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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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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Friday Night Drinks with… Claire Sheldon

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

I am delighted to be sharing tonight’s Friday Night Drinks with a guest who has been waiting to come on for quite a while, and now we have something to celebrate so she has finally made it. Welcome to the blog, author… Claire Sheldon.

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

Malibu and Coke is my go to drink.

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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?

I’d be dragging you along to the Wetherspoons so you can be my cocktail partner.

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 think I would probably go with Eliza Dushku who I have always been a massive fan of and maybe one of The Bill alumni’s Alex Walkinsaw or Simon Rouse 

Loved Eliza Dushku as Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 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 trying to write Book 3, Book 2 is with my publisher so I am impatiently waiting to work with my editor. My current aim is to get one published, one handed in and one being written. Though I am a nightmare as I am coming up with ideas for Book 4 instead of thinking about 3. 

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

My proudest moment has most certainly been the publication of my first novel Perfect Lie in June and the audio which has recently followed. 

My biggest challenge has been getting to this point, after a false start originally. When I finally signed with a publisher in December 2019 it was the end of a very long and challenging journey.  

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 think every author dreams of our work making it to the big or small screen and seeing my work being acted out in front of me. But right now I think I’ll settle with getting to hear it on audio, because that was just amazing!

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

Book 4, but I’m a pain like this I have this idea, but then I forget I already have book 3 to write that I was as excited about when I was writing book 2… 

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?

As a young child I always wanted to go to DISNEY! So after a challenging 2017, which saw my husband train to be a fire fighter, we finally made it in 2018 and I wasn’t disappointed.

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There are so many places, Australia, Canada… I think we are likely to make it to Canada before Oz, but we shall see. 

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

I was knocked off my bike when I was 15, and suffered a major head injury which pretty much laid the path to where I am today. 

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’?

Having made it to the end of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series, I am pretty much cheerleading for his books. 

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1997.
Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.

Oh, I love those books, I reviewed them all on the blog earlier this year (you can read those reviews here and here.) 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?

My husband always says drink a pint of water when you get in, but with having MS I always suffer after a night’s drinking so probably shouldn’t but still do. 

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

Lots of sleep probably but I miss spending time just me and the hubby so having a weekend away from the kids. Whether it’s at home or somewhere nice. 

Sounds wonderful. Claire, thank you so much for joining me on the blog at last, it’s been wonderful.

Claire’s debut novel, Perfect Lie, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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What is ‘perfect’ trying to hide?
Jen Garner tries her best to be ‘wife and mother of the year’. She helps organise school plays and accompanies her husband to company dinners, all with a big smile on her face.
But Jen has started to receive strange gifts in the post … first flowers, then a sympathy card.
It could just be a joke; that’s what she tells herself. But then the final ‘gift’ arrives, and Jen has to question why somebody is so intent on shattering her life into pieces …

Claire Sheldon lives in Nottingham with her family, a cat called Whiskers and a dog called Podrick.

She suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and as a result of the disease had to reduce her hours working in insurance for an Insolvency Insurer. This spare time enabled her to study a creative writing course which inspired her to write her debut, Perfect Lie.

When Claire isn’t working she enjoys reading crime novels and listening to music – the band Jimmy Eat World is her biggest muse! Claire is also an avid reader and book blogger. The inspiration for her novels comes from the hours spent watching The Bill with her grandparents and auntie; then later, Spooks and other detective programmes like Morse, A Touch of Frost and Midsomer Murders. 

You can connect further with Claire and her writing via her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Night Drinks with…. Fiona Phillips

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Look, I’ve finally got round to creating a proper logo for this feature! It’s only taken me almost two years! I’m delighted to welcome to the blog today for Friday Night Drinks to celebrate this momentous creative achievement, author….. Fiona Phillips

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

Well, seeing as it’s Friday night and work is done for the week, I’d love a gin and tonic.

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Me too, cheers. 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 just over the border from Chester, and my favourite place to go there is the Ship Inn. Great bar, lovely restaurant, and located perfectly to take a stroll into Chester to walk off our food.

I love Chester, sounds great. 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?

Ooh, good question. Let me see. 

The female would have to be Mary Shelley. I find her a fascinating character; the influence of her parents Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, her social circle (including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Byron), and her writing career during her marriage and then as a single parent supporting her son.

Male? Stephen King. I’ve been reading his books since I was a teenager and I love his dark imagination. I’d want to know how he manages to be so prolific and keep finding fresh inspiration for new stories.

Those are interesting choices, your tastes must swing to the macabre a little! 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?

Taking a rest after submitting the first draft of the second book in the Haven Chronicles series to my publisher. 

The series started with Haven Wakes, my debut fantasy novel which is set in a future version of our own world. There’s a wonderful combination of magic and future tech (with plenty of robots) as 12 year old Steve Haven and a dark fairy figure known only as the darkling fight to keep a magical device out of the hands of the villains.

Book 2 (title still under discussion) picks up about a week after the end of Haven Wakes. Things seem to have returned to normal for Steve and then – bam! – he’s pulled back into the hidden world of magic.

I foresee two or three more books in this series, but my characters do tend to keep going off on adventures, so who knows?

Fingers crossed, my publisher likes Book 2.

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

My proudest moment has been seeing Haven Wakes published and holding a copy in my hands. 

My biggest challenge was writing the second book in the series. With a publisher lined up, all of a sudden I wasn’t writing just for me, but for them and for all the readers who have loved Haven Wakes. Having said that, the editing process for Haven Wakes and reader reactions to it have been incredibly helpful in pointing me in the right direction.

