Friday Night Drinks with… Jessica Redland

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

It’s the end of another week and time to catch up with someone from the publishing world over a drink. This week I am chatting with author… Jessica Redland.

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Welcome to my virtual bar, Jessica. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you so much for hosting me! Tonight, I’m indulging in a lovely chilled glass of White Zinfandel. I very rarely drink but, if I do partake, this is my drink of choice … or a Pino Grigio.

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?

In a non-Covid world, we’d be on a night out in Scarborough and I’d probably take you on the Whitsborough Bay pub crawl. I set most of my books in a fictional seaside town which is predominantly modelled on Scarborough and I mention quite a few pubs and bars across the nine books set there. I’d take you round the real-life pubs which have influenced my fictional ones. We might have to restrict it to a small wine or a half in each, though, as it could be quite a big crawl… although it’s downhill which is a good thing!

That would be great. My grandparents had a flat in Scarborough and I have many happy memories of holidays there, right up until I was in my early twenties. 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?

If you’d just said one male, it would have been Chris Hemsworth but I’m not letting another female get in there 😉 I would therefore draw from the past and invite A A Milne and Beatrix Potter because I’d love them both to know how beloved and enduring their words and images have been. That would be quite a gift to give someone.

Good choices, they would be fascinating to talk to. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

It’s all about the Hedgehog Hollow series at the moment which started with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow released in July this year. Hedgehog Hollow is a hedgehog rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds.

I’ve recently finished the final proofread on the second book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollowwhich is available for pre-order and out on 7th January 2021. I’m currently doing my final read-through on book 3 – Life Begins at Hedgehog Hollow – as the deadline to submit to my editor is this week. It will be out on 4th May 2021.

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This was going to finish the series although it wasn’t going to be the end of Hedgehog Hollow as I have an idea for a prequel and a spin-off. However, as I got into the final quarter of writing book 3, a fourth one shouted at me and the as-yet-untitled book 4 in the Hedgehog Hollow series will probably be my January 2022 release.

I’ve also been editing the final couple of the books from my back catalogue. My publishers, Boldwood Books, have taken on all my books and, during 2020, six of them were re-released with a fresh edit, new title and new cover. The final two will be re-released in 2021.

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

Oh my goodness, so many proud moments. Although most people will understandably want to forget 2020 and will be relieved when it’s over, it has been the most incredible year for my writing career thanks to Boldwood Books and I’ll cherish that part of it forever. Some amazing achievements this year include:

  • #14 in the UK Kindle chart with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms
  • #3 in the Australia Kindle chart with Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • #32 in the USA Kindle chart with The Secret to Happiness
  • Bestseller tags on all ten of my books at the same time
  • Passing 1,000 reviews on Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes when my dream for this year was to hit 100 for one of my books
  • Having 3 x books in The Works
  • Being able to leave my day job to write full-time
  • Being offered a second 12-book publishing contract with Boldwood Books
  • Readers getting in touch thanking me for the heart-warming escapism that my books have given them during a busy year – so very humbling

This then links into my biggest challenge because it hasn’t always been like this. This time two years ago, I was so low about my writing that I seriously questioned whether to give it up. I’d originally secured a three-book publishing deal with my debut book but my publisher ceased trading and I got my rights back and became an indie author. With a demanding day job, I didn’t have the time for promotion and I struggled to make an impact on the charts. Those who discovered my books seemed to love them but not many people were discovering them and I was either going to need to continue to flounder and hope for a miracle or secure another publishing deal.

When I sought a publishing deal with my debut novel, rejections didn’t bother me too much but, eight books down the line when I tried again, they floored me. I seriously questioned my ability as a writer and whether I could continue pouring my heart and soul into creating novels nobody seemed to want. But someone did want them. Boldwood Books took me on and I found my writing home.

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 absolutely love to achieve a top 10 in the UK Kindle chart. If I’m completely honest, I’d love a #1 – who wouldn’t?! But, for now, a top 10 is my goal. I came so close with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms getting to #14. Whether I’ll ever get there is debatable but it’s good to have an ambitious goal.

And – because I’m being greedy and picking two – my other biggie is I would love my books to be made into films or a TV series. So many readers comment on this in reviews and I completely agree. They’d be amazing on screen!

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m really excited about the next books in the Hedgehog Hollow series coming out. Book 2 is on NetGalley at the moment and, although reviews are coming in quite slowly (I think lots of reviewers are reading Christmas books just now), most of the ones I’ve had are extremely positive. We won’t talk about the two that were a bit mean and made me cry!

I’ll be starting on my 2021 Christmas book after Christmas and I’m really looking forward to that because I actually started writing it 3.5 years ago to be my first ever Christmas novella released in 2017. When I’d written about 10k words, it became apparent to me that the story was bigger than a novella so I parked it. I can’t wait to return to 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?

Right now, I’d happily travel absolutely anywhere! Don’t care where; just let me out of the house!!!! I’m sure most of us feel like that. Like so many, we had holidays cancelled this year and one of those was to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday.

I love travelling too and there are so many amazing places I’ve been and would love to re-visit, as well as places I’ve never been. We honeymooned in British Colombia in Canada and would love to go back and, twenty years ago, I went to New Zealand with a friend. I’d love to take my husband there and explore the parts my friend and I missed.

We went to Lapland last Christmas and it was one of the best holidays ever. It’s a dream to go back there again.

Top of my bucket list for places I’ve never been would be Iceland. It looks absolutely stunning.

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

Looking at me now, you’d never guess it, but I used to be pretty fit and liked to try out adventurous things in the great outdoors. By my late-twenties, I could tick off climbing, abseiling, gorge-walking, zorbing, sand-yachting, surfing, becoming a qualified scuba diver and doing a 43m bungy jump off a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The bungy jump was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It was over a river and I was asked if I wanted to touch the water or avoid it. I said touch it but that basically gave them permission to dunk me. I had a baggy T-shirt on and when I got dunked, it got drenched and, hanging upside down, the weight of the water pulled it over my head. So I was basically bouncing up and down on a rope, flashing my bra to the world! Attractive!

You are much braver than me, I can’t jump off things! 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’?

Anything I’ve written!

Is that not allowed? I’m going to go really recent and select one book in the past month that I’ve loved. It’s a Christmas read called Christmas with Cary by Sharon Booth and it is so warm and lovely and simply gorgeous. It is the third in a series but they are absolutely all standalone with no connecting characters; the series is simply the connection of being home for Christmas.

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You never forget your first love.

Molly’s spent every Christmas she can remember surrounded by her family. But this year is different. This year, Molly’s all alone in a strange town. She’s left her family behind, and she’s not sure where she can call home any longer.

All Molly has with her are a few clothes in a suitcase, and a collection of her old friend’s Cary Grant films. Except, there’s one more thing she’s brought along – the whole reason for her Christmas visit.

In her possession is a small, crumpled piece of paper, and on it is written the address of the love of her life. 

Molly and Cary have had many chances over the years, but somehow life kept getting in the way and they always ended up apart once more. Yet Molly has never forgotten the first man she gave her heart to, and now she has one last chance to win him back.

But will Cary welcome her home, or will he tell her what she dreads to hear – that they’ve had their chance, and it’s all too late. That’s if she can even find him…

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 never used to get hangovers. At university, I was the envy of my friends as I might feel a little spaced the following day if we’d had a big drinking session but I was never hungover.

I got my first one in my late twenties and it was horrific, as though every hangover I’d never had had joined together to give me the biggest one a human could endure without their head actually exploding.

