, unsettling events escalate into murder, Gabriel finds himself falling under Sophy’s spell. As clues start to point to Sophy as the next victim, Gabriel realises he must find answers before anyone else turns up dead.

I have to admit, it was the fabulous cover of this book that first caught my eye when I saw it on Joanna’s fantastic blog, Over The Rainbow Book Blog. Whoever designed it is a genius because it is so atmospheric, it draws you right into the story before you have even read a page.

Once I started reading the review Joanna had written about the book, I was irretrievably Tempted By… her glowing words and absolutely had to get a copy for myself. I absolutely love a gothic novel, and the allure of a dark mystery tied to the works of Edgar Allan Poe was too good to resist.

Reading the review, the book hints at a gothic mystery combined with a crime story and a romance, all wrapped up in one. Who could possibly turn down the chance to read their three favourite genres in a single novel? Jo does a great job of boiling all of the most attractive features of the book into a short, sweet review and it certainly worked its magic on me!

I absolutely love Joanna’s blog. She is so down to earth and to the point with her reviews that you are never in any doubt how she feels about a book and she manages to get to the heart about what is great about any book she reviews. If you are looking for straight forward opinions about a book that will really give you an clear idea about whether you will like a book or not, make sure you head over to Over The Rainbow Book Blog.

And if you have been tempted by Jo’s review to get your own copy of The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox, you can buy it in all formats here.

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Blog Tour: One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

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I’m so thrilled to be taking part in this tour today. This author is fast becoming one of my favourites. The prequel to this novel, One Summer’s Night, was one of my favourite romances of last year (you can read my review here), so I was really looking forward to reading One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for asking me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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It’s autumn in beautiful Stratford-Upon-Avon and Kelsey Anderson is enjoying her new life in her adopted town. Her Shakespearean tour guide days behind her, she’s now opened her own photography studio and loved up with boyfriend Jonathan – even if a long-distance relationship is sometimes lonely.

When best friend Mirren Imrie moves down from Scotland, Kelsey is delighted to have her friend at her side – and as the nights turn colder, Mirren throws herself into dating, until she finds herself growing closer to sexy journalist, Adrian Armadale. But when Mirren uncovers a long-buried scandal while working at the local newspaper, her big scoop might throw Kelsey’s – and Jonathan’s – life upside down. Will she choose her career over her friends’ happiness?

And when Jonathan returns from America and discovers the secrets Mirren has uncovered about his family, it throws his relationship with Kelsey onto shaky ground. Can they find their way back to love, before it becomes the winter of their discontent?

The author has knocked it out of the park again with this cosy, autumn read. The minute I started reading, I was back in Stratford with Kelsey and eager to find out  what was going on with her fledgling photography business and her blossoming romance with actor boyfriend, Jonathan. This book would work equally well as a standalone, though, if you haven’t read the first book.

Kelsey is absolutely brilliant at creating a sense of place in her books and you can tell she has a detailed knowledge of Stratford and a great affection for the place, it shines out from the page and takes the reader to the heart of the town. Her prose is full of beautiful descriptions which evoke the season and stimulate all of the readers senses, so they are experiencing the action, rather than just reading it. Her writing always gives me the warm fuzzies!

As well as finding out how Kelsey’s new life is moving on in Stratford, the action catches up with Kelsey’s best friend Mirren, who is having a big shake up in her own circumstances and decides that she needs to take a leaf out of Kelsey’s book and make some brave changes. She ends up joining her friend in Warwickshire, with some unforeseen consequences for both of them. It was fabulous to have some new characters to freshen up the scene; I particularly loved Kelsey’s neighbour Blythe.

Kiley’s books are full of charm and warmth, her characters always likeable and empathetic and she makes you care about what is happening to them. Reading one of her books is a bit like sinking into a warm bubble bath, relaxing and soothing. In fact, a warm bubble bath is the perfect place to read them. I absolutely cannot get enough of her books, and she is such an inspiration to me as a writer. I find myself studying her books to see how she manages to create the atmosphere she does, and then stepping back in awe because she is so skilled. I hop this isn’t the end of our visits to Stratford with Kelsey, I have grown so attached to the world that Kiley has created here.

