Friday Night Drinks with… Celia Micklefield

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My last virtual drinks before we can all go inside again in real life (fingers crossed!), so let’s throw on our coats for the final time, maybe grab a blanket for extra warmth, wrap our chilly fingers round a mulled cider and welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks… Celia Micklefield.

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

Friday night, start of the weekend? Wine. I’ve kept up my weekend ritual even though since I started shielding last year the days have all been running together so that they all feel exactly the same. But the weekend wine is sacrosanct. Clive likes his vodka/tonic and before dinner we take our drinks to the garage where one end is dedicated to darts. We play five games usually (sometimes I win a few) then we go indoors and cook together. Through the cold winter months, (including this April which has been colder than December) my favourite red is Australian Jam Shed Shiraz. It has legs like a Rugby Union player, sticks to the side of the glass and makes you smack your lips. I wait for the special offers in Tesco and stock up. My favourite white is Viognier which is fresh, green and a bit peppery – great with grills and salads.

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?

Dear girl, I’m an old lady now. I don’t do nights out -out. I start falling asleep around half-past ten. However, just for you, I’d make an extra effort and we’d do a pub crawl through my Norfolk villages. You’ll meet the kinds of characters that’ll make you want to rush home and start writing about them. There’s no airs and graces. What you see is what you get. We’ve some tasty local beers and the pubs serve good food. Or, you might end up in the garage with us playing darts!

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Sounds great, I have no airs and graces myself! 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’ve found this question really difficult to answer. There are so many people to choose from. I’ve opted for the artist Frida Kahlo and Freddie Mercury. I’d love to hear them bounce ideas off one another.

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?

Right now this minute? I’m nursing a headache from my second vaccination and looking forward to actually going somewhere sometime soon. My latest novel, A Measured Man was published in March for Kindle and the paperback is out in May. I’m 20,000 words into my next book, The God of Putting Things Right.

Why do we start anything? It’s a good question. I think there’s always a need involved in the answer. We start preparing a meal because we’re hungry and need food, for example. Creative types have a hunger to keep on creating new works and meet new challenges, whether that’s through writing, painting, music etc.  We need to do it.

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

My proudest moment was selling that first short story to a women’s magazine.Three months had passed since I submitted The Fire Dragon and I’d given up hope. I also gave myself a little pat on the back when I was writing on my website about the Languedoc vineyards surrounding my then home and picked up winegrowers in California who were following my Wednesday Vine Report to compare.

 My biggest challenge has been overcoming the fallout from a disastrous relationship which left me homeless for a time. All my money was tied up in the house we’d bought together and he was in no hurry to pay me what he owed. It took nearly three years. Eventually, after I’d researched personality disorders, I wrote my memoir People Who Hurt to help others living in a similar dysfunctional relationship.

 Living with CRPS, a chronic, neurological pain condition continues to be a daily challenge.

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

I’d like to be known as an author whose novels touch readers’ emotions whatever genre. My books don’t ‘fit’ strict genres. I write about ordinary people, sometimes in unusual circumstances, who have problems to overcome. Sometimes the story comes to me in the form of a mystery; at other times it may be more contemporary literary fiction or a historical saga. They are all different. I don’t write to a particular market. I write to answer that need I just mentioned. I’d love readers to say, “Oh, Celia Micklefield. You know you’re going to get deeply involved with her books!”

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What have you planned that you’re really excited about?

Hmm. That’s difficult. I haven’t anything planned. I’ve had my second Covid vaccination and should be able to venture out in a few more weeks. I have to be careful. I’d love to have a holiday but the situation isn’t good. Never mind, I have my work-in-progress to look forward to and I usually get a sense of excitement about my writing when it’s going well. On low pain days I work in the garden to help Clive. We grow fruit and vegetables and salads, tomatoes, peppers etc. in the greenhouse. Waiting for the first signs of growth is always exciting.

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 the smaller Greek islands – nothing to do but swim, read, eat, drink and sleep. My last holiday was in Paxos, a tiny island off Corfu. It doesn’t have its own airport so you have to take a ferry. I also love Ithaca which is another island reached by ferry boat. I don’t have a bucket list any more.

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

I’ve stopped colouring my hair. The next time I post a selfie I’ll be silver! I’m not sure I like it yet as the ends still have some of the old colour in and it looks nicotine stained, the way pub ceilings used to look years ago. Not pleasant.

That’s very brave. 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’?

You must read The Collected Dorothy Parker. Her acidic wit and poignant humour slices right through her poetry and prose. Writing during the New York Jazz age she tackles the glitter and the darkness of the times. She was described as a writer who could ‘combine heartbreak with a wisecrack’.

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Dorothy Parker was the most talked-about woman of her day, notorious as the hard-drinking bad girl with a talent for stinging repartee and endlessly quotable one-liners.