My answer to avoiding one now is I don’t really drink. I never drink at home and even pre-Covid would often go months without a drink as either we weren’t going out or I chose to be the driver. My only cure suggestion if it happens is fairly standard: paracetamol and lots of water. Or a strawberry McDonald’s Thickshake (do they even call them that anymore?) Mmmm

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

Right now, I’d say anything to get out of this house!!!! I work from home and did so for five years before becoming a full-time author in June so my home has been my workplace for a long time. I love it … but I miss venturing out soooo much.

Locally, I’d suggest a walk along the seafront in Scarborough. I like North Bay best where the brightly-coloured beach huts are. We could play crazy golf, have an ice cream (even in winter!) and walk along the promenade and through Peasholm Park. If we were venturing further afield, I’m a fan of castles and stately homes. This time last year, I visited the Christmas displays at nearby Castle Howard. They had a masquerade theme and it was incredible. I’d maybe take you there.

I love Peasholm Park, although I am very sad that the Tree Walk is no more, it used to be my favourite thing, especially the flea circus! Jessica, it has been so lovely chatting, let’s try and do it in person some time soon!

Jessica has two Christmas releases set in Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay – a cobbled street full of independent shops and cafés. Carly’s Cupcakes and The Chocolate Pot are both next door to each other and the owners, Carly and Tara, are good friends.

Fri Night Drinks - Christmas Covers

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitsborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

You can buy Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes here.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

You can buy a copy of Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe here.

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

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

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

You can find out more about Jessica and her books on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Natalie Normann

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

So, another Friday has rolled around and I have has a helluva week so I am very much looking forward to sharing a Friday Night Drink with tonight’s guest, author….. Natalie Normann

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

I really don’t drink much alcohol, and my favourite drink is Ice Lattes, or if I’m celebrating, I’ll have an Ice Mocha.

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It being Friday is as good a reason for celebration as any! 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 my latest book is set at Christmas, I think you have to taste some proper Norwegian Christmas food. I’m from the west part of Norway, and we usually eat ‘stick meat’, smoked mutton ribs, on Christmas Eve. In Oslo they traditionally serve pork ribs, with crackling and all the trimmings – not brussel sprouts, though. Most restaurants will serve both. This is rich food, so we’d have Christmas beer, a bit darker and sweeter than regular beer, and also ‘akkevitt’, or aquavit, if you want to taste. We are very traditional about our Christmas food, and most people would protest if the restaurant got fancy with the recipes. Me included.

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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?

I once interviewed Martina Cole, and I think she would be fun to talk to again. And then there’s Keanu Reeves. I have a suspicion he can be funny.

I love Keanu Reeves! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I have been a historical writer for almost 12 years now, and now I’m also writing contemporary romance in English. I would like keep doing that and see what happens. I  have so much fun writing in English. I expected it to be so difficult, but mostly it has been interesting and challenging, and I like that. Writers need to challenge themselves, I think. It’s not a profession where you ever stop learning, and I love that. 

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

There’s been more than one proud moment, to be honest. The first book I published 25 years ago was a fantastic moment. Then again when I could finally be a full-time writer, writing a historical romance series in Norway – it was scary as hell. I signed a contract to write six books a year and I was completely overwhelmed, until I realised I had to take it one book at the time and just get on with it. And recently when I had the opportunity to write contemporary romance with One More Chapter. In English. I still have to pinch my arm about that. I recently found Summer Island in a bookshop in Oslo, and actually squealed.

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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 one big thing was to be published in English. Now that it has  happened, I would like to keep doing that. The next steps would be have one of my books made into a movie, have translations and a few bestseller flags wouldn’t be amiss. I’d enjoy that.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Well, I have several ideas that I’m working on, and that I’m thrilled with. I love the idea stage, when it’s all fresh and I keep getting scenes in my head. Right now, I have a deadline, and I can’t really write anything else, but I make notes and explore characters and settings, and have a great time doing 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?

I love London. My dad was a sea captain, and he used to sail between London and Jamaica, and ever so often, we would go with him during the summer holidays. Back then, it would take two days to come from my hometown to London, and I loved every minute of it. London was vibrant and exciting, and I never wanted to go home. Still don’t.

On the top of my bucket list is New York. I have never been there, and I always wanted to go. Maybe next year, right?

I love New York. I’ve been four times now, it was the last place I managed to visit back in early February before the world changed. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m Norwegian and I can’t ski. I’m great at falling, but that’s about it. 

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’?

The one book that really surprised me this year, was Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch. It’s a serial killer story, set in Venice, and it’s well written, pretty dark and also hilarious. Not many writers can pull that off. 

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Award-winning crime novelist Bella Tyson has it all: a successful career, devoted fans – and a bad case of writer’s block. So when a fan sends her a book of Venetian ghost stories and offers her the use of an apartment near Piazza San Marco, Bella jumps at the chance to get her Eat Pray Love on, consume her bodyweight in gelato and explore the atmospheric canals of Venice.

She meets Will, a mild-mannered, middle class Interpol agent working in the city, and is swept away by him. And when a series of gruesome murders occur he’s on the case – with Bella in tow.

Her writer’s block is well and truly cured, her new novel is under way, and she’s madly in love. But Bella realises that not everything in Venice is as it seems…

I’ve not read this one, I will add it to the list. 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 lots of water and go to bed to sleep it off. 

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

I have written two books set on an island on the west-coast of Norway, so not surprisingly I love islands. I now live in Oslo, and if this weekend is in the summer, we’d take a trip on the Oslo fjord. I don’t have a boat, but there are places in the fjord that you can travel to without your own boat. There are some lovely islands with great beaches only a short ferry trip away. Buy some shrimps on the harbour, find someone who sells strawberries, and bring some coffee or white wine. And also pastry. They have some amazing pastry in this city. The water is usually really, really cold, so swimming is up to you.

In the winter, the best thing to do, is to take a drive up the mountains, to Frognerseteren, an old ski lodge, now a restaurant. If we take the underground, we have to walk down a forest path to get there. Usually there’s snow up there, and you get a feel of the fairy tales we have. Trolls are a plenty up there.

The restaurant have a huge fireplace where the fire will be roaring, making everything smell of smoke,  and warm an cosy, and they serve delicious Norwegian comfort food. Their speciality is hot chocolate with whipped cream, made with real chocolate, and their famous apple cake. If you’re adventurous I recommend trying the buns with brown cheese.

Eplekake Frognerseteren

Summer Island and Christmas Island are set on a fictitious island, but heavily inspired by the islands I have been on when I grew up. It’s filled with memories of summers swimming in cold water – it was always cold –  eating ice cream, drinking soda and eating hot dogs. The smell of the sea and the weather always changing. It’s wild out there, and that’s why I love it. I’d rather be outside in a storm or walking the beach when it rains, than most other places. Mostly I like to stay with my laptop, of course.

Natalie’s new book, Christmas Island, is out on 30 November and you can buy a copy here.

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In the bleak midwinter…
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

Here is the fabulous trailer for the book

Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast town in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English.

You can find out more about Natalie and her books via Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Tanya Bullock

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

I am in celebratory mood, so tonight’s guest has picked a great night to join me for Friday Night Drinks! Welcome to the blog author…. Tanya Bullock.

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Tanya, I am in party mood, so thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

It’s got to be a large glass of red. Rioja’s my favourite, but I’d settle for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. Mind you, once we get to the club (see below) I’d probably need a couple of cheeky shots before braving the dancefloor!

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?

Hmm, well we’ve only just met, so it would be nice to get to know you first. A quiet country pub with a roaring open fire where we could have a good old natter in the warm. After that, I’d whisk you off to a nightclub for a boogie. I was quite the ‘clubber’ in my youth, but I haven’t been on a dance floor since my 40th birthday in 2016, so a night of dancing is long overdue.

