Friday Night Drinks….with N. J. Simmonds

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I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow Fiction Cafe Writer and young adult author…..N. J. Simmonds.

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Hi Natalie and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

A glass of 2018 Merlot. It’s my Friday night treat. Normally I drink just water or orange squash!

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?

I’m half-Spanish and I spend my summers in my house in the south of Spain. So I would take you to my favourite beach bar where we’d eat paella and drink mojitos as the sun set…then dance all night!

Oh, if only. We are all dreaming of travelling to sunshine-y places at the moment! 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?

I’m obsessed with Alicia Keys – she’s so talented and generous, and looks like a lot of fun. I’d invite her and probably my late grandad. He loved a drink and he’d probably ask her lots of amusingly inappropriate questions. I do miss him.

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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?

This has been such a crazy year for everyone that I keep forgetting how many exciting things I have going on. My second book Son of Secrets (the sequel to The Path Keeper) is out 28th May and I can’t wait. Then June and August my two-part Manga story Out Of The Darkness is out with Big Bang! Manga, and in September I’m launching an indie paranormal series…but that hasn’t been officially announced yet!

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

I started writing fiction professionally in 2016, and since then my proudest moment was finding a publisher for seeing The Path Keeper in book shops. I remember sitting in a London Waterstones for my first ever signing with a queue out of the door feeling like it was all a dream!

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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!

My biggest ambition is to write and direct a screen adaptation of one of my books or series. In September I plan to start an MA in film (if I’m accepted) where I’ll be studying scriptwriting. I can’t think of anything better than seeing my characters Zac and Ella in an HBO series or on Netflix! 

That would be great, I’d watch it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve just finished a duology historical fantasy set during the Great Fire of London. The book is with a bunch of agents right now, so fingers crossed it makes it to bookshelves. I also have two co-writing projects: one is an MG spooky adventure set in the Amazon, and the other is a (very adults) indie project that’s a mix of a paranormal Veronica Mars and a European True Blood. It’s corny and horny and the most fun I’ve ever had while writing! I have a very varied To Do list this year, for sure.

Wow, that is quite a lo of different writing strings to your bow. 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?

I’ve been to some breathtaking destinations in my time – from Russia and Bali, to Cambodia and Morocco. But my favourite place has to be Australia. I spent a year living, working and travelling around the country. And the best souvenir I brought back? My husband! He’s also from the UK and we met backpacking.

My bucket list place to visit is South and Central America. I am desperate to see Machu Picchu in Peru, take part in the Rio carnival in Brazil, enjoy a great glass of wine in Argentina and go even further up to Mexico and Cuba.

I also want to visit Salem and New Orleans in the US – for obvious historically spooky reasons.

Peru & Brazil are also on my list. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both Salem & New Orleans and can highly recommend! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Well everyone knows that I write speculative fiction with plenty of esoteric themes and past-life happenings, but not many people know I’m a qualified Reiki healer and a certified colour therapist. I have also been regressed to three of my past lives, some of which inspired my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series (two of Ella’s past lives in SON OF SECRETS were based on my own readings).

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’?

The Time Traveler’s Wife by  Audrey Niffenegger is one of my favourite books and was a huge influence on my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series. The book is so , yet still unsettling and raw. 

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty.

Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

This is also one of my favourites, such a great book. 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?

If I’m out drinking with friends until very late, I stick to one type of drink and swap to water at midnight. And never ever do shots! If I’m hungover the next day, then a fruit smoothie and a big English fry up with a walk in the fresh air afterwards sorts me right out.

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

I would start with lie-in, reading and chilling, then a big fancy brunch. Then I’d spend the rest of the day with friends and family somewhere hot and sunny by the sea or having a BBQ in the garden. Then the evening watching a great movie with my husband, with the kids in bed, and a glass of wine and some peanut M&Ms to hand.

Sounds perfect. Natalie, thank you so much for coming on the blog this evening, it’s been a blast.

Son of Secrets, Natalie’s new book and the second novel in the Indigo Chronicles series is out on 28 May and you can buy a copy here.

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In a fight against destiny – who will win?

Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

I will be reviewing Son of Secrets in a couple of weeks time, so watch out for that coming soon.

N. J Simmonds began her career in glossy magazines and marketing, before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. She now fills her days writing books about strong women, magic and adventure. She is the co-founder of the online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications.

Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N. J. Simmonds currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.

You can find out more about Natalie and her work on her website and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author, Lynne Shelby.

Friday Night Drinks with … Sue Moorcroft

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I am delighted to be welcoming to Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow RNA member and one of my favourite authors of fun, escapist, romantic fiction… Sue Moorcroft.

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Sue, I am so thrilled to have you on the blog for drinks this evening, thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Rosé. I like white wine as well but I have rosé left from Christmas.

You are very restrained! 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?

My local lounge. It was Northamptonshire’s first electric light theatre and now it’s one of those lounges that’s a mixture of industrial, bare brick and opulent light shades. I like their steak and their chocolate brownies are even better. Welcome to The Kino!

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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?

Damon Hill, F1 driver, and Nevil Shute, author. I’m a huge F1 fan and loved watching Damon’s career take shape. Nevil Shute, though his work’s ‘of its time’, taught me what a sweeping love story should be. I’m listening to a few of them in audio now and enjoying them all over again.

I love Nevil Shute. A Town Like Alice is one of my Desert Island Books and I’ll be re-reading and reviewing it for that blog feature later this year. 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?

A Christmas Wish will come out later this year. I’ve sent the first draft in and any moment now I’ll be working on the edits. The schedule tends to go: structural edits (big stuff), line edit (small stuff), copy edit (minutiae) then proof reading (mistakes). Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the first two rounds of edits in one, which is a great time saver. I write two books a year so the writing and editing tend to overlap and I have no idea when I actually started it. It involved a wonderful research trip to Sweden, though, at the invitation of friend and fellow author Christina Courtenay and her mum.

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

My proudest moment occurred recently when A Summer to Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020. (see above photo). The awards took place in a glitzy London hotel and I’m incredibly lucky that it was just before Covid-19 social distancing began so it wasn’t cancelled. My biggest challenge was when a past agent telephoned to say my latest book wasn’t good enough and she couldn’t represent it. It was the only time writing has made me cry. Luckily, I have the personality type that made me write a better book rather than stop writing.

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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!

I’d like to be a topseller with a huge film deal. I’m a bestseller now and used to think that was my ambition. Then I saw the word ‘topseller’ attached to authors who are household names and millionaires and I sharpened my ambitions.