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 have so many ideas for books, all based in the same magical universe. I would love to have the chance to write them all and see them out there on people’s bookshelves.

I wouldn’t say no to a film or a TV series either. Who knows?

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

Well, there’s Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles, once I get edits back from my publisher, but I’m also just about to start on a secret project that marries my work as an author with my copywriter role too. 

It’s my way to help out my fellow authors.

Intriguing.  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?

By far, my favourite place that I’ve visited is Venice. I’ve been there three times so far – once with a friend, then with my mum, and most recently my husband took me there for a birthday treat. I’d love to return again with the rest of my family.

I’ve had to re-draw my bucket list as being a published author was number one until Haven Wakes was released in 2019.

Now? I want to go on a cruise of the Scandinavian fjords with my husband. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m an ambivert. That means I’m smack down the middle between being an extrovert and an introvert. 

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’?

It would have to be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s a wonderful mixture of fantasy, intrigue, romance and history. 

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors.

I read The Night Circus during a family holiday in Corfu and its magic is now inextricably tied up with my memory of that time.

I agree, one of my absolute favourites, it was my most recent Desert Island 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?

Water. I try to drink plenty of water before I get started on alcoholic drinks, more before bedtime, and top up again in the morning.

Boring but it really works.

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

Breakfast pancakes at Hanky Pankys in the middle of Chester followed by a stroll alongside the river Dee for an ice cream and a ride on one of the river boats.

That is a Sunday I would really enjoy. Fiona, thank you for coming on the blog and sharing drinks with me, it has been a fascinating evening.

Fiona’s debut novel, Haven Wakes, is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

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The year is 2110. Everyone has their own robot, and magical worlds are just behind the next door…

Steve Haven always thought he was just another ordinary twelve-year-old boy. Well, as ordinary as he can be given that he’s the nephew of Rex Haven, founder of the globally successful Haven Robotics Corporation.

But when Rex dies in mysterious circumstances and Steve is given a strange artefact known only as the Reactor, he discovers that the world he thought he knew is a lot stranger and more threatening than he could have ever imagined.

On the run from a group of dangerous villains, Steve finds himself plunged into a hidden and dangerous world of magic. With his parents missing and no one in the normal world he can trust, Steve must join with his new-found magical friends to discover the truth about the Reactor and his uncle’s death.

Haven Wakes is the debut novel by Fi Phillips and the first in The Haven Chronicles, an exciting and enthralling journey through new worlds, both futuristic and magical.Bio

Fi Phillips is a fantasy author and real-life copywriter living in North Wales with her family and a cockapoo called Bailey.

She likes to write about magical possibilities.

You can find out more about Fiona’s writing on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Saturday Night Drinks with…. Nicola Pryce

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Well, folks, I can tell you that I am really ready for tonight’s Saturday Night Drinks (a day late due to technical problems yesterday, apologies), and I am delighted to be joined in my end-of-the-week wind down chat by author…. Nicola Pryce.

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Nicola, welcome to my humble blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you, Julie. It’s very kind of you to invite me. I’d like a Sottish malt whiskey – a double please. Actually, could you put it in a hipflask as we’ll be taking it in our rucksacks? No, better still, let’s bring the bottle.

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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?

Grab your walking boots and waterproofs, Julie. We’re going to watch basking sharks as the sun sets from a beach in the Outer Hebrides – we’re off to the Isle of Barra.

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That looks beautiful, let’s go right 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?

We’ll be sitting on a beautiful stretch of white sand watching the sun dip below the horizon – one of those balmy nights with not a single midge – and I’d like to invite Dorothy Kathleen Broster, author of some of my favourite books set in Scotland, to join us. Among many other fabulous books she wrote the incredibly romantic Jacobite trilogy, The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North, and The Dark Mile which I absolutely adored as a teenager. 

They helped shape my love of history and literature and now that I write historical fiction, I’d love the chance to talk to her about her role as a Red Cross nurse during World War 1, her historical research, and her life as an author.

And as her books are about the Jacobite uprising of 1745, I’d like to invite Bonnie Prince Charlie so we can hear his side of the story. With Scottish ancestors, I was always rooting for the Jacobites and I have Bonnie Prince Charlie down as a romantic, rather dashing figure. 

So, let’s hope we’re in for a treat! Either way, I think it should make for a very lively evening and have us talking and drinking into the early hours.

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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’m going to whisk you to another coast now – to Cornwall, 1793. 

For the past six years I’ve been writing a series of historical novels based among the ship builders and sea-faring communities on the south coast of Cornwall. It’s such a fascinating period of history; England is at war with France, an invasion is highly possible, and wheat shortages and food riots are causing disorder. China clay has just been discovered, naval ships await orders in Falmouth, and French prisoners cram into the already full prisons. 

It’s a period I love and a place I love. I came late to writing after a career as a nurse. I had always wanted to write, and five books down the line I’m still pinching myself that it’s happened! Never say never is now my motto.

My historical novels are standalone books, but they do follow in sequence. My debut novel, Pengelly’s Daughter, was published in 2016 and there are now five in the series, including the one to be published this November.

image1What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

It’s difficult to choose between when I was picked up by my agent, when I was offered a publishing contract, and when I first saw my book in print. But really, I think my proudest moment was when a lady wrote to me saying she took my book out from the library and really loved it. To have my books in libraries is such a privilege.