Sounds great, although I’m even older than you so we might have to take it slowly to begin with! 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?

Unhesitatingly Alan Rickman. I would love to spend an evening listening to that gorgeous, velvety voice. My favourite film of all time is Truly Madly Deeply – the emotion he was able to convey with just one soulful look! I was so sad when he died. The female would have to be Edith Piaf. Again, a voice that stirs my very soul. The only issue I’d foresee is my choice of venue – it would be an utter waste to take Alan and Edith to a nightclub and have them shouting over the music all night. We wouldn’t be able to hear their voices, which would kind of defeat the object of inviting them. So…would you mind if we spent the whole evening in the pub instead?

I adored Alan Rickman, I would spend an evening in a broom closet with him! Truly, Madly Deeply is an amazing film, but a real tear-jerker! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment, I’m balancing my writing career with being a specialist SEN teacher/college manager and mum to my two lovely kids. In terms of writing, I started my fourth novel earlier this year. I’m about eighty pages in but have paused to mull over a few important decisions about characters and plot. As with my other novels, this book will explore the themes of social isolation and mental health. I’m passionate about social issues and the lives and rights of people who are marginalised and excluded from our society, which has been the one mainstay of both my teaching and writing careers. My first book, Desperately Seeking Normal, is about a young woman with learning difficulties and her quest for happiness, my second novel, Homecoming, is the story of a couple finding love within the care system and my third novel The Lonely Hearts Crime Club, brings together a disparate group of crimefighters, living in social housing. So, in terms of where this next book is going, I aim to stay true to myself as a writer: this time, I want to explore the themes of domestic abuse and old age but, as with my other books, there will be an uplifting thread and an air of mystery woven throughout the narrative.

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

My proudest moment was most definitely the day that my wonderful publisher, Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Digital Books, said ‘yes’! My first book, That Special Someone (which was revised and retitled Desperately Seeking Normal earlier this year) was so important to me because I’d poured into it all my feelings about motherhood and about teaching young people with special educational needs. It broke my heart every time it was rejected, so getting that magical email from Stephanie was like winning the lottery! My biggest challenge has been writing, working full time and raising my children. When my kids were babies, I would run to my computer every time I put them down for a nap. They’re older now, but I still have to prioritise my family and job over my writing.

I can definitely relate to that juggling act. 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!

If I’m being ambitious, I’d have to aim for The Booker Prize for Fiction. As a filmmaker, I won a Royal Television Society Award for a disability awareness documentary, which was a very proud moment. As a writer, I’ve been nominated for The Guardian Not the Booker Prize, the People’s Book Prize and the Beryl Bainbridge First Novel Award, but I’ve not won anything…yet.

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What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I get excited about writing, so carrying on with my fourth novel is just about as thrilling as it gets for me at the moment. If it wasn’t for lockdown, I’d be planning a lovely family summer holiday and a Christmas show for my students, but neither of those are possible right now.

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 very lucky in that I’ve travelled extensively and lived abroad too. I had a bucket list of places to visit all through my childhood and so, as soon as I finished university, I spent a few years travelling. I would go home to earn money and then I’d be off again: Australia, Asia, America, Europe, travelling, working, holidaying. It was a wonderful time and I’m so glad I was lucky enough to scratch that itch before settling down and becoming a ‘grown-up.’ I don’t have a bucket list now because I can honestly say I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do: travel, make and maintain great friendships, write and publish books, direct films, get married, have kids. I’m so very lucky. I do have a list for my children because I want them to have all the experiences that I was fortunate enough to have. My husband and I had planned to take them to Venice last summer, but we were forced to cancel due to the pandemic. So, Venice is on my list for them, although they would rather to go to Disneyland. I’ll let you know who wins!

Going back to your question, I don’t have a favourite place from my travelling days, but I do have favourite iconic locations, where the reality of a place or monument surpassed my most vivid dreams and expectations. In no particular order: the Taj Mahal, scuba-diving the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock/Uluru, the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign, watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. My favourite country is France, as I feel both at home and on holiday when I’m there. Wow, long answer, sorry! You and I would definitely bond over travel with Alan and Edith in that little country pub.

You’ve been to so many of the places on my list, I wish we were having that drink and chat IRL! i have an almost identical photo of myself at the Statue of Liberty! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I was once mistaken for a member of The Spice Girls on a train going to Cannes. I was in my twenties and living in France at the time. Four other English girls and I went on a day trip to the Cannes Film Festival and were mobbed by a group of teenage French boys on the train. We indulged them by posing for photos and signing autographs, each picking the Spice Girl we thought we most resembled. I picked Sporty!

That’s hilarious! 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’?

Love Story by Erich Segal. As a child, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ place in France. They were big readers and their house was full of bookshelves overflowing with Flaubert, Balzac and Stendhal. As a child, I loved reading, but, despite my mum’s best efforts, not in French. One summer, I’d finished all the books I’d brought with me and in desperation, started scouring their bookshelves for an English book. I found Mr Segal’s slim tome and devoured it in one sitting. I then spent the afternoon locked in my bedroom in tears, unable to cope with the beauty and sadness of what I’d just read. So, as the first and last book which has ever made me cry, I recommend Love Story as my one ‘must-read’.

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He is Oliver Barrett IV, a rich jock from a stuffy WASP family on his way to a Harvard degree and a career in law.

She is Jenny Cavilleri, a wisecracking working-class beauty studying music at Radcliffe.

Opposites in nearly every way. But they fell in love.

This is their story.

I have never come across this book, I’ll add it to the list. 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 ha! Well, my hangovers are actually legendary. My friend once plied me with shots on the dancefloor, assuring me that the cooked breakfast she was planning the next morning would see off any hangover. She was soooo very wrong and I was still being sick the following evening. My failsafe plan is…don’t get drunk (I’ve managed to stick to this since becoming a mum eleven years ago) and, as for a cure, I know of no remedy on earth capable of alleviating my monstrous hangovers!

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

Reading of course! How about a bit of writing thrown in for good measure? And a roast dinner. Oh, and a massage. There. Perfect.

That sounds absolutely perfect. Tanya, this has been a huge pleasure for me, thank you so much for coming on the blog and chatting to me.

In the summer of this year, Tanya’s first novel, That Special Someone, was revised and retitled as Desperately Seeking Normal, with a new cover by her artist husband, Darren Lewis. You can buy a copy here.

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Life as the single mum of a child with learning difficulties is tough… but it gets so much harder when puberty hits. To single mum Izzie’s alarm all her daughter Jaya, 18, wants from life is to get married and have babies. This creates a moral dilemma for Izzie: how can she continue to protect her daughter whilst at the same time letting her go?

In the small Midlands town where they live, there is little prospect of meaningful employment or continuing education for Jaya. So, Izzie wonders, would finding a ‘suitable husband’ via an arranged marriage for half-Indian Jaya be so crazy?

But when Jaya falls head over heels for a teaching assistant in her college’s Special Educational Needs department, a disastrous sequence of events is set in motion. Life for Jaya and Izzie is turned around in ways that nobody could ever have foreseen.