It’s always good to push yourself with new ambitions. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I want to get on with planning my summer 2020 book! It’s an idea about identity that has been knocking on my head for a while. 

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 favourite place is Malta. I was brought up there for several years, my new book, Summer on a Sunny Island is set there, and I love it. On the top of my bucket list is Australia, which has always fascinated me, with a generous stopover in Singapore, where my parents met and married.

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

I’ve answered this question a few times so I’m not sure I have any secrets left. One less-known detail I’m proud of is that when my kids were in primary school I led a campaign for a security fence after one of my kids was biffed in the face by a senior kid who wandered into their playground without hindrance. Twenty-plus years later, the fence is still there, giving children security.

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’?

My big passion too! Jules Wake’s From Rome with Love. Or anything written by Jules or Julie Caplin, Jules’s alter ego.

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Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind when she finds herself staying in a beautiful apartment with her childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!

Lisa’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of Italy and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.

Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …

I love Jules’s books too (actually, I just love Jules, her writing and in person!). 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?

The only failsafe I know is ‘don’t drink alcohol’. I don’t drink that much now. My body has taken against it! It has made me appreciate alcohol-free beer.

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

At the coast in perfect, hot weather, with my family.

Sue, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been an absolute pleasure. I hope we can meet up in person soon at the next RNA event when all of this madness is over! Good luck with your new books this year, I look forward to reading them, as ever.

Sue’s latest book, Summer on a Sunny Island,  is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.

Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s uplifting novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.

You can find out more about Sue and her fabulous books via her websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be having Friday Night Drinks with author, N. J. Simmonds, so do pop back then and join us.

Saturday Night Drinks with… Christina Hoag

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This should have been taking place last Friday but, due to unforeseen circumstances, had to be postponed so I am socialising two nights on the trot and I am delighted to welcome to this special edition of Saturday Night Drinks, author…..Christina Hoag.

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Hi Christina. So sorry for having to delay our evening, thank you for joining me on a Saturday. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks, Julie. I’ll have a glass of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, my favourite wine. I may be a little biased as I was born there but I do love the wine.

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?

I live in Santa Monica, which is right on the coast of California near Los Angeles, so I’d take you to the Hotel Shangri La, which has a rooftop bar with a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean. We’d go for happy hour to see the sunset.

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That looks beautiful, I will imagine being there now. 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?

I’m a bit of a Shakespeare nut so I’d love to invite the Bard and ask him about his inspiration and writing process. I’d also bring along Margaret Mead, the anthropologist who studied human behavior: how much is innate and how much is socially induced. I think she’d be fascinating.

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 had a bunch of exciting things lined up, including appearances at book and literary festivals, but thanks to Covid-19, but they’ve all been cancelled. I was also awarded a writers’ residency on Jersey for a week but that had to be cancelled as well. I’m hoping to do the residency later in the autumn, and one of the book festivals is supposed to take place in October so crossing fingers they’re not lost altogether. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay on track with my writing and building readership.

It is very difficult in present circumstances when everything seems to be on pause, let’s hope life can resume as near to normal as possible soon. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I had two literary agents on my novel Skin of Tattoos (different versions) so seeing my manuscript submitted to top New York publishers and getting praise from their editors led to some over-the-moon moments. (Despite the praise, they all passed on my book, which I finally got published through a small press.)

My biggest challenge was knowing what to write after I finished my two novels. I really floundered because now I knew how unbelievably hard it is to get readers, sell a book, etc. and that really daunted me. I just didn’t know what to write.

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’d love to have a book adapted either for film or TV and be involved in writing/producing that. I’d really to love to win an Oscar, have a bestseller or a big literary award. (You said ambitious!) 

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m working on a standalone mystery novel which involves a true crime podcast and a young woman coming to terms with her past. I’m still on the first draft but it’s coming along really well. I feel the best about this than anything I’ve tried since my books were published in 2016.

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?

I love to travel, too. I’ve been to more than 70 countries. Some that are high on my list are Mongolia, Tibet, India and Greece. I love going to places that are exotic or remote or both! I also like making what I call “literary pilgrimages,” visiting places where famous writers lived or worked. That’s always fun.

That is impressive, I am jealous! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I’ve lived in 10 countries! I grew up in seven countries due to my dad’s job as a mining engineer (New Zealand, Fiji, Sweden, UK, Nigeria, Australia and USA) and lived in three others as an adult (Spain, Guatemala, Venezuela).

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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’?

I can only choose one? Hmmm. That’s tough. Well, as far as contemporary reads, I absolutely loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I read it for my book club. It was so well written, and I just loved the quirky, weird Eleanor. I really felt for her. Brilliant book.

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Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than…. fine?

I loved this book too. 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?

I drink a ton of water before going to bed and take aspirin to try to ward off waking up with a headache. The water is really key!

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

I’d spend the next day lounging by a pool somewhere sunny and doing nothing but reading and drinking tropical fruit drinks with little umbrellas in them!

Christine, thank you so much for taking the trouble to chat with me, this has been fascinating and well worth waiting for!

Christina’s literary novel, Skin of Tattoos and her YA novel, Girl on the Brink are both out now and you can buy them by following the links.

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The summer before senior year, 17-year-old Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce.

But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire and Kieran becomes violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up.

Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Christina Hoag is a novelist and journalist based in Los Angeles, California.
She is the author of literary noir-thriller Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown, 2016) and YA romantic thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016). She also writes non-fiction. She co-authored “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” (Turner Publishing, 2014) a groundbreaking book on gang intervention.

Christina was born in New Zealand of Kiwi and British parentage, and at the age of six, won a prize for “writing interesting stories.” That’s what she’s been doing ever since. She has had numerous short stories, poems and creative nonfiction published in literary magazines and journals. Her short story “My Mother’s Knives” was included in a horror story anthology, “And Now the Nightmare Begins” (Bear Manor Media, 2009.) Her short story “Life Stories” is forthcoming in the anthology “100 Voices” (Centum Press, 2016).

She is a former staff writer for The Miami Herald and the Associated Press, and other newspapers. Her career as a journalist took her to Latin America, where she reported from 14 countries in the region on issues such as the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Colombian guerrillas, Guatemalan human rights, Salvadoran gangs, Nicaraguan landmine victims, and Mexican protests for Time, Business Week, The Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle,The New York Times, and other publications. She is fluent in Spanish.

A graduate of Boston University, she is the recipient of two writing awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

If you sign up for Christina’s (very infrequent) newsletter on her website, she’ll send you a code and link for a free audiobook on Audible of her Young Adult novel Girl on the Brink.