The decadent 1920s and 1930s in New York were a time of great experiment and daring for women. For the rich, life seemed a continual party, but the excesses took their emotional toll. I

n the bitingly witty poems and stories collected here, along with her articles and reviews, she brilliantly captures the spirit of the decadent Jazz Age in New York, exposing both the dazzle and the darkness. But beneath the sharp perceptions and acidic humour, much of her work poignantly expresses the deep vulnerability of a troubled, self-destructive woman who, in the words of philosopher Irwin Edman, was ‘a Sappho who could combine a heartbreak with a wisecrack’.

I will add this to the wishlist and hope I get some book tokens for my upcoming birthday! 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?

You’re safe with me. I haven’t had a hangover for years. Don’t mix the grain with the grape, don’t drink on an empty stomach and DO listen to that little voice telling you that’s enough. Failing those warnings you have no other choice but to prop yourself up next day in a winged armchair or the corner of the sofa where you can rest your head and do not move till you’ve been able to drink tea and eat dry toast without seeing it again!

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

I love walking in the countryside around my home. I’m close to the Norfolk Broads, surrounded by nature and wildlife. The weather would be its superb best and we’d fire up the barbecue, have another game of darts, gin and tonic before we eat and cognac afterwards.

Perfect, I would very much forward to this weekend if we had it planned. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me this evening, I have had a wonderful evening.

Celia’s latest book is A Measured Man. She’s calling it a romantic uncertainty. It’s a poignant comedy. Most readers so far have been over 45 and right up to over 65. She think there’s a dearth of novels featuring older main characters so she’s happy with that. You can buy a copy here.

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In his fifties, Norfolk bachelor, Aubrey Tennant is looking forward to early retirement but he’s still hoping to find his ideal woman. The trouble is, he has exacting requirements and firmly set preferences. He relies on rehearsed questions to extract from potential candidates what he needs to know. When he meets Lisa Miller on his annual trip to Torquay he believes he’s found The One. She’s sensible with money; she isn’t loud; her children are off her hands and she doesn’t cook anything with garlic. He puts all his well-rehearsed stock phrases into play and sets out to win her. He doesn’t know she’s already buried two husbands.

Also in her fifties, twice widowed Lisa is living in reduced circumstances since her second husband’s untimely and inconvenient demise. She’s attracted by Aubrey’s old-fashioned ways even though she’s made up her mind there’ll be no more men in her life. She’s curious about the Tennant family story especially when her friends Madge and Wally Sparrow know the Tennant name from long ago. Madge says, “In his fifties and never been married? What’s wrong with him?”

Lisa is about to find out.

Celia Micklefield has worked in an accountant’s office, a high street retail store, a textile mill and a shoe factory as well as short stints in a fish and chip shop, behind the bar in a pub and running a slimming club. As a mature student she studied for a degree in education and went into teaching at high school, became a partner in an import and wholesale business and ran a craft outlet at a country shopping experience. She returned to teaching where her last position was at a sixth form college.

Celia was born in West Yorkshire and has lived in Aberdeenshire and the south of France. She currently lives in Norfolk.

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

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Friday Night Drinks with… R. V. Biggs

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Doesn’t Friday come around quickly these days? I almost forgot my drinks date with my guest this week. Never mind, I made it to Friday Night Drinks with author… R. V. Biggs.

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

Thank you too. It is a real pleasure to be here. As the year is moving on towards, hopefully, summer temperatures, I think a large glass of white wine. Preferably a Pinot Grigio. I seem to have developed a taste for it over the last couple of years. I’m no wine buff but it’s refreshing, zesty and suits the evening sun, especially when combined with a meze.

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?

Thought a long time over this and finally settled north of the border in the seaside town of Ayr.

Along the sea front, a short distance from the beach lies the most unimpressive 1960’s style of construction—a rectangular, unimaginative building sitting on a carpark. But upstairs there is an award winning Indian restaurant serving the most delicious of meals. This of course would be reason enough to while away an evening, but the real icing on the cake is that it faces west towards the Isle of Arran and beyond, and the most spectacular of sunsets. If you’re lucky there’ll be no cloud, but if there is and the sun escapes just before it dips into the sea, the spectator is in for a real treat.

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 mom and dad. Notice I said mom not mum? West Midlands lad you see.

Yes, my mom and dad, because they’ve been gone so long, I don’t recall much about them anymore. But I would love to find out more about what life was like for them, from before the war and during the meagre years afterwards during the decade I was born. And of course, what their parents were like. I have no memory of my paternal grandparents at all. I think they’d both died before I was born. And though I was around ten by the time my mom’s parents left us, I never had a close relationship with them. I guess this is why, subconsciously I felt drawn toward writing novels with family as a central theme.

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?