Tanya Bullock is a college lecturer, writer and award-winning filmmaker. She lives in the UK with her husband and two children. She has a passion for foreign culture and languages (inherited from her French mother) and, in her youth, travelled extensively throughout Australia, America, Asia and Europe. As a filmmaker, she gained local recognition, including funding and regional television broadcast, through ITV’s First Cut scheme, two nominations for a Royal Television Society Midlands Award, and, in 2010, a Royal Television Society Award in the category of best promotional film. On maternity leave in 2011 and in need of a creative outlet, Tanya began to write That Special Someone, the story of a young woman with learning difficulties and her quest to find love. It was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize and The Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award 2016. In 2020, it was republished and retitled Desperately Seeking Normal. Her second novel, Homecoming, a love story with an unexpected twist, was published in 2016. The Lonely Hearts Crime Club is Tanya’s third novel. A cozy mystery with a shocking finale, it was published in the spring of 2019 and longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize in the same year. All Tanya’s novels are published by Blackbird Digital Books.

You can find out more about Tanya and her work via Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sandra Danby

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

As we enter another lockdown here in England, virtual drinks is the best we can all hope for. Fortunately, I am old hand at the practice and tonight I am delighted to welcome to my little blog bar for Friday Night Drinks, author… Sandra Danby.

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

A tall tumbler of Seedlip Garden zero-alcohol gin with tonic and a slice. All the flavour of gin without the headache. Seedlip is a new discovery. I’m loving it! If I’m out of Seedlip, I will be drinking a large mug of Yorkshire Tea, builder strength, no sugar.

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Sounds like we have similar tastes in beverages. 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 Gabi, my favourite chiringuito in Spain where you sit barefoot with the sand between your toes. I love to sit with a cold San Miguel zero beer in my hand and watch the sun go down as the scents of barbecuing sardines and the local fried fish speciality, fritura malagueña, drifts on the warm breeze. Gabi is an open-air restaurant on the beach at El Palo, a little fishing village near Málaga. It’s a quiet old-fashioned place where Spanish families go on holiday rather than foreign tourists. Best late on a summer evening, it features in my second novel Connectedness.

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Sounds idyllic. 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’d invite two artists who I think would be fascinating together. Pablo Picasso and Tracy Emin inspired me to make art the focus of the story in Connectedness so I’d like to bring them together. Picasso died in 1973 in France. Emin would have been nine or ten then so to my knowledge they never met. But I wonder what they would talk about? 

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

I’m straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, Sweet Joy. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear head or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and my brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when I’ve had a blank spot for a while. Sweet Joy is third in the Identity Detective series of adoption reunion mysteries. I love writing these stories. I become a kind of hybrid author, devising clues and red herrings like Agatha Christie, connecting historical mysteries with characters today as Lucina Riley does, and adding a dash of romance like Mary Stewart. At the moment my head is very much in wartime London, what it was like during bombing raids, how everyone woke in the morning not knowing what the day may bring.

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

My proudest moment was publishing my first novel, Ignoring Gravity, in 2014. I wish my parents had been alive to see me achieve my dream. They encouraged me to write stories as a child, making my own magazines, then studying English and training as a journalist. But my dream was always to write novels. Without doubt the biggest challenge has been indie publishing. Although my background as a journalist has served me well with the nuts and bolts of publishing my own books, I’m not a natural saleswomen or PR. At heart I am a happily-solitary writer in a garret with a kettle and a continuous supply of teabags. Yorkshire Tea, of course.

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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 have outlines for books four, five and six in the Identity Detective series, so that is my first goal. After that I aim to take a sidestep and write standalone novels set in the part of Yorkshire where I grew up. The settings are beautiful – Connectedness is set partly on the cliffs at Bempton and Flamborough – and there are so many fascinating true stories that I know will kickstart my imagination. My real challenge is to decide which story to write first.

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What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Book four in the Identity Detective series is bubbling along at the moment. No provisional title as yet. Like all my novels it’s a dual timeline story set today and, this time, the Seventies. I’m thinking bell-bottoms, tank tops, glitter and platform boots. Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan, Alvin Stardust and Suzi Quatro, some mysterious graffiti which appears in York, and a foundling left on the doorstep of a flat in a London mansion block. 

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?

Oh so many. Places I’ve been that I long to return to… America for the wide expanses, the huge horizons and natural beauty of Yosemite and Point Reyes, both in California, and Monument Valley in Arizona. The Alhambra in Granada, Spain for the architectural perfection and sheer beauty. Berlin, Germany, for the streetlife, the museums and the wonderful choice of zero alcohol beers. On my bucket list are Denali National Park in Alaska, a cruise up the Norwegian Fjords to the Arctic Circle, and New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings vibe.

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

I hit a mean forehand crosscourt winner but a rubbish smash. Once tennis courts reopened after lockdown this spring, I played twice a week and the improvement in my technique was amazing. I just need to keep it going. Meanwhile, I follow the tennis results daily and watch on television when I can.

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 Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. My go-to series, I have the paperbacks and also the Audible recordings. The first, The Light Years, introduces the three generations of the extended Cazalet family at the grandparents’ home in East Sussex as they await the verdict of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he negotiates with Hitler in 1938. The five books take us through the war years, ending in the Fifties when the children from the first book are now parents themselves. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read and listened to these books from beginning to end, when I start the first I must read through to the end. I can’t leave the family in the middle of the war!

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Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles is a thrilling yet charming five-book series of novels that follows the secrets and yearnings of the Cazalet family of Home Place, Sussex through three decades of middle-class life.

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 some really good zero-alcohol options out there though they can be pricey, which seems crazy considering they are missing a vital ingredient. When I did partake of sauvignon blanc, I alternated a glass of wine with a glass of water. 

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

Reading the newspapers, a walk in the country lanes, and a good tennis match on television followed by a snooze on the sofa.

Sounds perfect, although the tennis may have to wait a while! Thank you for joining me on the blog, Sandra, I have really enjoyed chatting to you.

Sandra’s latest book is Connectedness, the second book in her Identity Detective Series and you can buy a copy here.

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TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING

Connectedness is a tale of art, adoption, romance and loss, moving between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain and birthplace of Pablo Picasso.

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane – who we first met in Ignoring Gravity – to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. She is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

You can connect further with Sandra via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Liz Harris

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight, I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, fellow RNA member and author… Liz Harris.

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

I don’t even have to hesitate a moment – I’m always up for a gin & tonic. Usually, it’s Fever Tree tonic. It’s healthy, you see. Fewer calories in both the alcohol and the mixer means that I can justify a second, and all on the grounds of improving my health.

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A woman after my own heart. 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?

Money will be no object as I’m going to sell shed loads of my latest novels, of course, so I’m taking you to Kerala in India. We’re going for a trip on the Backwaters in an upmarket peasant rice boat. It’ll be the ultimate in luxury, despite the word ‘peasant’, with a crew of three waiting on just us. As we drift down the blissfully serene Backwaters, sipping our gin & tonics, we’ll chat about books.

While Kerala is a dry state – the wives of fishermen plagued the last government to abolish alcohol as their men were drinking their wages before they got home. The government obliged, and then lost the following election – there must have been more male voters than female. You can now only buy alcohol from sparse outlets.

In one of the hotels I stayed in, wine was put in a teapot and poured from that into our glasses.

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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?

Rugged Australian actor Peter Finch would be the man. I fell in love with him in A Town Like Alice, a book I adore, and my love affair continued with The Nun’s Story, one of my all-time favourite books and films.

With Peter Finch as Dr Fortunati in The Nun’s Story at the fore of my mind, I used to want to be a nun, but only on condition that I was sent to tend the sick in Africa, alongside a Dr Fortunati, and only if I looked like Audrey Hepburn when I donned a wimple.

As for a female to join us, Jane Austen. No one can capture  person’s idiosyncracies as she can. But she doesn’t tell you that they’re vain/stupid/self-deluded, etc – she lets them condemn themselves every time that they open their mouth. Throughout our evening together, she would ask leading questions of those at our table, with the straightest of faces, and listening to their replies would be great entertainment.