You can find out more about Christina and her work via her website, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Next Friday, I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by fabulous author and fellow RNA member…Sue Moorcroft, so please make sure you join us then.

Friday Night Drinks with … Anne Walsh Donnelly

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Welcome to Friday Night Drinks. I’m sorry we have missed a couple of weeks, there have been reasons, but I’m happy to be back tonight with author and poet… Anne Walsh Donnelly.

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Anne, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks Julie, for inviting me! I know I am going to enjoy our chat. I’m sitting here with a mug of tea in my hand. No sugar but a dash of milk. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. 

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?

I live in the west of Ireland so I would bring you for a walk on Bertra Beach near Westport in County Mayo. We would sit and gaze at the night sky and the stars that occupy it. Following that, I’d bring you to one of the many fine restaurants we have in Mayo

I would love that. I love Ireland, my OH is from Dublin, but we’ve not made it to Mayo yet. 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?

That’s a difficult one. There are so many non-famous extraordinary people in my life that I’d much rather have on our night out. I’m a bit lazy when it comes to socialising. Possibly due to my introversion. I prefer to go out for dinner with people I know well and people that take me as I am and I, them. Time is so precious that I only want to use it to socialise people that really matter to me. Does that sound selfish? I hope not. To invite famous people along sounds like too much effort to me, in terms of talking to them and possibly falling into the trap of wanting to impress them. Like, why bother?

All that being said, the only famous person that comes to mind that I would like to have dinner with is Fr. Thomas Keating. He was a Trappist monk and one of the principal developers of Centering Prayer which is a contemporary method of contemplative prayer. I practice centering prayer twice a day. It enriches my life and sustains me through life’s challenging situations. I’ve watched some videos of Fr. Keating on YouTube and I can sense the presence of God in him so strongly. He was not constrained by his ego and the best company one can keep are those who know how to keep their ego in line.

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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?

I have a lot going on! In terms of my writing I am in an interesting phase of my development. I am a bit all over the place with it, but that’s not a bit thing, it’s just unusual for me. I normally tend to focus on one genre at a time be it poetry or fiction or whatever. However this year I’m straddling a lot of genres, simultaneously. I’m working on poetry, plays, fiction and creative non-fiction all at the one time. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve tapped into my creativity and can express it across a wide range of genres. I have no idea what writers block feels like, having never experienced it!

One day I’ll write a poem, the next day it might be a piece of non-fiction that is bursting to get out of my head and onto the page. And I have to let it loose. And the following day I might work on a script. So there’s a lot going on. I don’t have the luxury of writing full-time so there’s a lot to squeeze into the time I can devote to writing. You could say I’ve lost a bit of my focus. But I prefer to see it as just going with the flow. I’m letting the writing take me where it wants to go instead of me trying to tell it where to go, which would be a useless exercise anyway. 

I had two books published last year, one a poetry collection and the other a short story collection. So now that I’m a published author, I have a lot more confidence in my writing and am more relaxed about it. I don’t submit to journals or magazines or competitions as much as I used to as I don’t need that external validation anymore. The most important thing for me is to enjoy the process of writing, which I do.

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

Crikey, there’s been a lot of proud moments in the last eight years. That’s how long I have been writing. If I was to narrow it down, there are two proud moments that I would note. One was being shortlisted for my poetry for the Hennessy/Irish Times New Irish Writing Award and having a poem published in the Irish Times.  It’s the award that every emerging Irish writer aspires to and when I started writing that was the dream. The other proud moment that stands out was holding my poetry chapbook in my hand for the first time.

My biggest challenge has been the publication of my poetry chapbook, The Woman With An Owl Tattoo.

It was very scary releasing it into the wider world as it is a very personal collection that reflects on my growth since the ending of my marriage and my discovery of my sexual identity and coming out as ‘gay’ in my fifties. Fortunately it has been well received and touched a great deal of people and there has been no negative backlash. I was very lucky in that my publisher, Fly on the Wall poetry press and their editor, Isabelle Kenyon, were so committed to bringing the collection to publication and making it the best chapbook it could be while also being supportive and gentle with me. Thanks, Isabelle!

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!

Do I really have to tell you? What if someone overhears our conversation and starts to laugh! Oh, that’d be awful. Seriously, though, I guess like all writers it would be to win the Man Booker prize.

Though I also have this fantasy of John Michael McDonogh approaching me to ask if he could turn one of my stories into a movie and if I’d like to write the script with him. He’s written and directed such great movies like The Guard and Calvary and I love his writing. It’s full of odd characters and black humour. It would be a dream to work with him and then to stand on stage with him accepting an Oscar for our billion-dollar grossing movie. Ok, now I’m really getting carried away with myself. Next question please.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Well, as I’ve said I’m working on a lot of projects right now. I have a short play that I want to develop into a longer play. I’ve also starting writing a verse novel about a mentally unwell man, who feels very disconnected with society. What else is there? Oh, yes I’m writing a number of creative non-fiction pieces that could very well develop into a full collection. I’m hopping from one to the other at the moment. But the project I’m most excited about are the poems I am currently writing about my spirituality, my journey in rediscovering my faith and developing a loving, meaningful relationship with the divine. 

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?

I love to travel too! In my twenties, I went backpacking around the world. It was a life-changing experience and I’ve been to some amazing places and met some amazing people. My favourite place has to be Nepal. I spent a few weeks there in 1995. I stayed in Kathmandu for a week and loved the city, just wandering around looking at the temples, dodging sacred cows in the street, pottering around craft shops and second-hand bookshops and eating lots of Dhal. I also spent time trekking in the Annapurna mountain range when I was there, which was amazing. The blue skies, crisp air and ice-capped peaks all around as I walked were intoxicating. It’s the nearest thing I’ve got to heaven. 

What’s top of my bucket list now? To go back to Kathmandu!

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

When I was a toddler, I sat on and broke my younger brother’s toy garage. I didn’t intend to break it. I can still remember thinking I wonder what would happen if I sat on Liam’s garage, so I sat on it to find out and wham! It smashed into smithereens.

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’?

There are so many great books out there. How do I pick one? Having said that one book, I keep going back to re-read is the novel by Max Porter called ‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers.’ It’s about a widower and his two sons and how they cope with the grief of having lost their wife and mother. A crow comes to visit them to help them cope. If that hasn’t got your attention, I don’t know what will.

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In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him.

This extraordinary debut, full of unexpected humour and emotional truth, marks the arrival of a thrilling and significant new talent.

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?