Writing novels became a passion thirteen years ago, though a slow burn passion because it has taken me that long to publish three books. It all began with a dream. Sounds like a cliché but it was literally an out of the blue moment as I was on the edge of sleep one night and involving one line from a song. That was the ‘how’. The ‘why’ is harder to define because once that thought was in my head it was impossible to let it go. I never planned or had the inclination to write so I had no grand plan or ambition. It was simply for my own enjoyment and mostly that’s what it still is. However, I’m planning on retiring this year which means I’ll have more time to spend on many things not least my writing and maybe set my sights on an end game.

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

I think my proudest moment was reading reviews of my first two novels during a blog tour. As well as other reviewers, both books were read and reviewed at https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/ and were included in that reviewers top twenty books of 2019. Clearly both books reached inside the reviewer and moved them deeply and for me achieving this kind of response is icing on the cake – touching their heart.

As for challenge I doubt if I’m any different from any other Indie author. Marketing is a nightmare. It’s like trying to find a destination when you have little knowledge of how to get there.

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

I think this is a bit of a dream but TV dramatisation.  There are many tales that are scripted for the Silver Screen, but due to demands of the sponsors, funding or other constraints, are shortened or changed and not always for the better. Other stories on the other hand would work better as a TV series where over four, six or eight episodes the characters and plot can develop along with the subtleties that appear in written work but often don’t translate to the big screen.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I have to confess, a partially stolen idea.

Way back in 1979, Tony Banks, the keyboard player from Genesis, released a solo album titled A Curious Feeling. I only found out recently but apparently it was loosely based on a short story by American writer Daniel Keyes called Flowers for Algernon. Many of Tony Banks musical creations always had an air of mystery about them, which I love, and I’ve never stopped listening to this album because to me it conveys so much emotion – helped along by a stunning vocalist. I have my own interpretation of A Curious Feeling which for a long time I’ve wondered about turning into a novel, novella or short story. It depends how much of a plot I can make out of it. But the concept would fit nicely into my chosen genre which is psychological mystery with a touch of paranormal.

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 was never much of a traveller and didn’t venture out of the country until our children were older. My wife and I loved the film Shirley Valentine which meant of course our first foreign escape had to be Greece. As for favourite places it would be a toss-up between Corfu and Scotland. Wildly different destinations but each has something unique to offer.

Bucket list? Something involving the natural world. I think the northern lights would be wonderful to behold.

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

I met my wife via a lonely hearts column (way before social media) and went on to marry her taking on a ready-made family of four children and a crazy dog. For eight years before that I lived alone with my cat Smudge.

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

I read slowly because I read in bed, and before my kindle hits me on the nose each night I’ve never advanced much from the previous night. This means I only get through a handful of books a year, but my most favourite recent read has to be Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It drew me in from page one and would not let me go. For a tale that touches every emotion it would be my number one.

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For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.

When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

I loved this book, it was one of my top ten books of 2020. 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?

Well, a large glass of water before bed but failing that a very English fry up the morning after with added caffeine. Hard to imagine but boy does it work.

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

Well, that depends on where I am. At home it would be up early each day to walk the dog in the fresh, crisp, early sunshine when most people are still abed. Then quiet, undemanding days preferably eating each meal outside. The evenings would then involve a glass or two of wine maybe retreating indoors later with some escapist entertainment on TV.

If I were closer to the sea, beachcombing would factor heavily in the above.

Thanks you for joining me, Rob, it has been really good fun.

Rob’s latest book is Broken, book 3 in the Sara Macintyre series. You can buy a copy of the book here. Books One and Two are Song of the Robin and Reunion are available as part of the three book series here.

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Scarred by a tragic past, eleven year old Jamie Walker chooses not to speak.
Consumed with jealous rage, Jimmy Gillespie is driven to violence.
And John Macintyre awakens from a vivid nightmare convinced he is going to kill.
Living high upon the Scottish hills, John and Sarah Macintyre enjoy a serene life until a televised news bulletin sends them on a desperate search for a missing child.
After finding the child and returning him safely to his parents, the Macintyres are approached by the local press, attracting both unexpected and unwanted attention.
But the aftermath of the media coverage changes the course of their lives forever, and events are set in motion that are joyful, heart breaking – and terrifying.

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and eight grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favourite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health National Health Service trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for his first novel was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequels Reunion and Broken, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

You can discover more about Rob and his books via his website and Facebook.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Val Portelli

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The end of another month – this year is flying by so quickly – definitely reason for celebration as we edge ever closer to normality, and tonight I am delighted to be drinking with my next Friday Night Drinks guest, author… Val Portelli.