I LOVE A Town Like Alice, it was my Desert Island Book for August. 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?

The Dark Horizon, Book 1 of the Linford Series, came out earlier this year, and The Flame Within, Book 2, was published on 1st October this year. Book 3 will be published next spring.

I’m fascinated by history, particularly that of the US and UK after the mid 1880s. I find the years between the wars particularly exciting, with the changing social conventions, developments in housing, and emergence of laws such as The Matrimonial Causes Act, 1923, which took the first step towards bringing equality between the sexes when it came to divorce.

Each of the novels in the series can be enjoyed on its own, without the others having been read. Each focuses on a different member of the Linford family.

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

After writing for seven years, submitting my novels in vain throughout those years, I submitted The Road Back to Choc Lit. When I heard back that they loved the novel and were going to publish it, I was overwhelmed. My husband was out, and I couldn’t wait for him to return. When heard the car draw up, I held the door open, smiling. Surprisingly, he didn’t pick up that there must be something momentous as I was gazing at him so pleasantly, and just walked on into the house.

I’ve heard from Choc Lit, I called to his retreating back. He turned. I burst into tears. He came forward, arms outstretched. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘Someone will take your book.’ And he hugged me. I managed, when I finished blubbing, to let him know that those were tears of pride and pleasure.

People said really lovely things about The Road Back, including the late Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, who asked if he could say something to go on the cover. My biggest challenge since then has been to write novels that will be enjoyed as much as The Road Back. I hope I’ve succeeded.

I am dreaming of that moment, it must have been amazing! 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!

My mother was an actress, and I did a lot of amateur dramatics before I had my two sons. I tend to think, and write, in scenes, and I think any of my novels would make an absolutely superb film. My backgrounds – America, India, Ladakh, France, Italy, to name but a few – scream out for the big screen.

I’m thinking of a film with the stature of ‘The English Patient’, for example. Well, you did say to be as ambitious as I like!

What have planned that you are really excited about?

I went to Vietnam earlier this year, from the Mekong Delta up to Hanoi, just before Covid-19 took over and dominated our lives. It was amazing! Sadly, my trips to Italy, Greece and France this year have all had to be postponed. As soon as there’s an approved vaccine, I shall start travelling again, and those locations will be at the top of my list.

But keen as I am to start travelling again, the biggest thrill will be meeting up again with the friends I’ve made through writing, at RNA parties for example, or at chapter get-togethers. Zoom is better than nothing, but there’s nothing that beats the real thing!

In the interim, I’m very partial to the local pork sausages. I have some for dinner tonight, and I’m really excited about 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?

I can’t list a favourite, I’m afraid. I’ve been to places that I knew would interest me, and I’ve loved exploring them all and learning about their past.

Top of my bucket list is the west coast of Canada and thence up to Alaska. I’d intended to do that last year, but ended up going to the east of Canada, and visiting Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara. I had a fabulous time. I’d now like to fly to Calgary, get the Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver – first class, of course – spend a week in Vancouver and then take a leisurely cruise up to Alaska. Bliss!

All of those things are top of my bucket list! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I lived in California for six years in my early twenties, a year in San Francisco and five in Los Angeles. During the LA years, I was friendly with an actor. While he was looking for roles, he used to drive the studio tour bus for MGM. I would go on the tours with him as a resident starlet, hair down to my shoulders, hanging over one eye, meaty thighs peering forth from beneath mini-skirts, and in low-fronted tops. At the end of each tour, I was photographed with the visitors. It was huge fun! I got to know just about everyone in the various series being filmed, and those in the films that were in production.

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’d give you a copy of The Nun’s Story, by Kathryn Hulme. I thought this a deeply romantic novel in parts, even though ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ never exchanged a kiss. It fired my imagination, and has lived in my head in all the years since I read it.

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The lead character of the book, Sister Luke (pre-convent name Gabrielle Van Der Mal), finds her faith tested in Africa where she finds herself at odds with headstrong Dr. Fortunati, operator of a remote Congo hospital, with whom she gradually builds respect, and again during World War II, when she is ordered not to take sides. Ultimately, Sister Luke is forced to decide whether to remain in the convent or return to the outside world.

Gabrielle/Sister Luke is stretched between her desire to be faithful to the rule of her congregation and her desire to be a nurse. As a nun she must remove all vestiges of “Gabrielle Van Der Mal” and sublimate herself into the devoted bride of Christ. As a nun there is no room for her personal desires and aspirations. Ultimately, the conflict between her devotion to the Church and the nursing profession, juxtaposed with her passionate Belgian patriotism and her love of her father (killed by Nazi fighter planes while treating wounded) bring her to an impasse, which serves as the dénouement of the novel. 

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 advantages of being a secondary school teacher, which I used to be, is that there’s a Science department in the school. In order to help the sixth formers who were rolling up in a hungover state for my early Monday morning class, and certainly not because I thought it would be useful for me to know, I asked one of the scientists to come up with a fast and effective remedy for a hangover. Drink gallons of water before you go to bed, he said, and I the morning, and fresh orange juice, too.

Apparently, fresh orange juice is infinitely better than strong coffee, which, contrary to belief, is about the worst thing you can take for a hangover.

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

Having left the Backwaters in Kerala, we would head to the of town of Fort Cochin. We’d explore the town, which is interesting and exotic, and end up in the gardens of a superb hotel that actually serves wine, poured from a bottle into a glass. As daylight fades, fairy lights start sparkling in the trees, and it feels like paradise.

That sounds wonderful, I wish we could go right now! Liz, thank you so much for a marvellous evening, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Liz’s latest book, The Flame Within is the second book in her Linford Series is out now and you can buy a copy here. The first book, The Dark Horizon, is also available.

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London, 1923. 

Alice Linford stands on the pavement and stares up at the large Victorian house set back from the road—the house that is to be her new home.
But it isn’t her house. It belongs to someone else—to a Mrs Violet Osborne. A woman who was no more than a name at the end of an advertisement for a companion that had caught her eye three weeks earlier.
More precisely, it wasn’t Mrs Osborne’s name that had caught her eye—it was seeing that Mrs Osborne lived in Belsize Park, a short distance only from Kentish Town. Kentish Town, the place where Alice had lived when she’d been Mrs Thomas Linford.
Thomas Linford—the man she still loves, but through her own stupidity, has lost. The man for whom she’s left the small Lancashire town in which she was born to come down to London again. The man she’s determined to fight for.

Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California, where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.

A few years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, and then in Cheshire.

In addition to the eight novels she’s had published, she’s had several short stories in anthologies and magazines. Her latest novel, The Flame Within, is the second in The Linford Series, a sweeping saga set between the wars. Each of the novels in the series is a standalone. 

 Liz now lives in Oxfordshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, reading and cryptic crosswords. She also – pre-covid – gives regular talks to WI groups, book clubs and at literary conferences.

To find out more about Liz and her work, visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Pernille Hughes

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

I’m delighted to be welcoming to the blog tonight for Friday Night Drinks, fellow RNA member and author… Pernille Hughes.

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

Ooh, I’ll have an Aperol Spritz please. I spotted people drinking them on a trip to Venice many moons ago, was seduced by the colour and ensnared ever since.

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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 think we’d go to a Cringe night. Imagine the downstairs bar of a pub in a London square. There’s a stage and we are sitting with our drinks, listening to brave people read from their teenage diaries to enthusiastic strangers. Such a fun night out, and we’d laugh so much.

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Ooh, I haven’t heard of those, that sounds like fun. I’ve got an old one somewhere with a picture of Tom Cruise as Maverick stuck to the front. 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 Dorothy Parker or Doris Day. I can’t quite decide, but they would be very different experiences, I think. Dorothy would bring the biting wit and Doris would just be super lovely at all times. And obviously George Clooney, because George Clooney.