Ha, failsafe plan! Well, my teenage daughter asked me recently what how would I react if she got pregnant. My answer was don’t have sex then you won’t get pregnant and you won’t have to worry about how I would react or what you would have to do. Needless to say that answer didn’t go down too well.

So in answer to your question, my failsafe plan to avoid a hangover is don’t drink. It works every time!

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

I love the sound of silence and I love solitude, so my perfect weekend would be to go on a silent retreat. I went on one recently and while it was challenging, it was so regenerating. All I had to do was sit in contemplative prayer and be with the divine presence. That and go for lovely walks in the retreat centre’s woods. It was also lovely to not have to cook or shop or do household chores. Nothing to do except sit and simply be with myself and the divine and be open to the divine’s healing energy. 

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Anne, thank you so much for joining me on the blog, it has been a lovely evening.

Anne has been described by the Irish poet, Kevin Higgins, as ‘by far the most daring poet to emerge in Ireland of late. The stark honest and overt sexuality which pervades Anne’s poetry make the work of pretty much all her contemporaries appear repressed and backward-looking in comparison.’

Anne has two books published. Her latest poetry chapbook, published by Fly on the Wall poetry press is ‘The Woman with An Owl Tattoo,’ which explores her growth since the ending of her marriage and what it means to unearth one’s true sexual orientation , in mid-life. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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This life-affirming poetry collection reflects on the author’s growth since the ending of her marriage and what it means to unearth one’s true sexual orientation, in mid-life. Anne Walsh Donnelly’s intimate exploration of sexuality and identity is both brave and touching, marking this debut collection as a triumph.

Her short story collection published by Blue Nib, is called Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife, which contains stories that examine the brokenness of life, the fear of silence and the desperate need for the characters to find someone to talk to. 

Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland. Originally from Carlow she moved to Mayo, twenty-four years ago. Her work has appeared in several publications including The Irish Times, Cránnog, Boyne Berries, The Blue Nib, Writers Forum and Dodging the Rain.

Her short stories have been shortlisted in many competitions including the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award (2014, 2016), the Fish International Prize (2015) and the RTE Radio One Frances Mac Manus competition (2014 & 2015). She won the 2018 Over the Edge Fiction Slam.

Her poems were highly commended in the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award (2017 & 2018). She won the Winter/Spring 2017/2018 Blue Nib poetry chapbook competition and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2018. She was also nominated for the Hennessy Irish Literary Award in 2019 for her poetry.

Her debut short story collection “Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife” will be published by Blue Nib in September 2019

You can hear more about Anne and her work on her purchase her books via her website,  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tomorrow I am having a special edition of Saturday Night Drinks, so please do come back and join myself and author, Christina Hoag for that. See you there.

Blog Tour: Rabette Run by Nick Rippington #GuestPost

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EMERSON RABETTE has a phobia about travelling on underground trains, so when he is involved in a car accident his worst nightmare is about to come true.

A middle-aged graphic designer and father of one, Emerson’s entire future depends on him reaching an important business meeting. Without an alternative method of transport, he has to confront his biggest fear.

Things immediately go wrong when Emerson’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder kicks in and his fellow passengers become angry at the way he is acting. Thankfully a young woman called Winter comes to his rescue and agrees to help him reach his destination.

Once on the train, she thinks her job is done. But Emerson can’t help feeling he is being watched by his fellow passengers, including a soldier, a woman in a hat covered with artificial fruit and a man with a purple goatee beard.

Is it just his paranoia kicking in, or are they all out to get him?

And Winter is taken totally by surprise when Emerson takes flight after reading a message scrawled on the train’s interior.

It simply reads: ‘Run Rabette Run’

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for a unique book, Rabette Run by Nick Rippington and to be bringing you a fascinating Q & A feature with the author. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me to take part and to the author for answering the questions for this feature.

Question & Answer with Nick Rippington, author of Rabette Run

Where did the idea for Rabette Run come from?
Working shifts as a sports designer on a national newspaper in London I quite often have to catch the underground train home late at night. At times you might be the only one on the carriage and I remember spotting the odd item of graffiti and thinking, ‘What if there was my name scrawled on there, together with a warning?’ The ball got rolling from there and within a few weeks I had an idea of how it was going to go. As often in these cases, the more I wrote, the more the idea developed. I was also a big fan of the TV series Lost and was choked at how poor the ending was having watched 5 or 6 series. I had come up with an alternative ending and I won’t say any more other than I ran with the idea…
Any thoughts on who you could see playing Winter & Emerson if it went to the big screen?
I would love to see someone like Ed Norton playing Emerson, though he might be a bit too old now. He’s one of my favourite actors and I thought he did a wonderful job in Fight Club, which in some ways has a similar feel to it in that you aren’t sure what’s real and what’s fiction. If I was going for someone younger it would have to be Kit Harrington who played John Snow in Game of Thrones. Another Game of Thrones actress, Sophie Turner who played Sansa, would make the perfect Winter, though I also think Jodie Comer, who is terrific in Killing Eve, would do a great job.
Did you spend much time going underground on the tubes for research?
I’ve worked in London since I joined the News of the World in 2009 and even before then I spent a few years living there, so it’s pretty hard to avoid the Tube to be honest. I wonder how Emerson managed to do it for so long because, believe me, driving is not a pleasant experience in the smoke.
Rabette Run is quite different from your Boxer Boys series. What made you turn to psychological thrillers?
I thought that the Boxer Boys had run their course, for the moment anyway, and I had several other ideas popping up in my head. I first attempted to write this a long time ago as a project for the National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – so I’d already got 50,000 words down and it seemed logical to try to finish it off once Dying Seconds had been published. Rather than trying to weave my Boxer Boys characters into the series or, worse, make Emerson into a UK gangster type I just wanted to see how things would go if I attempted something different. I’m very happy with the way it worked out. I’m sure I’ll get the perfect storyline for another gangland tale in the future but for the moment I am taking a break. I interviewed the US thriller writer Karin Slaughter at the London Book Fair last year and she has managed to break away from her regular characters on occasion. It hasn’t hurt her as a writer. I know I’m not in that bracket but I think attempting something different can only help improve your writing. A past editor of mine said after reading Spark Out, a particularly gritty thriller, that some of the sections in it made her think I would make a great romance writer! Not yet…
What books and authors have you enjoyed reading over the last 12 months?
I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on another book so have been reading mainly factual books, but I am a massive fan of John Le Carre and a Delicate Truth didn’t disappoint. I love Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone series and also enjoyed The Child by Fiona Barton and Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh. I tend to find with all the Tube travel that audio books mean you can get through a lot more these days, very handy to relax and listen to someone reading when you’ve spent the whole day proofreading copy in front of a computer screen.
Can you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?
I’m reluctant to say too much without giving away the ending – spoiler alert! – but let’s just say there is a serial killer involved!
Thanks for that fascinating insight into the inspiration for Rabette Run, Nick, and what is coming next.
If you would like to read Rabette Run for yourself, you can buy a copy here and to celebrate Nick’s blog tour my readers can get Rabette Run in digital format for the bargain knockdown price of 99p during the week April 7-14. What’s stopping you?
If you would like to read some extracts and reviews of the book, please do check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour as detailed below:
BLOG TOUR (7)
About the Author
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Nick Rippington is the award-winning author of the Boxer Boys series of gangland crime thrillers.