My biggest challenge I think must be the same as with everyone – how to juggle the work/life balance. I’m a slow writer and I’m also a wife, mother, and doting grandmother so it’s always going to be a bit of a balance. 

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!

With such a wealth of books being published, I’d love it if my books were still being read in fifty years’ time. 

What a great ambition! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Book 5, A Cornish Betrothal is out soon and I’m really excited about that. Each novel follows a different heroine and I’ve loved telling Amelia Carew’s story. 

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?

There are just too many to mention, but I think you may have guessed that the Outer Hebrides are on my mind at the moment, mainly because next year is our 40th wedding anniversary and we’re thinking of retracing our first holiday together. We had such an amazing time driving our little open-top red sportscar down the islands and camping on the white beaches with their delicate shells and turquoise sea. 

This time, I think we’ll take bikes and stay in bed and breakfasts along the way. The scenery is breathtaking, and I can’t wait to go back – with both rainproofs and sun cream in our backpacks! 

This isn’t my photo, but it’s what we have in mind to do.

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

I was born in Denver, Colorado, and spent my childhood in Baghdad.

Wow, if we ever meet in person, I would love to hear about your Baghdad childhood. 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’m going to go for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. So many books have been influential in my life and though it affected me greatly as a teenager, I recently re-read it after a visit to Brooklyn and it seemed even more powerful the second time round. It’s a profoundly moving novel which charts the childhood of Irish immigrant Francie Nolan and her family in the slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919. The women have nothing, but their words of wisdom are priceless. Do read it if you have not already done so.

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The Nolan family are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Originating in Ireland and Austria, their life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn is poor and deprived, but their sacrifices make it possible for their children to grow up in a land of boundless opportunity.

Francie Nolan is the eldest daughter of the family. Alert, imaginative and resourceful, her journey through the first years of a century of profound change is difficult – and transformative. But amid the poverty and suffering among the poor of Brooklyn, there is hope, and the prospect of a brighter future.

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?

Ah, well, when you get to my age you know to make one drink last the whole evening! But my cure for hangovers was always pints of water before I went to bed and a small hair of the dog at about 11 o’clock the next morning!

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

I think you might have guessed this … We’ll be up bright and early and on our bikes heading along the coast road for a pub lunch. It’s alright, I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s going to be glorious sunshine. We’ll have a swim, then head back to our bed and breakfast and have freshly caught fish grilled on a BBQ for supper. 

Then another ride on Sunday morning, followed by another dip, a yummy lunch, and then we’ll spend the afternoon reading D. K. Broster’s The Flight of the Heron.

That sounds perfect. Nicola, thank you so much for joining me, it has been absolutely delightful.

Nicola Pryce is author of five books of historical fiction set in Cornwall, including the latest book A Cornish Betrothal, which will be published on 5 November. You can buy copies of all of Nicola’s books here.

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Cornwall, 1798.

Eighteen months have passed since Midshipman Edmund Melville was declared missing, presumed dead, and Amelia Carew has mended her heart and fallen in love with a young physician, Luke Bohenna. But, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Amelia suddenly receives a letter from Edmund announcing his imminent return. In a state of shock, devastated that she now loves Luke so passionately, she is torn between the two.

When Edmund returns, it is clear that his time away has changed him – he wears scars both mental and physical. Amelia, however, is determined to nurse him back to health and honour his heroic actions in the Navy by renouncing Luke.

But soon, Amelia begins to question what really happened to Edmund while he was missing. As the threads of truth slip through her fingers, she doesn’t know who to turn to: Edmund, or Luke?

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. After a fulfilling career as a nurse she qualified as an adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure and it is there where she sets her books. If she is not writing or gardening, you will find her scrubbing the decks.

Nicola is published by Atlantic Books. Pengelly’s Daughter is her first novel, then The Captain’s Girl, The Cornish Dressmaker, and The Cornish Lady. A Cornish Betrothal will be published in November.

Nicola is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

You can find out more about Nicola and her writing on her website and via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by PR, Helen Lewis, so please do join us then.

Friday Night Drinks with….Jen Gilroy

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Wow, it’s been a scorcher here today! How about where you are? I think it is time to relax in the garden as the evening cools, with a nice glass of something icy and an interesting friend to chat to, so I’m delighted to be joined on the blog for Friday Night Drinks this week by author….Jen Gilroy.

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Welcome to the blog, Jen, and thank you for being with me on this glorious evening. First things first, what are you drinking? 

A chilled glass of pink zinfandel, a rosé wine from California’s Sonoma Valley. With its crisp strawberry flavour, it’s the perfect summertime tipple and also brings back lovely memories of a holiday in that area.

Sounds delicious, I will give that a try too. 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?

Since moving to Canada from England five years ago, I live in a small town in rural Eastern Ontario and ‘Friday Night Drinks’ isn’t as big a part of the culture here as it is in the UK. Instead, and to start a night out, I’d take you to our local ice cream stand, a favourite gathering spot on summer evenings. Serving an array of frozen sweet treats, this miniature red-roofed barn has been a community fixture and popular summer gathering place for several generations. 

That sounds absolutely lovely. I’ve always wanted to visit Canada, and it sounds like a fabulous community you live in. If you could invite two famous people, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Such a tough question and so difficult to choose only two! However, because we’re chatting about all things bookish I’d invite Margaret Atwood (born in 1939) and Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888). 