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

Whisky with diet lemonade, please. Does the lemonade count as one of my 5 a day? 😁

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Why not? I am a gin or prosecco girl myself, both of which I am fairly sure contain some kind of fruit or plant matter, so they definitely count, cheers! If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

What’s your food preference? I’ll book a good restaurant, first bottle of wine is on me to repay your hospitality, then as it’s virtual we can go clubbing. The chauffeur is on standby, a fun night-out with some good music and dancing, then overnight in a grand hotel. After breakfast I’ve booked a boat trip so we can get some fresh air, then back to your place so I can have a quick browse of your library.

Fantastic. I’d probably choose Italian, so we can load up on carbs to give us energy for dancing and soak up some of the alcohol. 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?

Elvis Presley, but then I’d ignore everyone else, so perhaps David Bowie who I did actually know in my youth, and Tina Turner, who I think would be both a good laugh and fascinating company.

I need to hear more about your youth with David Bowie now, what an attractive, talented and fascinating man he was. 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’ve just released my latest book, Alderslay, a mystery/horror and quite a change from my usual romance/women’s fiction. My author career started about nine or ten years ago when a freak accident left me bed-bound and going stir crazy, but it gave me the opportunity to write and have my first book accepted for publication. Since then I’ve self-published seven books, had entries in three anthologies, learnt about editing, proof-reading, marketing, cover design, blogging and have set up my own YouTube site. It won’t make my fortune, but gives me enormous pleasure knowing my books are read and enjoyed all over the world.

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

The proudest moment is now, knowing that fellow authors, bloggers and readers who were previously names on a page, have become friends, both virtual and in real life.

The biggest challenge for me will always be marketing. How to get my books noticed so readers can decide if they actually like them.

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

That after being a regular with the number 1 spot on Amazon/YouTube, the virus will have disappeared and I can throw the party to end all parties for everyone who was there for me along the way.
That I can master certain technology, and keep up when they make it ‘new and improved.’ Whoops, that’s two but you shouldn’t have kept plying me with drink.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Val’s Tales’ which is a collaboration of my stories being read by my actor/narrator sister with my theatrical niece doing the admin. After that it’s working on extending some of my first books into series. Something I haven’t done before but I love new challenges.

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

At the moment Narnia is top of the list, but Malta has always been my home from home so that would be first choice to catch up with friends there. Mobility is still a problem, but a magic transporter is on order to pick me up and put me down anywhere in the world. New Zealand would be a good start, then work my way round.

New Zealand is very close to the top of my bucket list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m a night owl and do most of my best work in the early hours of the morning now I no longer have the 9-5 restrictions. If you disturb me before midday ‘Ugh’ means ‘Good Morning/afternoon. Where’s my coffee?’

I also breed unicorns. (That’s two but pretend not to notice.)

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Yes, that’s the big thing we need to ignore here! 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’?

Difficult one. It wouldn’t be fair to recommend one of my own books which incorporates romance and starting a new life on a Mediterranean island, and yes, I do have book envy from seeing your bookshelves, and yes, I did try to read the book titles.

Showing my age here, but a book which has stuck in my memory from my school days was Twentieth Century Short Stories. I love the variety of short story collections and even after ahem years, I can still remember many of the tales which have subconsciously influenced my own writing.

Most of my reading is books by Indie authors, and I see amongst your favourite genres are crime and historical, so I think you would enjoy The Wrong Sort to Die by Paula Harmon.

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June 1910.

Fighting her corner in a man’s world, Dr Margaret Demeray works as a pathologist in a London hospital for the poor. Suppressing her worry that she’s breaching confidentiality, Margaret gives a stranger called Fox information about a dead down-and-out, in the hope he’ll use it to raise awareness of bad working conditions.But when a second man appears to die the same way, Margaret starts to wonder why the enigmatic Fox keeps turning up to ask ever more complex questions.

She decides to work alone, uncertain of his motives and wary of her attraction to him. Once she starts investigating however, her home is burgled, she’s attacked in broad daylight and a close friend becomes distant. Fox offers the chance to forge an alliance, saying he knows why the men have died but needs her to find out what is killing them and who is behind it.

Yet how come the closer she gets to him the more danger she faces? And how can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths? Margaret must discover the truth before someone – known or unknown – silences her for good.

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?

You’ve been a fabulous host and fortunately I rarely suffer from hangovers. Drinking water to counteract dehydration, and a few coffees thrown into the mix, usually keep me going when others end up under the table. The failsafe would be sleep until I’m ready for round two.

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

A private jet to whisk us off to the sun for a few hours relaxing on the beach, with some quiet reading time. Then a pampering spa, massage, make-up, hairdressers, the whole works accompanied by a few cocktails, of course. We’d finish the night off with a concert by your favourite artist onboard my luxurious yacht, and make plans for next weekend. We can but dream.

Thanks so much, Julie for revitalising me with your fabulous questions. You’re my kind of kind of girl.