Based in London, UK, Nick was the last-ever Welsh Sports Editor of the now defunct News of The World, writing his debut release Crossing The Whitewash after being made redundant with just two days notice after Rupert Murdoch closed down Europe’s biggest-selling tabloid in 2011.

On holiday at the time, Nick was never allowed back in the building, investigators sealing off the area with crime scene tape and seizing his computer as they investigated the phone-hacking scandal, something which took place a decade before Nick joined the paper. His greatest fear, however, was that cops would uncover the secrets to his Fantasy Football selections.

Handed the contents of his desk in a black bin bag in a murky car park, deep throat style, Nick was at a crossroads – married just two years earlier and with a wife and 9-month-old baby to support.

With self-publishing booming, he hit on an idea for a UK gangland thriller taking place against the backdrop of the Rugby World Cup and in 2015 produced Crossing The Whitewash, which received an honourable mention in the genre category of the Writers’ Digest self-published eBook awards. Judges described it as “evocative, unique, unfailingly precise and often humorous”.

Follow-up novel Spark Out, a prequel set at the time of Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War, received a Chill With A Book reader award and an IndieBRAG medallion from the prestigious website dedicated to Independent publishers and writers throughout the world. The novel was also awarded best cover of 2017 with Chill With A Book.

The third book in the Boxer Boys series Dying Seconds, a sequel to Crossing The Whitewash, was released in December 2018 and went to the top of the Amazon Contemporary Urban Fiction free charts during a giveaway period of five days. A digital box set, the Boxer Boys Collection, came out in September last year.

Now Nick, 60, is switching direction feeling that, for the moment, the Boxer Boys series has run its course. His latest novel, Rabette Run, will be released in the Spring and Nick says, ‘It is a gritty psychological thriller with twists and turns galore. Think Alice in Wonderland with tanks and guns.’

Married to Liz, When Nick isn’t writing he works as a back bench designer of sports pages on the Daily Star. He has two children – Jemma, 37, and Olivia, 9.

Connect with Nick:

Website: https://www.theripperfile.com

Facebook: Nick Rippington

Twitter: @nickripp

Instagram: @rippington

Pinterest: Nick Rippington

Friday Night Drinks with… Carol Thomas

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Happy Easter, everyone! Staying at home is not the way any of us planned to spend Good Friday, I am sure. I, for one, was supposed to be in Dublin today, visiting my in-laws and then off to Wales for a week’s holiday with the kids. Still, why not make the most of the beautiful weather and join me and tonight’s guest for virtual drinks in the garden instead? I am happy to welcome to the blog tonight, author and fellow RNA member….Carol Thomas.

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

Thank you for having me along. I’ll have a Bay Breeze, which I recently tried as research for a 1950s night in my current WIP. The things we do for research!

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Terrible sacrifices we have to make! 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?

Osteria, in the historic town of Arundel. It is my favourite café and writing haunt by day, and has a bar and great atmosphere in the evening, too. It also provided the inspiration for, Cin Cin, the bar in my Lisa Blake series of novels.

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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?

Keanu Reeves, as I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager. I enjoy listening to him talk, and you know, he’s not bad to look at either 😉 And Ruth Jones, I like the way she captures the funny and emotive moments of life. I think that’s a quirky enough mix to make the evening entertaining.

I would not object to spending an evening with those two! 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 currently working on a contemporary romance novel I started a few years ago. I put it aside while concentrating on Maybe Baby, the second book in the Lisa Blake series, but have enjoyed returning to it, albeit that it took a while to get back in step with the characters. It is a standalone novel, unrelated to the Lisa Blake series, that I hope will be published by Choc Lit / Ruby Fiction (fingers crossed). My WIP was inspired by a visit to Petworth House; a stately home, with a reluctant Duke.

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

My proudest moment was gaining my contract with Ruby Fiction.

My biggest challenge is time. I am a mum of four; three of my children are still school age, and I also work in a local school. My other challenge is getting the balance between promotion and writing right.

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!

Well, while I’ve got Keanu over for drinks, I could speak to him about one of my books going to film with him as the lead. (Though I might have to write something more fitting for him; Nathan Baker, in the Lisa Blake series, would have to be played by Chris Hemsworth.)

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Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to shoehorn a gratuitous Chris Hemsworth pic on to the blog! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

My WIP has entered that final phase where everything is coming together, so that is exciting. I love it when the words and ideas are flowing well, and you feel you can’t keep up with what you want to get down.

I am also delighted to say my novel, Maybe Baby, currently out in ebook and audio editions will be out in paperback this summer (all being well with the current situation). There’s nothing like holding your paperback in your hands!

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 favourite holiday destination is Samoëns in France. It is beautiful in summer or winter, with stunning views across the mountains. We’ve postponed our trip this year, but have many happy memories, and hope to go again in the future. I don’t have a bucket list, but making memories and having family holidays is always important to me, whether here in the UK or abroad.

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

I’ve been married to my husband for twenty years, and we’ve been together for twenty-nine years, but he was my sister’s boyfriend before he went out with me.

Oooh, did that cause any problems, I wonder? 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’?

As I feel we are all in need of some escapism and a comfort read at the moment, I’d go with anything by Sarah Morgan, but my particular must-read would be Sleigh Bells in the Snow. It’s a real cuddle of a book.

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Once upon a time Kayla loved Christmas

Now she s more dedicated to her job than decking the halls, and can t wait for the most wonderful time of the year to be over.

Until she arrives at the enchanting Snow Crystal ski resort, determined to win gorgeous owner Jackson as a marketing client.

But wooing Jackson professionally quickly turns personal as they spend flirty festive nights in this glittering winter wonderland.

With snowflakes swirling and sleigh bells ringing…could Jackson be the one to make Kayla fall back under the Christmas spell?

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?

I must confess I can’t ever remember having a hangover. I don’t often drink, so when I do, I tend to stop after a couple as that can make me feel pretty jolly!