This novel is perfect to curl up with at this time of year and, any fans of cosy romance novels who hasn’t picked up one of Kiley’s books yet needs to remedy that omission immediately. I know you will fall in love with her writing just as I have. I am now just waiting to get hold of a paperback copy of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach now to complete my collection. Please, Hera Books, if you are listening!

One Winter’s Night is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Hi, I’m Kiley Dunbar, author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

If you’re looking for travel adventures, swoony heroes, and dreamy escapism that will let you forget the world just for a wee while then I’m your author.

Take your pick from my first three novels:

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), the first in the Port Willow Bay Series, takes you on an impromptu crafting holiday in the Scottish Highlands and reminds us that after the storm comes the rainbow. Crafts, ceilidhs, coral bays and gentle recovery. (Part two coming September 2021 – both parts can be read alone)

Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) will fly you to snowy, remote Finnish Lapland over Christmas where Sylvie Magnussen is getting a second chance at love with an old flame – sexy Stellan Virtanen – the one who got away – well, he ran away actually, and Sylvie never understood why. Hot kisses in a cold climate, Northern lights and a stunning resort setting. (Standalone novel)

One Summer’s Night (2019) whisks you away on a working staycation in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon during a sultry heatwave summer. Kelsey Anderson, Shakespeare nerd and aspiring photographer, navigates her new life in a new town. A starting over story, handsome actors, backstage passes, and a whole lot of drama in the Heart of England. (Sequel coming September 2020 – both parts can be read alone)

And if you’ve enjoyed one of my books I’d be thrilled if you left a review!

Connect with Kiley:

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

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Friday Night Drinks with… D. Ellis Overttun

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for my weekly Friday Night Drinks by author… D. Ellis Overttun.

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I’m not really a drinker. So, it would probably be cranberry and seven. However, if I had to pick an alcoholic beverage, it would be a Kir Royale.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Well, given I’m not much of a drinker, I don’t really have a spot that comes to mind. One place is basically as good as any other. However, if I had to pick a place that could be any place, it would be Rick’s Café in Casablanca. Believe it or not, it’s a real place, inspired by Rick’s Café Américan.

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I’ll be wearing a double-breasted, ivory dinner jacket ensemble a la Bogie, minus the cigarette. How about you?

Instead of Sam singing “As Time Goes By”, I think I would like to hear Carly Simon’s version backed up, of course, by the incredible harmonics of Stevie Wonder (http://dld.bz/jhag9). What would follow would be a set a la the one from her Live at Grand Central Station performance.

That is very specific imagery, you must be a writer! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

The first person has to be Alice Roberts. I first bumped into her when I came across a BBC documentary series called Origins of Us. It traces the evolution of our bodies from the trees to the plains of ancient Africa. Using her training as an anatomist, she shows how the changing environment shaped our bodies. Several of the chapters throughout my Terra Nova series have been inspired by this BBC series. Apart from getting her take on those parts, I would like to get her opinion on a speculative scifi concept on which my novels hinge: What would happen if sexual relations for pleasure and procreation separated? My take on it is the backdrop to my first novel, Universe: Awakening.

The next person I would like as part of our merry band would be physicist, Brian Cox. I’ve probably seen most of his documentaries, but my favourite is Human Universe. I would like to get his take on the physics in the Terra Nova series, particularly my concept of subspace. It is another speculative scifi concept that postulates that most of the mass/energy of the universe is inaccessible to us under normal circumstances. Also, it would be great fun to hear some of his stories when he was the keyboard player in his Dare days.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am in the process of finishing up my 4th book, Mirror in Time. As the title suggests, it’s about time travel. It is a standalone novel with (I think) very accessible science that is faster paced than my other novels. I’ve included the as yet unpublished prologue. Any sci-fi bloggers who want to review an ARC of the soon-to-be-finished book can DM my wife, Natasha (@neoverttun).

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I suppose the proudest moment has been having guest posts hosted on various sites. The biggest challenge has been to generate content for those posts. I have found it quite daunting. It has given me a lot of respect for bloggers like yourself who constantly have to deal with writing reviews on what I only imagine are tight schedules.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I would like to be a panelist at MCM London Comic Con discussing the Terra Nova series.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favorite place has to be the south of France, mainly because of the food and the ambiance.