Val, this has been the most wonderful fun, thank you so much for joining me, we must do this in person one day.

Val’s latest book is the horror/mystery Alderslay, which you can buy in paperback and ebook formats here, and is included if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

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An old house. A new start. Ancient secrets.

When Gina stumbles across the remote, dilapidated mansion she’s convinced it will make the perfect home for when she and her fiancé Paul settle down together.

At first he supports the venture, but his frequent absences are a cause for concern, especially when the renovations reveal skeletons from the past.

Is local man Steve a prospective business partner or looking for something more?

Why are the normally reticent villagers prepared to accept her as one of their own?

As more uncanny coincidences link Gina to the gruesome history of the house, she must decide where her future lies, and if she is prepared to pay the final price.

Val Portelli received her first rejection letter aged nine, from a well-known women’s magazine. A supportive hand-written response from the editor encouraged her to continue writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.

To save her sanity, and with time on her hands, she completed her first full length novel which was accepted by a publisher. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before she decided to use the experience she had gained to venture into self-publishing.

Her novels and the weekly short stories she writes for her Facebook author page and website cover various genres, often including her trademark quirky twist. Nearly ten years later she has contributed to various published anthologies, and has seven published novels, with others champing at the bit for their stories to be told.

With constantly changing technology and reading tastes, every day presents a new challenge, but there is always something new to learn, and inspiration is everywhere.

She is always delighted to receive reviews as they encourage sales, and pay for the upkeep of the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

You can connect with the delightful Val further via her website, blog, YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Susan Willis

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What a gorgeous sunny day it has been up here in Yorkshire today, what has it been like where you are? The weather is so lovely, I think tonight’s guest and I might take our Friday Night Drinks outside and enjoy the sunset while we chat. What do you think, author… Susan Willis?

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Welcome to the blog, Susan, thank you so much for joining me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Coffee – I’m a coffee-total, not a tea-total. But I do like to see my friends enjoying their drinks.

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

Probably a nice cocktail bar or restaurant. Indian or Italian food is my favourite.

They are my favourites too! Can’t wait until we can go out for a nice meal with friends again. I like to cook, but I think I’ve done enough now for a while! 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?

Alive, it would be my favourite crime writer, Harlan Coben. I saw him on stage being interviewed by Ian Rankin at The Harrogate Crime Writers Festival in 2019 and he was a great guest. But, I’d love to talk with him in depth about his writing.

Dead, it would be Agatha Christie. I think I’ve read everything she ever wrote and love her stories.

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?

Originally, way back in 2013 I had my first novel published by a digital publisher in London. However, now their focus is on different genre’s and not romance which all my early novels and novellas were about. Therefore, I have parted company with the publisher and am re-editing and updating all eight stories to self-publish on amazon. They will have new covers and titles. Which, I’m laughing calling my, ‘Lockdown Project.’

Oh, exciting and a big challenge! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moments come from reading reviews from people. Sometimes I’m astounded that words I have written and characters I’ve created in my mind have such an effect on them.

My favourite sentence from 2020 is what a reader wrote in a review, ‘Well, to say I read this novel in one day speaks volumes!’ I was and still am, cock-a-hoop.

My biggest challenge is social media and improving my limited IT skills. Although, I have learnt from other authors who have been kind enough to lend a helping hand especially on Facebook. I can now make videos / trailers for my books and know how to make banners on Canva.

I’m really glad to hear that reader reviews can mean so much to authors. 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!

Although my stories are all on amazon as Ebooks and paperbacks, I’d love to be well-known enough to see my books on shelves in bookstores, supermarkets, and train stations. Could you imagine seeing someone picking up your book from Smiths or in Tesco? I’d be thrilled.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

For Christmas 2020, I published a novella set in York which received great reviews. I have a plot written for a follow-up novel with my same two characters for 2021. I’m hoping to start writing this in May after I complete my Lockdown Project. I’m excited to see where Clive and Barbara will end up as a couple.

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

If I’m going abroad then it’s Italy first followed closely by Germany. I’ve travelled throughout Europe by train and have loved every country I’ve visited. However, there are two places which are still on my bucket list, Turin and Budapest.

I loved Budapest when I was there, although it was many years ago now. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-two. Since then I have written romance, psychological suspense, and cosy-crime short reads. I love to write in different genres to test my writing skills.

It’s great to hear you have had success after starting writing late. It gives me hope at almost 49 that it’s not too late for me! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

It depends what genre you like? If it’s crime and psychological stories then, Home by Harlan Coben. He is the master of the twist at the end of a story. I always close his books thinking, boy, I didn’t see that coming!

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For ten long years two boys have been missing.

Now you think you’ve seen one of them.

He’s a young man. And he’s in trouble.

Do you approach him?
Ask him to come home with you?
And how can you be sure it’s really him?