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

With my family and dog, Hubble, somewhere peaceful and beautiful, and then when the children are all in bed, an evening in snuggled up with my husband.

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Carol, and letting me quiz you, it has been a real pleasure.

Carol’s latest book, Maybe Baby (Lisa Blake book #2) is a romantic comedy and the sequel to The Purrfect Pet Sitter (Lisa Blake book #1). While each book can be read as a standalone story, Maybe Baby revisits the characters from The Purrfect Pet Sitter as they move into the next phase of their lives. You can get a copy here.

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Just when you thought you had it all worked out …

Best friends Lisa and Felicity think – maybe, just maybe – they finally have everything sorted out in their lives.

Lisa is in a happy relationship with her old flame, and busy mum Felicity has managed to reignite the passion with her husband, Pete, after a romantic getaway.

But when Lisa walks in on a half-naked woman in her boyfriend’s flat and Felicity is left reeling from a shocking discovery, it becomes clear that life is nothing but full of surprises!

In the summer of 2017, Carol Thomas was delighted to gain a publishing contract with Ruby Fiction, an imprint of the award-winning publishers Choc Lit. She has subsequently gained best-seller badges for The Purrfect Pet Sitter and Maybe Baby, both books in the Lisa Blake series.

Carol writes for adults and children: Her contemporary romance novels, have relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads; while her children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters young children can relate to.

Carol lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and taught in primary schools for over fifteen years, before dedicating more of her time to writing. Carol is a regular volunteer at her local Cancer Research UK shop and has a passion for reading, writing and people watching. She can often be found loitering in local cafes working on her next book.

You can find out more about Carol and her writing on her websiteblogFacebook, TwitterPinterest and Instagram.

Next week I will be having Friday Night Drinks with Nina Kwiatkowski.

 

Friday Night Drinks with… Sasha Lane

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Tonight, on Friday Night Drinks, I am joined in my virtual bar by romance author….Sasha Lane.

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

Gin and Tonic, and it has to be rhubarb gin!

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I love rhubarb gin, so I think I will join you. 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 can but dream of that day!)

I love the Cloud 23 Bar at the Hilton on Deansgate in Manchester. Although I live in South Yorkshire, not Manchester, this bar has a panoramic view of the city, and where you visit it by day or by night, the view is always amazing.  

This definitely looks like somewhere I need to visit when life gets back to normal! 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?

I love to have a drink with Marilyn Monroe. I bet she’d be great fun and we could learn a thing or two from her. She absolutely rocked it! And Justin Timberlake, because I’d love to watch him dance all night – I saw him in concert two years ago and was amazed at his dance moves, plus he’s pretty cute – I could easily hang off his arm all evening!

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?

After a hectic end to last year – I launched my fourth book two weeks before we moved house! – I’m trying to find a bit more time to read books and to work on my next project. I’m working on a new book and am trying something a bit different to my usual novels. Having written a series, I’m now working on a kid of ‘girl turns detective, chick lit crime book’. This is me trying to combine two of my loves. I’d love to write serious crime novels, but my writing style is far too lighthearted. I read Nancy Drew books as a kid and want to write something along this theme where it’s crime related but still capturing some humour and romance. 

Sounds fantastic, I loved the Nancy Drew books. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

When I did my first book signing at WHSmith in Meadowhall shopping Center they said I had outsold some of the celebrity authors they had recently had in store and immediately asked me to book back in for another signing date with them. I was overwhelmed.

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I think the marketing has been the biggest challenge as it’s led me to do things that were way outside of my comfort zone. I’ve done so many public speaking events, recorded radio interviews, live radio interviews etc that I would never have dreamed I would have done as I’m actually quite shy so this took some confidence to do. 

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!

I’d love it if one of my books was made into a movie! I know it might seem like a cliché but I’d really like to see the characters I’ve created come to life, other than just in my head where they, of course, are very real!

Well, as an avid reader, I can tell you that I’m sure your characters come to life in your readers’ heads too! 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 I’ve been is New York – I fell in love with it the minute I got off the plane. The whole place just feels magical, and you don’t have to be doing anything special to feel in awe of New York. I loved just grabbing a take away coffee and strolling around Central Park watching the world go by. I loved New York so much that I write about it in both my first book, Girl Conflicted, and again in the third book, Girl, Unconventional.

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

I have a 2:1 BA Honors degree in Criminal Justice which I completed via online distance learning in my early thirties. I love Criminology and have done from a really young age – I’m not sure what that says about me! I’m just as likely to have my head in a crime novel as I am a romance one.

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’?

I read The Runaway by Martina Cole about 20 years ago. This was the first book I read of hers, and in my opinion, the best. It’s not an easy read but you go through every emotion. No matter how many times I’ve read this book it’s probably the only book that I will still gasp out loud at, and shed a tear while reading, even though I know exactly what will happen at the end.

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You can’t run for ever.

All that prostitute’s daughter Cathy Connor and drunkard’s son Eamonn Docherty want to do is escape their grim childhoods in London’s East End. And soon events turn so dangerous they are left with no choice but to flee. Cathy to the red lit streets of Soho, Eamonn to the high ranks of gangland New York.

Now she’s a hardened survivor, he’s Gotham’s most ruthless villain, and their paths are about to cross once again…

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?

Drink a bottle of water before bed. If all else fails, although it will be agony, I go for a 20 minute run and have a fruit and protein smoothie to try to kill of cure my hangover!

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

Relaxing at the spa having some ‘me’ time – a facial, massage, and of course, a good book!

Sounds fantastic and relaxing! Sasha, thank you so much for joining me, I’ve really enjoyed our chat and finding out more about your work.

Sasha’s latest book, Girl, Always and Forever is out now. This is the latest title in her Girl series, following Girl, Conflicted,  Girl, Unhinged and Girl, Unconventional.

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Emma is turning forty, and that’s when everything in life falls in to place, right? Apparently not.

As Emma moves into a beautiful new house with her lovely boyfriend, Joe, she feels that life couldn’t get more perfect.  But perfection is short lived as Emma’s friend’s relationships all start falling apart at the seams, with adultery and mid-life crisis wreaking havoc.

Joe is also given a promotion at work meaning he is away from home in London, leaving Emma alone and under pressure to keep everything together.

Joe‘s new found love for life in the big city, and his close relationship with his new work colleague, Karen, leave Emma questioning everything.

Is she destined to follow in the footsteps of her friends, or will she and Joe stand the test of time?

A proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Sasha Lane lives in Barnsley and works full time in the finance industry but writes in her spare time, allowing her imagination to have a whole lot of freedom as she writes Chick lit novels. They’re romantic comedies with a hint of darkness.

She tries to create characters that are everyday women so hopefully readers can find something about their personality or lifestyle that they can relate to and fall in love with them as much as she has while writing about them.

The idea behind her books is to show the challenges of everyday women trying to balance jobs/careers, with family, friends and relationships. It’s hard, and sometimes you have to laugh at yourself, which the main character, Emma, does, but she also wanted to show how important friendship is too at keeping us all sane!

She loves writing romance with twists and turns, but of course, with a happy ending!

You can find out more about Sasha via her website, Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram.

Please come back next Friday for another virtual night out with…Carol Thomas. See you then.

Blog Tour: Surviving Me by Jo Johnson #GuestPost

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I’m happy to be taking my turn today on the blog tour today for Surviving Me by Jo Johnson. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for her guest post. Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the post for a great giveaway.

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Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

An unusual path to publishing a novel by Jo Johnson

Were you educated in this country?’ This was one of the first questions a tutor asked me at university. My punctuation and grammar were terrible. I hated English at school. 

Later, in my work as a clinical psychologist, I was good at relating to people but my reports continued to be a source of amusement. My written work was my weakness. 

As I progressed in my career, I discovered a gift for public speaking. I found telling stories was a great way to entice people to listen. In 2009 I was invited to speak at a national event for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and designed a unique workshop called ‘Shrinking the Smirch’. It encouraged my listeners to see their MS as something outside themselves, an external creature. It went down so well that the organisers asked me to turn the session into a workbook.

‘But I can’t write,’ I insisted.

‘If you can speak to people, you can write for them,’ the conference organiser batted back. To my utter amazement, ‘Shrinking the Smirch: the workbook’ won a Plain English Award. This spurred me on to write further workbooks about managing emotional distress and neurology-themed books for young people.

I didn’t plan to write a novel. I left the NHS in 2008 which gave me more time but being self-employed was lonely. So, each day, I interspersed client appointments with visits to the café across the road from my office.

One day, I noticed an unremarkable middle- aged man staring out of the window. I wondered what his story might be. 

On my iPad I wrote:

‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar.’

This became the first sentence of my debut novel, “Surviving Me”.

Over the next seven years I added to my story, at times it was an addiction that distracted me from work and family commitments. Tom, my main character was my secret friend for many years. Eventually, I allowed a friend to read it. She loved it and bullied me into finishing it. 

Since then, I have fielded my manuscript to countless friends and colleagues, out of paranoia and lack of confidence. I was always genuinely surprised – and encouraged – by people’s feedback. 

When unbound publishers accepted my manuscript I was delighted. The first editor asked me where I’d done my creative writing course as I didn’t have a clue what he meant by backstory, pace or point of view within the context of fiction writing. 

Fortunately, that amazing structural editor reassured me I had a lot of raw talent and helped me learn the rest. It was a steep learning curve especially as I was working full time as a clinical psychologist whilst preparing my book for publish. My poor teenagers completed their most important exams with very little parental support.

Writing helps me clear my mind of other people’s troubles. And humour is a great way to defuse some of the day’s tensions. My line of work can make you laugh and cry almost simultaneously – and I hope my characters do the same for my readers.

I still can’t believe I’m the author of a novel that is being described in reviews as refreshingly different and beautifully written.

Thank you for sharing your fascinating journey with us, Jo.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of Surviving Me, you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

Jo is running a giveaway with two first prizes of a signed copy of Surviving Me and a Surviving Me fridge magnet and five runner-up prizes of a Surviving Me fridge magnet. To enter, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To find out more about the book and read some reviews, please check out the rest of the stops on the tour:

Surviving Me Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout. 

Social media links:

Facebook: Shrinking the Smirsch

Friday Night Drinks with…. Karen King

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Another Friday night in for everyone, so welcome to my latest edition of Friday Night Drinks and, this evening, I am delighted to be joined by fellow RNA member and author…Karen King.

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Welcome to the blog, Karen. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Pink gin and gaseosa, which is a zero calorie soda popular here in Spain.

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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?

Probably to The Coconut, a local Tapas bar In Coín, a nearby town.

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?

Julie Walters and Paul Daniels. I think they’d be great company for a night out.

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?

Well, I’ve just re-signed with Bookouture, my current publishers, this time for two psychological thrillers. I’m delighted to be turning to the dark side and writing about relationships that have gone wrong as opposed to the romance novels I’m more known for.

Oooh, interesting! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was writing a book of 27 plays for use in schools. I also had to write teacher’s notes for each play, detailing how to make the costumes, how the children should act etc. I’d never written a play before and it was tough going.

My proudest moment was when I was approached by Bookouture and asked to write for them. I had admired the company for some time and am thrilled to be part of their team.

They are a great publisher, as a blogger, I love working with them. 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!

Having a book made into a film would be nice. 😊 

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

My first psychological thriller, which is about a woman whose husband suffers amnesiain a car crash, leaving him unable to remember their marriage, or the darkness within it.It’s a story that’s been in my head for some time so I’m excited to be actually writing it. 

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?

It’s hard to choose. I was fascinated by Venice, the magical appearance of the houses seeming to rise out of the water, the gondolas and water taxis everywhere but the pyramids in Egypt were breathtaking so that comes a close second.

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

I’m pretty open so don’t really have any secrets so this is where I usually mention that it took me seventeen attempts and many years to pass my driving test.

Wow! 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’?

There are so many books I love that I couldn’t possibly recommend one. I enjoy reading lots of different genres, romance, thrillers, autobiographies, travel books. All I can say is read whatever takes your fancy but do read, books give so much pleasure and open the door to so many worlds and experiences.

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?

Alternating alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and drinking a glass of water before you go to bed is a good way to avoid a hangover. If you do get one just try and sleep it off.

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

A trip to the Saturday market in Puerto Banus would be a great way to spend themorning then lunch at one of the harbourside restaurants, followed by a shopping trip in Marbella then ending the evening in one of the nightclubs there. Sunday we could take adrive over to Benalmadena and take a boat trip around the bay, have a paddle in the sea, then grab some souvenirs at the local shops, drive back to my home in Cartama and have tapas and drinks around the pool with friends.

That sounds busy but fun! Karen, thank you for keeping me company this evening, it’s been wonderful.

Karen’s book, The Year of Starting Over is the perfect feelgood novel to cheer you up and take you away during this period of enforced idleness and isolation. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, you can buy a copy here.

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What if – to find yourself – you had to run away?