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I don’t have a bucket list. For me, it has always been more about the journey than the destination. Also, I suppose it’s because I think it means you can see the end somewhere on the horizon. I think I would find it a little depressing. Having said that, I live each day as if they are in short supply and approach everything with a sense of urgency.

The closest thing I would have to an item on a bucket list would be to be able to play the piano totally by ear (because fingers are so boring.) I’m almost there, but to be able to free myself from having to read music would be so liberating.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

When I was young, I used to take French at a convent in the neighbourhood where I grew up. There was a story that I had to translate in one of the lessons. I remember it was prefaced by a picture of a wolf who had experienced lean times and a well-fed dog. They met at the edge of a forest on opposite sides of a fence surrounding a farm and had an exchange about their current circumstances. The wolf complained about how hard his life was, constantly searching for food and braving the elements. The dog, on the other hand, was quite content. He led a comfortable life with plenty of food and shelter. Now, I’m paraphrasing…

“Gee, it would be great if I could live like that,” the wolf said.

“Well, let me speak to the farmer. Maybe, you can come live with me,” the dog replied.

“Would you?” Then, the wolf noticed the dog’s neck. “Why is your fur matted?”

“That’s from my collar when the farmer ties me up.”

The wolf smiled and returned to the forest.

Where safety and security are concerned, I am like the dog. However, there is one place where I am like the wolf, and that is my writing. I write the way I write, take it or leave it. It is probably the only place where I have true freedom.

I think Cyrano de Bergerac sums it up best: “To sing, to laugh, to dream, to walk in my own way, free with an eye to see things as they are, a voice that means manhood. To cock my hat where I choose. At a word, a yes, a no, to fight or write. But never to make a line I have not heard in my own heart. To travel any road under the sun, under the stars, nor care if fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne. Yet, with all modesty to say: ‘My soul, be satisfied with flowers, with weeds, with thorns even; but gather them in the one garden you may call your own.’ “

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think you’d find the things I read very interesting since I rarely read fiction. However, I did recently depart from that when I did a one-off review of The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes. My three favourite books are: The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, The Art of War by Sun Tzu and Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb. Which one would be my must-read probably changes depending on where I am at the time. Right now, with all that is going on with COVID19, I am in an antifragile mood, so I would go with Taleb.

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Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. Here Taleb stands uncer­tainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resil­ient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world. Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: the antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.

I love to read non-fiction, as well as fiction. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Being a non-drinker is my first line of defence. (I can nurse a drink an entire evening.) I also hear that staying hydrated is the best go to cure for a hangover.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

The question reminds me of the Big Bang Theory episode “The Intimacy Acceleration” where Sheldon and Penny participate in an experiment designed to see if two people could fall in love. It involves a series of questions they ask each other that are designed to promote intimacy. One of the questions was: Describe your perfect day. It gave me pause, and I turned to Natasha, and said, (and I’m paraphrasing), “Almost everyday is a perfect day. The only thing that would make it absolutely perfect is money.” She understood that what I meant by “money” was Bill Gates, George Soros or Andrew Lloyd Webber kind of money: MONEY!

She and I are sort of a recluse couple. To quote Elton John, “Looking for an island in our boat upon the sea.” We spend most days side by side either pursuing our literary endeavour with the Terra Nova series or our non-literary endeavour.

Being Saturday, I would probably spend the morning writing then reading to Natasha. Then, I would make lunch. (Yes, I do all the cooking.) A catnap après le déjeuner then on to some serious movie watching. Around 5:00 or 6:00, we would work out for about an hour or so followed by a light supper while watching Real Time with Bill Maher, closing with some CNN. Then, to bed to bed my sleepy head.

Pretty boring, no?

Well, it’s something I promised Natasha long ago, (and I mean years not decades). It probably is best incapsulated by a line from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd: “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be — and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

Not boring at all, pretty romantic! I’m a huge fan of Real Time… myself. Thank you so much for joining me on the blog and being so open and detailed in your responses, I have enjoyed it very much.

D. E. Overttun is the author of the Terra Nova series of novels which are Universe:Awakening, Genesis: Vision of the New World and Prophecy: Vision of Darkness and you can buy them by following the links.

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You can find out more about D. E. Overttun’s writing via his wife, Natasha’s Twitter account.

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