You thought your search for the truth was over.
It’s only just begun.

I’m ashamed to say I have never read any of his books, I will have to rectify that with this one. 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 don’t have one, but I know my friends drink plenty of water before they go to bed. I stopped drinking twenty years ago when the dreaded hot flushes reared their ugly heads!

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

In a nice English town in a lovely boutique hotel with maybe a visit to a stately home and gardens thrown in for good measure. We have many beautiful places in this country that people are just beginning to discover on staycations.    

I agree, the UK is a great place for holidays. Thank you for chatting to me this evening, I have had a really great time.  

Susan’s latest book, which is a republication is NO CHEF, I Won’t!, available both as a paperback and ebook format and you can buy a copy here.

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Can kneading bread be fun with your man? And, would you refuse an invite to your handsome neighbours’ greenhouse to see his wonderful courgettes? These are just two problems Katie must wrestle with in this food lovers romance. Katie’s partner, Tim lands a new job as head chef in a London restaurant. He changes from the sweet-natured, food loving guy she fell for and becomes unbearably arrogant. ‘Yes Chef!’ respond his browbeaten assistants as he barks orders at them across a steamy kitchen. But when he treats Katie this way, she rebels and after a huge row, she walks out. With the help of her two close friends, she rebuilds her single life and starts a successful catering business. Tim realises what he’s lost and wants her back, but Katie is not sure.

Will she say, ‘Yes, Chef.’ Or ‘No, Chef, I Won’t!’ 

Susan Willis is a published author of six novels and five novellas. She lives in Co-Durham surrounded by a big family and dear friends. Susan worked as a food technologist developing new recipes and weaved the different aspects of her job into stories.

Readers who have left reviews on amazon love the books because they are realistic with everyday people in situations that can happen. Her last two novels are psychological suspense.

She has a collection of Fun-Size Tales of Love & Family, and six Cosy Crime Short Reads, incorporating up to date issues of poor mental health in a kidnap scene, the perils of social media, and an intruder on Skype.

Susan is now updating her older novels and self-publishing on Amazon.    

You can discover more about Susan and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Julie Anderson

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Pubs are open again, hurrah! However, it is only outside drinking for now so my guest tonight is joining me indoors in my warm, virtual bar for chat and Friday Night Drinks. Please welcome to the blog, author…. Julie Anderson.

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

Chilled white wine, so cold the glass is frosted.  A bottle of the wine sits neck deep in ice in a bucket at my elbow for us to share with our guests.

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?

The wine is in an ice bucket because the air is warm, a balmy evening at the end of a hot day and we’re in Delphi, Greece, otherwise known as the ‘navel of the world’. We’ve driven up from Athens, through the traffic choked outskirts, across the farmland and into the mountains around the Gulf of Corinth, a drive of several hours. Now we’re sitting outside as the sun sets, on the terrace of a tiny, family run taverna on the edge of  Delphi which serves amazing fresh local dishes, dolmades, tzatziki and flatbread, wild boar stew and dessert made with Parnassus honey, washed down with the resinous local retsina.  But it’s the view which stuns. Beyond the railings of the terrace the mountain slope, covered in cypress and pine trees, falls away sharply, over 1,600 feet to the river far below.  On the other side of the valley are the peaks of the lesser mountains, ranging away to the horizon and the valley slopes away to our right, down to the plain and sea. We are on the slopes of the highest  mountain, Mount Parnassus. Its name means the mountain of the house of the god.

Delphi is the setting for my novel Oracle, the second in the series featuring Cassandra Fortune, Whitehall detective and, after the end of Plague, the first book, the envoy of the British Prime Minister. Cassie doesn’t eat at this restaurant, she is staying at the European Cultural Centre which lies just outside of Delphi town on the other side of a mountain ridge, but the view is similar there. Just around another ridge on the other side of town is the ancient Temple of Apollo, which is really a precinct of temples and buildings, including an amphitheatre, gymnasium and stadium, all set on the slopes around the massive Temple itself. The site has been a centre of worship since the Early Bronze Age (so about 3,000 BCE) and, when you look at the spectacular view you can see why – of course it must belong to a God.

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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?

Given where we are I’m going to have to choose someone from the classical period, so my male invitee is Xenophon of Athens born about 430 BCE. He lived at a fascinating time, he was a pupil of Socrates, a contemporary of Plato and knew Cyrus the Great of Persia, his Hellenica details Greek history from the Golden Age of Athens to the rise of Macedon and Alexander the Great. He knew many of the politicians and generals he wrote about and was well travelled and open minded enough to understand and admire different peoples and cultures. He also wrote the Anabasis, an account of how he lead the Greek ‘Ten Thousand’, mercenaries who were leaderless and thousands of miles from home in Asia Minor, back to Greece.  This has inspired many books and novels and a cult 1979 film, The Warriors directed by Walter Hill. In addition to all this he found time to write many philosophical works and On Horsemanship, a manual on the selection, care and training of horses still in use centuries later. He visited Delphi and consulted the Oracle there. Would I have some questions for him!