Both have influenced me in writing and life and indeed Atwood has noted that Alcott’s most famous heroine, Jo March (from Little Women) shaped her own development as a writer. 

Although from much different times, Alcott and Atwood are strong and inspirational women so I expect we’d have an interesting (and lively) conversation about books, women’s rights and roles in society, and perennial issues facing women as well as women writers. 

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 next release, A Wish in Irish Falls, will be out in September and I’ve just finished checking the proof copy. It’s the second book in my Wishing Tree series but both books also stand alone. As a contracted book, I started writing it last summer and sent the full manuscript to my editor just before Christmas 2019 so have been working on edits since then. 

Set in a small Irish-American town with a wishing tree where ‘sometimes happily ever after is only a wish away,’ I’m excited about sharing the book with existing as well as new readers. 

Although it’s a romance novel, it’s also story about second chances in life, family and finding home too. With its wishing tree, a special tree believed to make wishes come true, the book has echoes of Ireland (one of my favourite places) and Irish tradition, and the veterinarian hero once lived in Ireland so has a hint of an Irish accent.  

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When you wish on a wishing tree, you don’t always get what you want. If you’re very lucky, you get something even better . . .

When Tara Lynch’s husband was killed on military duty, her happily ever after died too. Although she still wishes on her hometown wishing tree, she’s no longer certain it makes dreams come true. All Tara wants is to somehow move forward without the love and family of her own she’d counted on.

Walker Cavanagh’s the new veterinarian in town. After his fiancée’s death in a car accident he’s sure was his fault, he won’t get close to another woman to get hurt, or hurt her. As for wishes, they won’t bring back his lost love.

Yet, as Tara and Walker work together on a fundraising event to train service dogs for veterans, they find they have more in common than they think—and are soon more than a little hot and bothered.

With some wishing tree magic, can Tara and Walker face their biggest fears and open their hearts to each other . . . and find a new beginning in Irish Falls?

You had me at, ‘Irish!’ I, too, love Ireland and, as my OH can tell you, can be seduced by a hint of an Irish accent. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

Although achieving publication after many years of working towards that goal was a special and proud moment, more meaningful to me is hearing from readers that something I’ve written has resonated with and helped them, especially at a difficult time in their lives. Irrespective of the number of books I publish or anything else I achieve in my writing career, that kind of reader feedback means the world to me and also helps me keep going when the ‘crows of doubt’ circle. 

As a published author, my biggest challenge is reaching readers (although I’m most grateful for book bloggers like you who make that challenge easier) combined with navigating the ever-changing publishing landscape.

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 first book was published in 2017 so my ‘big goal’ is made up of several smaller ones all focused on building a long-term writing career. I want to keep growing my craft as a writer, develop my readership and still be writing books that touch readers’ hearts for many years to come. 

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

Alongside contemporary romance, I’ve also started to write dual timeline novels with historical and contemporary strands and am excited to be challenging my writing ‘muscles’ in new directions. 

Since these stories necessitate historical research, I’m also enjoying exploring primary sources (using research skills I developed as a long-ago postgraduate student) and reading more historical fiction. 

I adore a dual timeline novel, so I look forward to seeing that. 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?

Given current circumstances and so many closed borders, I’d be happy to travel anywhere at the moment! In terms of favourite places that I’ve visited often, I can’t decide between North Norfolk (where I’ve had many happy family holidays) and the Wild Atlantic Way on Ireland’s west coast. 

As for at the top of my bucket list, I’d love to visit New Zealand and, closer to home, Canada’s Arctic. 

It sounds like you and I have very similar tastes in travel destinations. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

My right foot is almost a full size bigger than my left one so buying shoes (which I love) has always been challenging. In order to make the right shoe fit, I have to stuff the left one with insoles. For that reason, I rarely wear open-toed shoes. 

Wow, that’s tricky! 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’ve just reread Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey (which won the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2016) and continue to tell everyone how fabulous it is. 

Since I can’t ever stop at just one book recommendation, and to add a bit of Canadian fiction to the mix, I’d also suggest The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Although Montgomery is best known as the author of Anne of Green Gables, The Blue Castle is one of her few books for adults. With a gorgeous fairy tale quality, it’s my book equivalent of a hot water bottle on a cold night and my go-to comfort read.  

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1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London…

Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five.

He promised to love her forever

Seventy years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan’s words, she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it is too late?

So many people rave about Iona’s book, I must pluck it from the TBR shelf soon! I am a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery. So, after our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A perfect weekend for me would include uninterrupted time to read, a bookshop browse, Sunday lunch with my family and a country walk. In a perfect (non-pandemic) world, I’d also like to squeeze in a cinema trip or visit to a museum, gallery or historic property. 

That’s sound busy but fun. Thank you so much for joining me on the blog tonight, Jen, it has been a huge pleasure to chat to you and I wish you great luck with the new book.

The first book in the Wishing Tree series by Jen Gilroy is called The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls is available now and you can buy a copy here. The second book, A Wish in Irish Fallswill be published on 16 September.

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Sometimes happily ever after is only a wish away . . .

There’s a wishing tree in Irish Falls. The bits of paper tied to its gnarled branches hold the hopes and dreams of everyone in town . . . except Annie Quinn.

Single mom Annie has spent years rebuilding her life and trying not to have regrets. After giving up her dream of music stardom, she returned to her Adirondack hometown—and convinced herself she’s content with a simpler life.

The last thing she needs is a man to remind her of the heartbreak she left behind.