Yes, George Clooney requires NO explanation! 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 just finishing a draft of a enemies to lovers romcom at the moment. It’s an idea my editor has asked me to write, so I’m really hoping she likes it! And then I’m revising a draft of another romcom, a ‘bristly neighbours’ plot which is one of my own ideas. It’s setting is somewhere akin to Highgate Cemetery, which is the most beautiful-in-a-rambling-way, story-rich place (I recommend to tour to anyone who loves a bit of social history) and while it’s probably an unusual romcom setting it was just somewhere I wanted to write about. I’m hoping they’ll go down well with my readers!

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

Overcoming my Inner Critic is definitely my biggest challenge, because maaan, she is a cow. My proudest moment is probably holding a copy of my first book in my hands and giving it a good hard sniff. Or else it was telling my husband that my second book Probably the Best Kiss in the World was number one in the Amazon Beer category.

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I have one of those bitchy inner voices too! 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!

Doesn’t every writer dream of their book on the big screen? Probably that, but on a smaller scale I’d love to have a foreign language version of my book in my grubby mitts. That would be special. And an audiobook too. Actually, just hit me up with an entire shelf of various versions. And more books to my name, of course – I just have to write them.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Well, here we are in the times of Corona, so all the plans I had have been shelved over the last months. My youngest daughter and I had a week in Copenhagen cancelled, so I am looking forward to having that with her one day, and later, when the world is safe and open again, I’d like to take a lot of city breaks. My critique partner of 7 years who lives in California and I were supposed to meet for the first time in Amsterdam at Easter, but that got cancelled too. Crossing fingers for next year …

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?

The British Virgin Islands were beautiful –  my husband and I sailed around the islands before we had children, and I’d love a revisit. Otherwise I love Mauritius, in fact anywhere where I can be warm and have barefeet. That said I’m always happy when back in Denmark where my parents live– and I get to have bare feet there in the summer too. I have a thing for canals in cities, hence I wrote a hero with a Copenhagen houseboat in Probably the Best Kiss in the World, so I would really like to go to Amsterdam and also Stockholm one day. In fact, my husband and I did plan to go to Stockholm for our honeymoon, but kids happened and 19 years on we have yet to go.

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

My publisher first introduced me on social media by having me jump out of a wheelie bin, because they couldn’t find a box or enormous cake. Such is the glamour of my life.

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’?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein knocked my socks off. Normally I would shy from a wartime book, but this is a fabulous story of female friendship between a spy and a pilot in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

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‘I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.’

In wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a special operations executive.  When a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France, she is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in ‘Verity’s’ own words, as she writes her account for her captors.

Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they’ve ever believed in is put to the test . . .

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?

Not drinking Chardonnay is my preventative plan, and also having Paracetemol by my bedside for when I wake up in the night and feel the first twinges of what is to come. Going back to sleep on a painkiller seems to work for me. Go to cure is simply to revert to bed, lamenting ‘poor me’ and telling myself I am old enough to know better. That or a fry-up, with a hair-of-the-dog drink later in the day.

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

Brunch somewhere with Eggs Benedict (ham not bacon), and cosying up after, on a sofa with a romcom (film or a book) but this never happens ever, because I have a family with four teenagers and there is always stuff to be sorted. I can dream though …

Pernille, it has been so lovely chatting to you, thank you very much for taking the time to join me on the blog this evening.

Pernille’s latest book is Probably the Best Kiss in the World, a romcom part-set in Copenhagen. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list.

From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer.

Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…

Pernille (pronounced Pernilla) studied Film & Literature at uni and took her first job in advertising, having been lured by the temptation of freebies, but left when Status Quo tickets was as good as it got. After a brief spell marketing Natural History films, she switched to working in Children’s television which for a time meant living in actual Teletubbyland, sharing a photocopier with Laa-Laa.

Now, she lives in actual Buckinghamshire, sharing a photocopier with her husband and their four offspring. While the kids are at school she scoffs cake and writes RomCom stories in order to maintain a shred of sanity.

She’s written for the Sunday Times Travel section, and had two short stories published in the bestselling Belinda Jones SUNLOUNGER anthologies.

She currently has two books out with One More Chapter (HarperCollins); PROBABLY THE BEST KISS IN THE WORLD and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (formerly Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s).

you can find out more about Pernille and her writing on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Saturday Night Drinks with… Kathy Obuszewski

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Kathy Obuszewski. Apologies to Kathy, this post should have gone up yesterday but I found myself in a wifi blackspot and wasn’t able to get it up until now.

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

Yards Big Hayes-y 13  which is a big hazy IPA

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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 would take you to my favorite brewery in Philadelphia: Evil Genius. They have a fun open space and really creative beers. I haven’t been to Philly without going there and spending at least a few hours.  Then after that, I like to hit Barcade. Then we can play some arcade games including a crazy Michael Jackson one that Sega made and they have like seven different pinball machines. It’s a great selection of local craft beers and a solid mixed drink place.   If it was a Thursday or a Saturday, I would also go to my other place which is called Fermentery Form. They have a really cool speakeasy vibe especially since you have to go down an alley and past a dumpster to get there and there is no sign. You only know it’s open if the green light is on.

If it was local to Cleveland, I would go to Goldhorn Brewery.  I love the space with its very open feel and hardwood bar.  The beers are very solid. Not always exciting but I have only had one beer that disappointed me there.  You can talk and hang out there. The food is solid.  It’s my favourite place to hang out and drink.   Even though I like beer at Market Brewing and VooDoo Brewing better, I love the overall vibe of Goldhorn. it’s not as well known. It’s actually where I will go to drink to celebrate a new book release or just want a drink to forget life after having to testify in court. The fact one of my friends from hockey is the manager there is a huge plus.

You sound like a bar & beer connoisseur! 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?

Given the name of the drink, I would have to hang out with Kevin Hayes, the centerman for the Philadelphia Flyers who the beer was named after. He’s incredibly funny and has created a great addition to my favourite hockey team.

I would love to go drinking with Dorothy Parker. She’s one of my favourite writers of all time and is so incredibly witty even if she’s rather cutting.

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 releasing my new novella, Hockey Hottie. It’s the launch of my second hockey series and a new pen name for me. Plus I love the idea of merging Halloween and romance together especially in a hockey setting. It’s basically mixing all my things together.  I started this novella because I was reading Zoey Indiana’s halloween novella and I thought it was a neat idea. I haven’t seen it with hockey romances but when I said I had this crazy idea to do a Halloween hockey romance to a few friends they all encouraged me to do it. The story is super sweet and a lot of fun.

That does sound fun, and very different! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment was publishing each book, especially my first one Deking the Puck. It took so much labor and love to really get it done. I loved it.  It was true sending out 200 Foot Game.

My biggest challenge is twofold.  First is marketing and letting people know that my books exist. I initially published under my name Kathy Obuszewski and I know it’s super difficult for people to spell. So I’m going to be republishing my books under Kat Obie.  Plus all my book titles are hockey references that those who aren’t in love with the sport won’t get them.

Then from a writing standpoint, I get major doubt in my story.  Is it good enough? Did I lose the plot? Will people like it? Am I improving my writing? Will people read it? I will turn to my alpha readers and get their thoughts. That way I know if I am on the right track.  Plus I will say as I re-edit and go through Deking the Puck to make it ready for it to become Falling Fast, I can really see the growth in my writing.

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!