My female guest is Agatha Christie, doyen of detective fiction and married to an archeologist, so someone who would feel quite at home in Delphi. I devoured her stories when a child, even if Sherlock Holmes was my favourite, not Hercule Poirot, but Christie is a cultural phenomenon. I’d have lots of questions for her, mostly about plotting ( I confess, I often find her plots contrived ), but also about her time as a pharmacologist during World War Two and how she used places she had visited in her books ( something which I do too ). She also had a civil service detective, in a series of little known stories, called Parker Pyne, though he was retired.

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 am mid-way through the first three books in a series featuring Whitehall investigator, Cassandra Fortune, for publisher Claret Press. The first book, entitled Plague, was published in September 2020 and I wrote an article about it for A Little Book Problem on 18th September. The second book, Oracle, is being published on 5th May, though it’s available for pre-order now. In the absence of book tours and signing sessions I’ve been doing lots of promotion and publicity online for both books.  Though that’ll have to take second place soon as I need to begin writing Opera, the third, which is due out in 2022. That one is set in London, as was Plague, so I’ll be closer to home.

The three books hang together as a trilogy, following the central character, although the plotlines are, mostly, stand alone. They’re all thrillers, but are also about political themes like power and justice, looking at corruption and cronyism (very topical).  That makes them sound boring, but they’re not, at least that’s not what readers say, who tell me that they’re gripping and exciting. I’ve agreed to write three, then I’ll decide whether or not to pursue the series.

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

2020 was such a strange year that the obvious candidates for proudest moment, like my first, traditionally published book launch, didn’t happen  there was so much that we were going to do that had to be shelved. I was really proud of my book being reviewed in the Literary Review, however, I didn’t know it was going to be and it was a complete surprise when it was. I was also really pleased when fellow writers, much more experienced than I, liked my book and were prepared to say so.

The biggest challenge is always to get the book out there and noticed. There are so many books on the market, from large publishers with deep pockets who focus on a small group of already famous or celebrity names so newcomers like me from small indie publishers don’t get much of a look in.  But then I’m sure some self-published authors would say that I was fortunate, so it’s all relative and we all face the same pressures.

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!

Oooh, there’s a question. I’d like to be involved in making a filmed or TV series of the Cassandra Fortune books, but my dream is winning some sort of big prize for writing.  Neither are likely.

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

The next book – always the next book is the exciting thing. Opera is the culmination of the three books so far, but it might also, I hope, lead on to another.

There’s also this year’s Clapham Book Festival ( I’m a trustee of the charity which runs it ). The 2020 edition was cancelled, like so much else, but the Board have decided to go ahead this year with a mix of events, some physical, in the local theatre which we have used before, some virtual, bringing together authors from all over and some interesting additions, like literary walks led by authors. Clapham has always attracted writers and there are lots of places of literary interest.  It’s a great Festival, run entirely by volunteers and was, until COVID hit, attracting a growing audience.  Clapham Book Festival 2021 is going to be fab! It’s happening on 16th October, please tell everyone about 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?

I love where I live, but it’s an urban environment, so I would choose to visit somewhere rural. I really enjoy the Northumberland coastline, with its miles of beach, castles on promontories and little hidden churches and chapels, also the gently folding Devon countryside or wild Dartmoor.  Delphi is similarly apart from the city, the town itself is only small, though the ancient town must have been quite a size. The Temple site is fabulous, very atmospheric, especially when there’s a mountain mist. It’s tucked into a fold of the mountain so that you don’t see it until you’re on top of it. It must have been a magnificent sight when it all still stood, marble reflecting the sunlight.

There are wonderful mountain walks, on slopes roamed by wild goats and where bees, feasting on pollen from wild flowers and herbs, make the famous Parnassus honey. In ancient times, when Delphi was difficult to get to in winter, it was said that Apollo left to spend the winter months in the land of the Hyperboreans, the land beyond the north wind, which is sometimes identified with Britain. So his cousin and fellow god, Dionysus, ruled at the Temple during the winter. Dionysus was the god of the grape, of theatre, festivity and ecstasy, also known as Bacchus and there is a suitably Dionysian revel in the book.

The top of my bucket list would be to travel the great railway journeys of the world, but taking in music where ever I went. So, London to Istanbul would be on the Orient Express but via Paris (Opera), Vienna ( Musicverein ), Venice ( La Fenice ) Belgrade ( jazz and blues) Sofia (plain chant in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) to Istanbul. There I would stay at the Pera Palace Hotel, which is where Agatha Christie stayed  – it has a room dedicated to her.  I could even write for a time on the train. Absolutely perfect, but probably impossible.