A divorced dad, Seth Taggart used to be a successful LA songwriter. But now his reputation is in tatters, he’s burnt-out, and estranged from his adult son. Inheriting a small-town radio station just might be the do-over he needs.

Although he always planned to go back to LA, when working with Annie turns into sharing music and more, Seth realizes second chances—and home—are where he least expects.

Jen Gilroy worked in higher education and international marketing and business development before trading the corporate 9-5 to write contemporary romance and women’s fiction with heart, home and hope.   

After many years living and working in England, she returned to where her roots run deep and lives in a small town in Eastern Ontario, Canada with her husband, teen daughter and a floppy-eared rescue hound. When she’s not writing, Jen enjoys reading, travel, singing and ballet. She’s also known for her love of ice cream, shoes and vintage finds. 

Jen’s first book, The Cottage at Firefly Lake (and first book in her Firefly Lake series), was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) Golden Heart® award in 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award 2017. 

She’s a member of RNA and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).

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

Next week, I will be having Friday Night Drinks with author, Niki Pryce.

Friday Night Drinks with…. Katherine Mezzacappa

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I am delighted to be celebrating the start of another weekend (although, between school holidays and coronavirus, the weeks and weekends tend blend into one at the moment!) by welcoming to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, author……Katherine Mezzacappa.

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

A glass of celebratory prosecco!

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?

To a place called Bar Leonardi. It’s on Piazza Alberica, the biggest square in the town I live in. We’d sit outside and people watch.

My favourite pastime! 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?

One would be Thomas Hardy, a writer I devoured in my teens and have been inspired by ever since, though I think he wouldn’t be much of a drinker. I’d be wanting to ask him what drove him to be a writer, growing up in his parents’ cottage in Dorset.

The lady would be Lucrezia Marinella. I don’t think she’s perhaps that famous outside of Italy, but she was a Renaissance feminist writer, from Venice. However she couldn’t have become a writer unless her father had decided to bring her up and educate her just as if she was a boy.

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’m working on the revisions to the sequel to The Gypsy Bride, published in May under the pen-name Katie Hutton. The Gypsy’s Daughter is set post-war and tells the story of the daughter of the couple from the first book, when she goes to study in Nottingham, the first of her family to go to university, and of her relationship with the two men who love her. When those revisions are with my editor, I’ll think about my next Kate Zarrelli novella for eXtasy. It’ll be set in Italy, involve stolen art treasures and have a carabiniere as the hero.

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Setting for The Gypsy Bride

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

There’ve been different ones. A really proud moment was when my first fiction was published. It was a short story called ‘Connemara Marble’ in a magazine called Ireland’s Own. I think Maeve Binchy got an early fiction break through them. But I could also say when I got my lovely agent, and only weeks afterwards got my 2-book deal with Zaffre. That’s when I really felt I could describe myself as a writer. Another stand-out moment was being awarded a Cill Rialaig residency by the Irish Writers Centre last year. 

The biggest challenge is probably getting back to writing properly after my MA. I moved house and country, the agent who had signed me left his agency and dropped me because of the financial crash, saying nobody was taking on new authors, and I rather lost heart. Then another writer from the MA gave me a real talking to about putting off writing, and after that I got started again properly and just couldn’t, or didn’t dare stop.

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 like to be able to live by writing. That’s a tall order these days, with a few exceptions. What that would look like would be not just doing my own writing but also working as a writing consultant, critique-writer and proof-reader. That sort of portfolio takes some time to build.

What a great ambition, though, I hope you get there. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I also have a project (as Katie Hutton) to write a novel set in Barrow-in-Furness post-war, in which the hero is a German PoW. It was put on hold for a while until travel became safe and permissible.

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 city is probably Venice. It broke my heart to see the Webcams during lockdown when it was completely deserted. I love it in winter. On my bucket-list are places I want to go for research: Cottbus and Bautzen in Germany, cities associated with the Sorbs, and in Romania (this is for yet another book, set in Saxon Transylvania in the 19th century), Mediaş, Sibiu and Cluj.

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

I once cadged a lift home in a police car. The officers were very nice and let us try on their hats.

I love that fact! 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’?

Jo Baker’s Longbourn. I love a book told from the point of view of the servants, people who seldom have a voice in history.

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It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah’s hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.

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?

Alternate alcohol with non-alcohol, and always have something to eat. Failing that, Andrews Salts.

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

I’ve a tiny house in a village in the foothills of the Apuan Alps. It’s one step above glamping. Reading, writing, sunbathing on the terrace, eating and drinking under the pergola.

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Katherine, thank you for coming on the blog tonight, it has been wonderful.

Katherine’s latest book as Katie Hutton, The Gypsy Bride, is out now and you can buy it here.

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Oxfordshire, 1917

Ellen is growing up in the Oxfordshire countryside. The granddaughter of a Methodist preacher and intending to marry Charlie, a boy from the local village, Ellen’s life is mapped out for her.

When Charlie is killed on the battlefields of the First World War, Ellen is left heart-broken and lost. But then she meets Sam Loveridge. Mysterious and unruly, Sam is from a local Gypsy community, and unlike anyone Ellen has ever met before. Before she knows what’s hit her, Ellen is swept off her feet and shown a world of passion, excitement – and true love.

But the conservative world that Ellen is from can’t possibly understand or approve of their relationship, and Ellen and Sam are torn apart. Is their love strong enough overcome their cultural distances, or will the hostility and prejudice they face destroy their chance at happiness?