A goal of mine is to make enough money to have a house in Lausanne, Switzerland and be able to write and overlook the lake.  Initially, it was a house in the French countryside. But the more I thought about it, it switched to Lausanne.  I loved all the social media posts from the Flyers when they played there. The lake is so beautiful. Also, they are home to a hockey team. While it’s not the NHL, I could still have access to my favourite sport.  I would be able to play.

I want to do that all with book sales. So I know I have to become a best selling author and develop a real following.

I love a big ambition! What are have planned that you are really excited about?

So I’m super excited about the release of the Hockey Hottie. This is one of my favourite stories that I have written. It comes out on October 1st.

Then in the next book in the series will be called Hockey Hellion which will come out on January 20th.  I have some more holiday novellas in the works and I enjoy writing those.  I like how I’m doing some nontraditional holiday novellas including April Fools.

Then on October 28th, I will be releasing Falling Fast. It’s the reworking of my first book. Then on Nov 11th, I will be releasing Crashing Hard. It’s the renaming of my second book. Then on Dec 2, I will be releasing  Loving Baby which is my Christmas themed story in the  Loving the Sound Series. Then I can release Stepping Up on December 26th which was a really fun story to write.

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?

The favourite place I’ve been is Copenhagen, Denmark.  I studied there for a year. I love how I could learn a whole new language there and yet I was there for six months and only knew a handful of Danish and had no issues.

They have magical little places like Tivoli Gardens which is the closest thing to a TARDIS out there. It’s not a huge allotment of land but I could spend hours there and it was so much larger on the inside.   

I loved how much I learned about a small nation mindset and their form of governance. I healed there and worked on myself. 

Although my other favourite places: Dublin, London, Paris, Philly, Prague and Lake Placid, New York.

On my bucket list that I would like to go to next: I would like to go to Iceland. Spend a day or two in Reykjavik. See the Northern Lights, explore the area. Then I want to travel on to Switzerland and stay there for a week in Lausanne. I want to have Swiss chocolate, explore their Olympic museum, Musée de l’Élysée, and other places.

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

While this isn’t a secret everyone finds it very surprising that I have two very different master’s degree specializations. I got my Master’s in Public and International Affairs with a major of Security and Intelligence studies. I did capstones on space power war theory and on biological terrorism (and the best way to spread disease).   Then I returned to my love of sports and wanting to work in collegiate recreation. So I got a Master’s of Science in Sports Management from my Alma mater. I love working sports and being the playground on campus.  The two degrees don’t have a ton of overlap other than being able to interact and understand non-domestic students.

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’?

For my must-read that hasn’t changed in years is The Portable Dorothy Parker.  I think she touched upon a lot of things like microaggressions with racism, depression, alcoholism and mental health in a beautiful and poignant way.  It’s amazing how many things have changed and haven’t since the 1920s. She writes plain but beautiful.

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In this new twenty-first-century edition, devoted admirers will be sure to find their favorite verse and stories. But a variety of fresh material has also been added to create a fuller, more authentic picture of her life’s work. At the heart of her serious work lie her political writings dealing with race, labor, and international politics. A Dorothy Parker Sampler blends the sublime and the silly with the terrifying, a sort of tasting menu of verse, stories, essays, political journalism, a speech on writing, plus a catchy off-the-cuff rhyme she never thought to write down.

The introduction of two new sections is intended to provide the richest possible sense of Parker herself. Self-Portrait reprints an interview she did in 1956 with The Paris Review, part of a famed ongoing series of conversations (Writers at Work) conducted with the best of twentieth-century writers.

Letters: 1905-1962, which might be subtitled Mrs. Parker Completely Uncensored, presents correspondence written over the period of a half century, beginning in 1905 when twelve-year-old Dottie wrote her father during a summer vacation on Long Island, and concluding with a 1962 missive from Hollywood describing her fondness for Marilyn Monroe.

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?

So I always eat when I drink and I try to moderate myself throughout the night.   I will drink Gatorade to help rehydrate my body and put the electrolytes back in in the morning.

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

I’m a workaholic by nature so for me my perfect weekends include going back to Philly where I hang out with my friends and I go there just to rejuvenate myself.  I tend to pack in a lot of things while keeping it kind of lazy.  I loved that on a recent trip, I went to ballet class in the morning, went to the Home Show with some friends,  went to my favorite bars: Fermentery Form, Evil Genius, and Varga with friends.  Watched the Flyers play a game.  That particular trip even got to go to a signing event with the Flyers where I got a bunch of the Flyers to sign a birthday card for me. Do a game night with my friends where we played Cards Against Humanity and Unlabl’d (a beer guessing game). Got baked treats from Isgro’s Bakery. Ate hoagies and fried brussel sprouts.

That sounds like a packed weekend. Kathy, thank you for chatting with and good luck with the new book and the new pen name.

Kathy’s new book, as Kat Obie, is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

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I’ve always had a thing for the coach’s daughter.

Not that he needs to know that. Coach thinks she and I are friends… and we are, have been for years. But I’d sure like to be friends with benefits.

Except then I’d be dead, because coach wants to believe his daughter is still the angelic little figure skater who just needs a workout buddy.

Why, oh why did I ever agree to help her train?

There’s no way I can keep my feelings for her a secret when we’re getting hot and sweaty together.

But I’ve got the perfect plan.

Just one little date won’t hurt.

Until she shows up to the Halloween party wearing that.

Puck me.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorKathyObuszewski

Kat Obie is a passionate hockey fan. She plays, she watches, she dreams of it so she decided to start writing hockey romances.

You can find out more about Kat via Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jane Davis

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be welcoming to the blog for the first Friday Night Drinks of October, author… Jane Davis.

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

I’ll have a gin and tonic, please. If there’s a choice of gin, my favourite is Portobello Road.

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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?

Sky Garden, which styles itself as London’s highest public garden. When the Walkie Talkie was built, it was the city skyscraper everyone loved to hate (there was controversy when it was still under construction and was blamed for reflecting light which melted parts of a car in a nearby street) but then some bright spark had the idea of creating a palm house and viewing platform on its uppermost floor. Add a bar and a restaurant and it has become one of the best spots to look down over the City. But the time when Sky Garden really comes into its own is sunset. There is a moment at which the glass and steel constructions of Canary Wharf turn to gold, and it’s just magical.   

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That sounds fab, I will have to pay it a visit if I ever make it to London again! 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?

My first guest would be someone who was very famous in his day, but who history has almost completely forgotten, and the reasons for that interest me. James Naylor was a pastry chef by trade, but in 1784 he became the first English aeronaut, just a year after the first balloon flights. Naylor had no formal education to speak of and was almost certainly illiterate, but his understanding of heat (learned in the kitchen) enabled him to introduce innovations to his balloon design. He was the first to create an adjustable fire to control altitude, and the first to use hydrogen, but his inventions weren’t restricted to hot air balloons. He also worked on steam engines and improved on the design of rifles and cannons (including the ones aboard Nelson’s HMS Victory), after noting that over one third of weapons missed their target by over five feet. Like Nikola Tesla, Naylor is someone who was interested in the science rather than money. I’m sure he would have a few stories to tell.

My second choice would be the poet Edith Sitwell. Her eccentric style of dress, captured so perfectly by Cecil Beaton, gave the impression that she was a throw-back from another era. She herself told the tale that she was descended from the Red Rose Plantagenets on one side, and on the other from an errand boy who walked all the way from Leeds to London, barefoot, where he made his fortune. She mixed in extraordinary literary and artistic circles and, although she described one of her hobbies as ‘silence’, recorded interviews suggest she was never short of something to say. I hope that she might be persuaded to tell us how she struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe after a meeting in Hollywood. It would probably be some time before I plucked up the courage to confess that my character Lucy Forrester from My Counterfeit Self is a cross between her and Vivienne Westwood. I wonder if she’d recognise herself.