Last year was meant to be when Holly got her happy-ever-after. But stuck in a job that’s going nowhere, and a relationship that feels more like it’s going backwards… this year Holly has decided it’s time to change her life. She just has to:

– End the relationship with the commitment-phobic boyfriend
– Go on a proper adventure
– Learn to be herself again
– Definitely, categorically not fall in love.

Cramming her belongings into her little yellow Mini, Holly drives on to a ferry bound to Spain, to stay at a remote farmhouse near a beautiful village in the Andalusian hills.

But the day she arrives she nearly crashes her car into a gorgeous guy on a motorbike. He’s called Matias and their paths keep crossing, much to Holly’s irritation. Because as she learns to speak Spanish from the locals, finally starts laying out plans for her own design business, and sips sangria in the sunlit village square, Holly is beginning to remember who she is and what she wants.

So she won’t allow herself be distracted by Matias. Because this year – for Holly – there are more important things in life than love. And she won’t let yet another bad relationship ruin everything… will she?

Karen King was born in Birmingham and has always enjoyed reading and writing. She’s been published for over thirty years, in a variety of genres for both children and adults. She loves writing about the complexities of relationships. She has had eight romance novels published, is currently published by Bookouture and is thrilled to have signed a two book contract with them for psychological thrillers where she can explore the darker side of relationships.

Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

You can find out more about Karen and her books on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Next week, I am due to be joined for drinks by author, Sasha Lane, so watch this space.

Friday Night Drinks with…. Catherine Kullmann @CKullmannAuthor #RegencyRomance #HistFic #FridayNightDrinks #ThePotentialForLove

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A lot of people will find themselves at virtual bars tonight, but I’ve been doing it since before it was cool, and I’m delighted to be joined for socially-distanced drinks tonight by author…..Catherine Kullmann.

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Catherine, I hope you are keeping well. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for the invitation. I’ll have a Bronx, please. It’s a version of a dry martini with fresh orange juice added. I came across it in one of Georgette Heyer’s 1930s detective stories and had to try it. Delicious but insidious.

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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?

Shelbourne Social in Dublin. This restaurant has a lovely cocktail bar so we can start there, move downstairs for dinner and then go back upstairs for a digestif or two.

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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?

Georgette Heyer—she is said to have been very reserved, but, judging by her books, she had a great sense of humour and I would love to talk to her about the Regency. My male guest must be Thomas Creevey MP whose entertaining letters give a real insight into the Regency period and beyond, right up to the ascension to the throne of Queen Victoria. And, if you allow me a married couple as well, I would love to chat to Sir Harry Smith and his wife Juana de los Dolores de León. Their true love story is one of the best Regency romances ever and inspired Georgette Heyer’s The Spanish Bride.

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?

My new book, The Potential for Love, will be released next week, on Wednesday 25 March. Set in 1816, it continues the Waterloo arc of my previous novels, this time looking at what happens after the end of the Napoleonic wars. The heroine, Arabella Malvin, is mourning the loss of her brother at Waterloo while the hero, Major Thomas Ferraunt returns to England from occupied Paris after six years in the Peninsula with the army.

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

The day after my first book, The Murmur of Masks, was released, a reader in Sylvania, Georgia posted it on Goodreads with a four star rating. I was suddenly out there as a real author.

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 The biggest challenge is to find time for writing, marketing, promotion etc. etc.

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!

As it’s just us—I think my Duchess of Gracechurch trilogy would make a fantastic television series. Set from 1803 to 1816, three interlinked novels celebrate family, friendship and love in all its guises, with some wonderful scenes at Watier’s Masquerade in 1814 and Brussels and Waterloo, not to mention a duel, three major and two minor love stories, and beautiful Regency costumes.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I am working on the last book in the Waterloo arc. It takes place six years later. The heroine lost her fiancée at Waterloo and has had no interest in love or marriage since. But then she is made an unexpected offer and must decide does she want to remain in the shallows for the rest of her life or risk deep water again.

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 late husband and I travelled a lot and it is very hard to say which was my favourite place. Greece is my favourite country, I think. We travelled extensively there and there is so much to see and do.

At this stage in my life, I am more interested in revisiting places than discovering new ones. First on my list is Sorrento in Italy.

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

I love to plan—it is my coping mechanism—but have no problem ditching one plan and developing another. 

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’?

I cannot imagine a life or a house without books. The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw is one of my absolute favourites. Set in the fourth century AD, it is the story of an upper-class Roman girl who runs away from home and disguises herself as a eunuch so that she can train as a doctor in Alexandria. Charis is an intriguing character and the book gives wonderful insights into the late Roman Empire, the development of Christianity and the beginning of the rise of the Goths and Huns. And there is a hero to die for.

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In the first century Roman Empire, Charis, a young woman determined to become a doctor, flees from an arranged marriage, and, disguised as a eunuch, journeys to Alexandria to continue her studies

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?

Pace yourself and drink water or tea in between and get some sleep. If I do get a hangover, first paracetamol, then tea, toast and marmalade, and finally a walk in the sea air. 

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

As you would all be visitors to Dublin, I would love to show you my city on Saturday, with your choice of concert, theatre or an Irish music session in the pub in the evening. If there is time on Sunday before you go to the airport, we could have a walk followed by lunch in the little fishing village of Howth to the north of Dublin.

Catherine, that sounds perfect. Thank you for joining me, it has been  pleasure toccata with you and good luck for the new book.

Catherine’s new book, The Potential for Love, is out next week and you can buy a copy here.

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When Arabella Malvin sees the figure of an officer silhouetted against the sun, for one interminable moment she thinks he is her brother, against all odds home from Waterloo. But it is Major Thomas Ferraunt, the rector’s son, newly returned from occupied Paris who stands in front of her.

For over six years, Thomas’s thoughts have been of war. Now he must ask himself what his place is in this new world and what he wants from it. More and more, his thoughts turn to Miss Malvin, but would Lord Malvin agree to such a mismatch for his daughter, especially when she is being courted by Lord Henry Danlow?

As Arabella embarks on her fourth Season, she finds herself more in demand than ever before. But she is tired of the life of a debutante, waiting in the wings for her real life to begin. She is ready to marry. But which of her suitors has the potential for love and who will agree to the type of marriage she wants?

As she struggles to make her choice, she is faced with danger from an unexpected quarter while Thomas is stunned by a new challenge. Will these events bring them together or drive them apart?

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society. She also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era.

You can find out more about Catherine and her books on her website and via Facebook and Twitter.

Next week, join me again for Friday Night Drinks with author, Karen King.