Writing as Kate Zarelli, she has just released The Casanova Papers, which you can get here.

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Ellie Murphy takes a contract teaching English at a school in Venice, Italy. There she meets the sexy enigmatic Professor Piero Contarini, from an ancient Venetian family, and agrees to help him in his work curating a new edition of the memoirs of the famous seducer, Giacomo Casanova. Taking their task seriously, they start to enact his adventures with each other, ecstatically revealing their own kinks as they do so. But who is watching them from the shadowy alleyways of Venice?

Katherine Mezzacappa is an Irish writer of mainly historical fiction, currently living in Tuscany, with her Italian husband, two sons and an old tabby cat. She also writes as Katie Hutton, and as Kate Zarrelli. Core themes in her fiction are love and culture clash, and these come to the fore in her début historical novel, The Gypsy Bride. She is currently revising the sequel, The Gypsy’s Daughter, for publication next year. In her spare time, she volunteers with a secondhand book charity of which she is a founder member.

Connect with Katherine further on Twitter/Twitter and Facebook/Facebook.

Next Friday I will be having drinks with author, Christina Garbutt, so please join us then.

Change is Afoot! Jump on the Bandwagon!

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Good morning, lovely people! I am very excited this morning, because I’m announcing some changes to the blog, and new opportunities for authors and bloggers to take part. There’s nothing I enjoy more that a bit of collaboration, it really freshens up the site and prevents my readers getting exceedingly bored of just listening to me droning on, so I’m really looking forward to it. A change is as good as a rest, as my granny always used to tell me.

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So, the first (and unexciting, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way and build up the suspense for the new developments) announcement, is that the 2021 diary is now open and just begging to be filled. So if there is anyone out there who has a book coming out early next year and would like to book in a guest post, or appear on my Friday Night Drinks feature, or is organising a blog tour for the beginning of the year and would like me to be involved, now is the time to book that place in the diary. I also have a few Friday Night Drinks slots available for December, these are open to anyone in publishing – authors, publishers, bloggers, blog tour organisers, editors, cover designers, proof readers, booksellers…. All welcome.

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Now for the two new features I am introducing.

Firstly, I am introducing a new regular interview feature for RNA members, where I will be asking you to tell me why you write romance, which romance writers and books you love and inspire you, and what you love most about the RNA. The feature will take place every other Tuesday, to tie in with #TuesNews, and will kick off in September with the winner of my #underwatervampireerotica competition (see more below if you are baffled, and why wouldn’t you be?), but slots are open thereafter for any published authors who are members of the RNA. (If this is successful, I may expand to other genres at a later date. To start with, this is my way of giving something back to the RNA, an organisation which is supporting me through my own writing journey.) I’m calling this feature Romancing The Romance Authors, so let me know if you are interested.

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The second new feature has been inspired by the fun I have been having this year choosing and re-reading the twelve books I would want to have with me if I knew I were going to be stranded forever on a desert island. You can find out which I have chosen by following my monthly Desert Island Books posts and, I’ve enjoyed this so much that I’m going to carry on next year with my twelve Desert Island Children’s Books. But now I’d like to know what your Desert Island Books would be, just because I’m nosy. So, again this feature is going to run every other week on a Wednesday (at least to begin with, I’ll expand it if it is really popular), starting on Wednesday, 9th September. I’m going to be mean to you and only let you pick FIVE books to take, and you’ll have to tell me why you’ve chosen these particular ones. This feature is open to anyone who wants to take part.

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Finally, I wanted to announce the winner of the #underwatervampireerotica competition I ran during my seminar at the RNA Conference. The person who got closest to guessing how many blog tour/NetGalley books I had bought after reviewing them was Claire Huston, who guessed 142. The actual number was 118 (I feel like I have let down all the people who thought it was all, or almost all, of them but I’d be bankrupt if I bought them all!). Clare, I know I have already bought and reviewed your book, so you have credit in the bank with me for the next one, and you get to be my first guest on Romancing The Romance Authors on 1st September, and I’ll be in touch about that shortly. Thanks to all who entered.

So, if anyone would like to be featured on the blog in any way, including Friday Night Drinks, Romancing The Romance Authors or Desert Island Books, please get in touch by emailing julie@alittlebookproblem.co.uk, filling in the contact form on the blog or sending me a DM via social media and we will put something in the diary. Requests are dealt with on a strictly first come, first served basis. Look forward to featuring as many of you as I can fit in!

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Friday Night Drinks with… Camilla Downs

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Another Friday, they seem to be coming around faster and faster! Which means it is time for another Friday Night Drinks and this week I am joined by author, blogger, self-publisher and mentor…. Camilla Downs.

Photo #1 Words of Alchemy Wilbur May Arboretum Rancho San Rafael Lillian and Camilla 5.2.19 #3 camilla selfie

Camilla, thank you for joining me on the blog for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks so much for inviting me for drinks, Julie!! Books and drinks, can’t go wrong! I’m having a spicy, virgin Bloody Mary, with pickled okra and garlic stuffed green olives. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

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Bloody Marys are the one cocktail I cannot stomach, I’m afraid, I’ll have to stick to the gin. 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 would make our way from Reno up Geiger Grade Highway to Virginia City, stopping to take in the view along the way. Once there, we’ll stroll along the wooden boardwalk, which serves as a time machine to take us into days gone by. We’ll enjoy being immersed in the Old West of gold rush days, touring the mini-museums, the ancient cemetery, learning more about Mark Twain and the time he spent in Virginia City. We’ll end our visit at The Bucket of Blood Saloon, while the Comstock Cowboys perform. I’m including a photo I took of the view as you drive from Reno to Virginia City. 