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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’ve also started work on a new novel, Encroachment. I’m very superstitious about saying too much about works in progress, but the plan is that it will have a dual timeline, one in the late Victorian era when my main character spends his life savings on a plot of land, where he creates what will be one of England’s last pleasure gardens. The gamble doesn’t pay off and he is forced to sell off the land, plot by plot, to property developers. The second part of the story is set in the present day, in a house that was the ticket office for the pleasure gardens, when the encroachment comes in the form of neighbours from hell. It’s a story about trying to live out our dreams only to have them trodden on. The second project I’ve been working on is editing the diary I kept about helping to care for my father during his last eighteen months of dementia. (He passed away in April during the COVID crisis.) I’m not quite sure what I should do with it yet, except that I would like to do something. One in fifteen adults over the age of 65 suffers from some form of dementia. By the time you reach the age of 80, the odds increase to one in six – and yet talking about dementia seems to be taboo. I have so many incredible anecdotes that might provide reassurance to those whose relatives have a diagnosis, but another approach would be to produce a more serious work of non-fiction about how so little help is available for the army of unpaid carers who are looking after family members. And that’s a national scandal.

They both sound fascinating, but what a difficult topic you have chosen for the second. You are very brave. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My debut novel, Half-Truths and White Lies won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, and Joanne Harris gave me a lovely quote for the front cover, but it’s actually the two smaller awards I won since I turned indie that acknowledge both writing and publishing standards that I’m most proud of. The single biggest challenge is how to gain visibility in a saturated marketplace. On the 3 September, 600 new titles were released on a single day, and that figure doesn’t include self-published books. How to make ourselves stand out from the crowd is the question we authors have to ask ourselves most often.

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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!

The organisers of many awards claim to be looking for the best in fiction, but even when self-published authors are allowed to enter (which is rarely), many awards have prohibitive entry fees. Even the Guardian’s Not the Booker which relies on nominations from its readership excludes self-published titles. For a competition that is supposed to provide an alternative, that seems particularly narrow-minded. What I’d like is the opportunity to compete on an even footing with traditionally published authors.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

2020 is a year when planning seems futile. Every event I planned to attend has been cancelled, so I’ve more or less given up getting excited. On the bright side, next year’s calendar is filling up quite nicely… But seriously, I think now is a time for caution and taking care of those around us. Perhaps to make longer term plans.

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?

That’s a hard choice. I fulfilled one of my longest-held ambitions by going to China. Seeing the Terracotta Army was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I’ve had. Not just the scale of it, but to understand the belief systems that went behind it. But I also loved the temple complexes at Angkor in Cambodia.

For myself, these days I tend to stay far closer to home. (When I renewed my ten-year passport last year, I realised I hadn’t used it once.) I’m a keen hillwalker and enjoy regular trips to the Lake District, but there are so many parts of the UK I have yet to explore. I’d love to go to what I think of as ‘Local Hero’ country – the northern reaches of Scotland in the hope of seeing the northern lights. I’d also like to walk the St Michael ley-line which runs from Cornwall to Essex.

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Cambodia is top of my wishlist. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Although most of my musical connections are on my mother’s side of the family (my grandfather was a composer and maternal uncles were very well-known flautists), it’s on my father’s side that I’m related to Annie Adams, one of our first Music Hall singers to become an international stars. She began her singing career singing in her father’s pubs but by 1871 she was touring the States, from New York to San Francisco.

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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’?

My favourite fiction title of last year was Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott. I instantly fell in love with the tone set by the book’s anonymous narrator, who recalls the story of Truman Capote’s relationship with his ‘swans’, who invited him into their homes (and onto their yachts and private jets) and confided in him, only to discover that he had betrayed them when he used their stories in his fiction. When he found himself shunned, Capote’s reaction was ‘What did you expect? I’m a writer’.

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They told him everything.

He told everyone else.

Over countless martini-soaked Manhattan lunches, they shared their deepest secrets and greatest fears. On exclusive yachts sailing the Mediterranean, on private jets streaming towards Jamaica, on Yucatán beaches in secluded bays, they gossiped about sex, power, money, love and fame. They never imagined he would betray them so absolutely.

In the autumn of 1975, after two decades of intimate friendships, Truman Capote detonated a literary grenade, forever rupturing the elite circle he’d worked so hard to infiltrate. Why did he do it, knowing what he stood to lose? Was it to punish them? To make them pay for their manners, money and celebrated names? Or did he simply refuse to believe that they could ever stop loving him? Whatever the motive, one thing remains indisputable: nine years after achieving wild success with In Cold Blood, Capote committed an act of professional and social suicide with his most lethal of weapons . . . Words.

I have this on my TBR, I must get round to it soon. 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 failsafe plan is the stick to the same drink. (I probably should never have started on the gin!) I have to tell you, things get pretty ugly if I have a hangover. In all honesty, I’d probably pull a duvet day.

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

If we were to stay overnight in the City, I’d use it as an excuse to continue my exploration of its nooks and crannies and take you to see some of my favourite finds. A short wander will take us to Bunhill burial grounds where we’ll find William Blake’s gravestone and those Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan, author of pilgrim’s progress. I’d take you to see the Thomas Hardy tree in old St Pancras churchyard. (Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley’s mother is also buried here.) Just around the corner is Word on the Water – a floating bookshop based on the Regent’s Canal at King’s Cross. If you follow the canal in the direction of Camden you come to one of my favourite architectural developments, Gasholders, literally built within the framework of the decommissioned Victorian gas holders. We could picnic in the park, or have lunch in nearby Coal Drops Yard. On Sunday, I might take you for a tour of Highgate cemetery. We can explore the East cemetery at our leisure, where we’ll find the graves of plenty of authors, from George Elliot to Douglas Adams. To access the West cemetery, we’ll have to book a place on a tour, but it’s well worth it to see the Grade 1 listed Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon. Perhaps I’ll be able to tempt to you back to Carshalton for a pint at my local, The Hope, which the community clubbed together and bought to save it from being snapped up by a supermarket chain. It’s clocked up no less than five CAMRA Greater London Pub of the Year awards and holds monthly beer festivals. Our pub cat even has its own Twitter account @pubcathope.

Jane, I have had a wonderful evening, thank you so much for joining me.

Jane’s latest book, At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock is out now and you can buy a copy in either ebook or paperback format here.

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London 1949. The lives of three very different women are about to collide.

Like most working-class daughters, Caroline Wilby is expected to help support her family. Alone in a strange city, she must grab any opportunity that comes her way. Even if that means putting herself in danger.

Star of the silver screen, Ursula Delancy, has just been abandoned by the man she left her husband for. Already hounded by the press, it won’t be long before she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Patrice Hawtree was once the most photographed debutante of her generation. Now childless and trapped in a loveless marriage, her plans to secure the future of her ancient family home are about to be jeopardised by her husband’s gambling addiction.

Each believes she has already lost in life, not knowing how far she still has to fall.

Six years later, one cause will reunite them: when a young woman commits a crime of passion and is condemned to hang, remaining silent isn’t an option.

“Why do I feel an affinity with Ruth Ellis? I know how certain facts can be presented in such a way that there is no way to defend yourself. Not without hurting those you love.”

Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of nine thought-provoking novels.

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing.

Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards. Smash all the Windows was the inaugural winner of the Selfies (best independently-published work of fiction) award 2019.

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

You can find out more about Jane and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jim Miller

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

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

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

Jameson with a Dr Pepper back.

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

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

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

Jim Morrison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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