Geiger Way Lookout

(Geiger Way Lookout)

That sounds perfect. USA road trips are one of my favourite types of trip. 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?

Billy Idol and Cyndi Lauper …. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, don’t they? 

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’m taking this year to press the reset button. Rest, relax, doing whatever is in front of me, or whatever I feel like doing. You see, for the past 15 years, I’ve been on an exhausting journey of healing. Which began with leaving a 10 year marriage in 2006, becoming a single parent to a 5 year old special needs child and her 1 year old sibling, and losing everything. If that doesn’t kick your butt into gear to take a good, long, look at yourself, I’m not sure what will! During that time I published four books, two of which are with each of my kids. 

All this to say that I’m taking this year off! No meditating and no writing, unless there’s something that just needs to be written. This excludes my blog as I write whenever I’m moved about life experiences or current events. As this year comes to a close, I’ll begin thinking about what’s next, preparing myself to be guided by the heart. For sure, another book, a return to meditating, and who knows what else! 

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

The proudest moment was having my first book, D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance, reach #1 in on Amazon in Special Needs Parenting and #2 in Self-help, along with the feedback and reviews that were received. There’s nothing like the feeling of others reflecting back to you, the areas where you shine. We are mostly blind to this, not able to see ourselves as others do. It’s a true blessing when this happens. 

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The biggest challenge has been having faith in myself and my projects, during creation, and once released into the world. It was a true blessing learning about imposter syndrome, recognizing when it is discouraging me to move forward with a project. I was incredibly relieved when I discovered about imposter syndrome, that it is something many authors, artists, entrepreneurs, and people simply living life experience. 

That is something i can relate to, I am a lifelong sufferer. 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 would love for Elizabeth Gilbert to endorse one of my past or future books, sharing it with all of her instagram followers, and telling them why she loves it. 

That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m really excited about taking this year off. Hahaha! I have to keep reminding myself that this is the case. I keep thinking I should be doing something, with thoughts of guilt and shame for not hustling and working on creating something. 

I’m also pretty excited that I’ve finally gotten my daughter’s book, Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories, converted to and released as an ebook and am working on getting my son’s book, Biggest Little Photographer, converted and released as an ebook as well. These have been on my to do list for a while!

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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?

Last summer I visited The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was breathtakingly beautiful. The feeling in the air, the calm, peace, and beauty are overwhelming, in a good way! You’ll definitely need a full day, if not two days to be able to experience all of it. 

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

For the past 7 years, I’ve used organic olive oil as my facial cleanser and moisturizer, and nothing else. I so much like what it’s done for my complexion that I quit wearing make-up about 4 years ago.

Oh, that’s interesting! 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 Sound of the Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.

When Elisabeth Tova Bailey contracted a virus overseas that bewildered the doctors back in the States, she began a roller coaster ride of getting better and getting worse. She spent an entire year bedridden at one point.

A friend who stopped by picked up a snail that was in the yard, a pot and a few wild violets. She set it next to her bed and Elisabeth asked, “What am I supposed to do with a snail?” Her friend responded that she didn’t know, but it felt like the right thing to do to bring it inside to her. This is the story of what she did with it ….

I know it sounds odd. But, I adored this book. I’ve read it twice, and now thinking about it, I’m ready to read it again.

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While an illness keeps her bedridden, Elisabeth Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence in a terrarium alongside her bed. She enters the rhythm of life of this mysterious creature, and comes to a greater understanding of her own confined place in the world.

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, she shares the inspiring and intimate story of her close encounter with Neohelix albolabris a common woodland snail. Intrigued by the snail’s world from its strange anatomy to its mysterious courtship activities she becomes a fascinated and amused observer of the snail’s curious life.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is an affirmation of the healing power of nature, revealing how much of the world we miss in our busy daily lives, and how truly magical it is. A remarkable journey of survival and resilience, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating shows how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence and deepen our appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

That sounds intriguing and very different to anything else that I’ve read. 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?

When I used to imbibe, I would drink a glass of water in between glasses of wine or other alcoholic beverage. I think I’ve only had a hangover a couple of times. Perhaps that helped? These days if I were to get a hangover, I’d turn to Google, searching for a natural cure with something from the kitchen, or perhaps essential oils. 

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

A drive around Lake Tahoe. Stopping for hikes and stopping to spend time at the beautiful beaches. Lake Tahoe is an absolute gem. If you’ve not visited, you may want to add this to your bucket list, too. There’s not only Lake Tahoe, but when driving the area, there are many smaller lakes hidden throughout the area. I’d go for a walk or two, taking nature photos along the way. Then, I’d go for a dip in Lake Tahoe’s ice cold, refreshing waters. I’d also make sure to have a few good books with me, spending time relaxing and reading. Let me know if you make it over one day, as I’d love to meet you in person Julie! 

Nevada Beach

(Nevada Beach, Lake Tahoe)

Kings Beach

(Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe)

Lake Tahoe

(Lake Tahoe)

Lake Tahoe is definitely on my bucket list? Camilla, thank you so much for joining me on the blog tonight, it has been a delight.

Make sure you check out Camilla’s book of poetry, Words of Alchemy, which you can purchase here.

Words of Alchemy Book Mock up Fina October 2019

In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.

During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.

Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.

Camilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of MeetingtheAuthors.com and lives in Northern Nevada, USA with her two kids.

You can connect further with Camilla via her website, family website, FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Please join me again next week when I will be having Friday Night Drinks with author, Katherine Mezzacappa.

Friday Night Drinks with….Jessica Norrie

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I should be at the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference tonight, drinking and chatting with a couple of hundred writers, before delivering a blogging seminar to them in the morning. Well, thanks to Covid-19, that’s not happening. Instead. I am enjoying Friday Night Drinks with author….. Jessica Norrie.

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

We’re drinking a blush rosé from Provence. I read that you don’t drink wine but I promise this won’t give you a headache; it’s from an organic grower and so delicate. Mmm… 

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I will give it a go if you promise it won’t give me a headache!  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?

Oh, somewhere we could chat without interruption. How about one of the sofas on the balcony terrace at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden? We could watch the comings and goings on the Piazza below, and if it rains we can go into the beautiful Floral Hall bar.

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?

Since we’re at Covent Garden, I’ve chosen two classical musicians (although I like other music too). I’m inviting Pavel Kolesnikov to play the grand piano in the bar. He has the most delicate touch I’ve ever heard. If you ever need to feel calm and held, listen to him. My other guest is the Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho, another musician whose style is delicate, modest and true. She takes all the stereotypes of an opera diva and behaves and looks the opposite, and her acting is heartrending. People think opera is for posh people but she really does make everyone welcome.

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 third novel is currently clogging up the publishers’ inboxes. It was inspired by a pub sign I saw on holiday, definitely NOT the sort of pub to serve French blush rosé or even make every customer welcome. I imagined the locals and a story grew from that. I’m hoping a traditional publisher will like it enough to give me a contract, as with my first two novels I was pipped at the post by somebody’s casting vote and had to self-publish. I’d like to make respectable sales and get people thinking, but I’m not bothered if it doesn’t go stratospheric. One advantage of staying unknown is you don’t get trolled..  

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

My first novel The Infinity Pool unexpectedly went to no 1 in Australia, overtaking The Girl on the Train and Harper Lee’s long-awaited Go Set A Watchman. That raised my expectations: I assumed something similar would happen with the second, The Magic Carpet, and it didn’t. So the biggest challenge now is accepting just chugging along and not giving up. I still have things to say, and I mustn’t mind if the audience for them is rather small.

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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, it’s just us talking after all!

Having said I don’t care if my books don’t go stratospheric, I keep my Booker prizewinning speech updated, just in case! I’d also love to get noticed by BBC Woman’s Hour which has informed and entertained me all my life or be asked for my Desert Island Discs.

I’d love to be on Desert Island Discs! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve only just started novel 4, so I’m still very much at the brainstorming stage. This time I’m determined to plan properly, have a clear genre and main character and hit the zeitgeist. But I’m a bit of a creative writing class rule breaker and find my words don’t come so easily when I follow the proper paths. I’m not “really excited” yet as these things (for me) take years, but I do have a small glow inside that my idea has potential. I write about what’s important to me – travel, how people operate in small groups, children, education and language, women, and music so this will reflect some of those.  

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?

When teachers retire they often go somewhere amazing in September to avoid high season and send gloating postcards to the staffroom. I went to Japan, and I’d go back. I wrote one of my favorite blog posts about Hiroshima here, but these photos are Mount Fuji and the Golden Pavilion temple near Kyoto.

I have been really tempted to go to Japan after being inspired by a recent read. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

There aren’t any. I wear my heart on my sleeve and have always wished I could keep secrets. 

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 think you have children? And didn’t always find lockdown easy? And I know you have a great sense of humour, sympathy with difficult women, and like to get lost in a book, so the perfect choice for you would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and also her non-fiction, Life Among the Savages. Calling them savages probably isn’t very acceptable nowadays but it was life with her own small children she was writing about!

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Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone.

And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

I have a copy of this on my Kindle, but haven’t got round to reading it yet. I’ll have a look at the other one, though I probably wouldn’t go as far as calling my children savages! 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?

There are no cures, only prevention and lots of water. But a long soak in the bath or lazing in a swimming pool can help, on the principle of hydration inside and out. 

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

I’d go to Wimbledon and watch the most beautiful tennis players in the world. Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka on a good day and I’d cheer as our very own Heather Watson won a doubles cup to add to her pile. I’d eat strawberries and cream and everything in the garden would be rosé.

That sounds fantastic. Roll on the days when this kind of thing is possible again! Jessica, thank you for keeping me company this evening, it has been great fun.

Jessica’s latest book, The Magic Carpet, was one of my Top Ten Books of 2019 and you can read my review of it here.

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Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of this marvellous book, you can find it here.

Jessica Norrie was born in London and studied French Literature and Education at Sussex and Sheffield. She taught English, French and Spanish abroad and in the UK in settings ranging from nursery to university. She has two adult children and divides her time between London and Malvern, Worcestershire.

She has also worked as a freelance translator, published occasional journalism and a French textbook and blogs.

Jessica sings soprano with any choir that will have her, and has been trying to master the piano since childhood but it’s not her forte.

She left teaching in 2016. The Infinity Pool was her first novel, drawing on encounters while travelling. Her second novel The Magic Carpet is inspired by working with families and their children. The third is bubbling away nicely and should emerge from her cauldron next year. 

You can find out more about Jessica on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Next week, I will be joined for drinks by blogger, Camilla Downs, so why not join us then?