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

When I was a civil servant I found myself the nominal owner of one of the world’s smallest navies (it’s true). 

One of the areas for which I was responsible was something called ‘Bona Vacantia’ or ownerless goods.  This refers to the goods and effects of individuals who die intestate and without any relatives ( there is something similar for companies and corporations ).  Their property reverts to the Crown. Legally this idea goes back to the sixteenth century when Henry VIII was trying to raise money for his foreign wars. In this instance, however, a company which hoped to create a marine tourist attraction in the, then recently refurbished, Liverpool Docks, had gone bankrupt. It owned a destroyer, a mine sweeper, the ship on which the Falklands War ended and several other smaller craft. These reverted to the Crown, but had to be ‘owned’ by someone on its behalf, at least until the items were sold.

What happened to it, you ask. Well, I tried to get the First Sea Lord to take the destroyer, but he wasn’t game, the Navy having sold the unwanted ship to the defunct company in the first place. In the end most was sold for scrap. I just regret not having got myself a peaked navy hat.

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

Having just written Oracle I am heavily into Greek history, mythology and drama at the moment ( a quote from Aeschylus’ play Agamemnon opens the book ). Modern fiction in English seems to be having a ‘Greek’ moment, with writers like Madeleine Miller ( The Song of Achilles, Circe ) Natalie Haynes ( A Thousand Ships ), Margaret Attwood ( Penelopiad ) and Pat Barker ( The Silence of the Girls ) reinterpreting the ancient Greek stories, often from a female perspective. I can recommend all of the above.

The one book I would recommend right now, however, is the only novel of Harry Thompson called This Thing of Darkness. It follows successive voyages of the Beagle, captained by Robert Fitzroy ( pioneer in weather forecasting) with Charles Darwin as naturalist.  It has an almost perfect blend of history, science and adventure and brings that period and those, real, individuals to life.

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In 1831 Charles Darwin set off in HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy on a voyage that would change the world. This is the story of a deep friendship between two men, and the twin obsessions that tear them apart, leading one to triumph, and the other to disaster.

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 plan is to drink lots of water at the same time as drinking the alcohol, especially when in warmer climes. And, given that one of the famous Delphic maxims is ‘Nothing in excess’ often translated as ‘All things in moderation.’ I’ll have to be careful. We don’t want to offend the god.

If I do end up hung over I try and replace the sugars and vitamins lost ( that’s my excuse ), so fresh orange juice, fruit cocktail with yoghurt and Greek pastries ( or croissants ). If I was somewhere cold it would be a bacon butty or a boiled egg with bread and butter soldiers.  In short, comfort food.

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

On Saturday morning, hangover permitting, I’d walk up the mountain behind Delphi to the Corycian Cave where people have lived since Neolithic times. I’d trek across, via the stadium used for the Pythian Games (rivalling the Olympic Games in their time) to stand at the top of the Phaedriades, huge cliffs called the ‘shining ones’ which tower above the temple site. It used to be the punishment for blasphemy to be thrown from these cliffs and, in Oracle, a body is found at their foot.

I’d come back down into town and have an early lunch on a terrace at one of the other little tavernas, then spend the heat of the day in the Museum (which is air conditioned) looking at artefacts from and reading the history of the ancient site. That evening it would be to an outdoor concert or drama performance, either at the European Cultural Centre or in the temple site itself.  I would love to see Euripides’ The Bacchae in the amphitheatre, in which Dionysus is a main character. Or Eumenides by Aeschylus, which opens in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and ends at a ‘trial’ in Athens, just like Oracle.

Then on Sunday morning to the Temple itself, walking up the Sacred Way, past the ruins of treasuries built to house the many treasures and gifts which rich patrons dedicated to the God. Cities sent presents, so did whole islands and even Pharoah of Egypt dedicated gold and precious gems. No one wanted to offend Apollo. I’d go to the Castalian Spring at the foot of the Phaedriades, where the Pythia, the female priestess, bathed in ritual purification before she entered the Temple and became the Oracle. I like that this place was dedicated to Gaia the Great Mother before it passed to Apollo and that it was a woman, or women, who spoke with the God’s voice even after Apollo took over. I’m not sure I’d have fancied the ritual outdoor bathing in March ‘though. At that time of year it’s cold this high up.

A long and lazy Greek lunch would follow, probably before a nap and the drive back to the modern world.

Thank you for a really interesting chat, it’s been extremely enjoyable.

Julie’s new book, Oracle, will be published on 5 May and you can buy a copy here.

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High on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, near the ancient Temple of Apollo, a group of young idealists protest against the despoiling of the planet outside a European governmental conference. Inside, corporate business lobbyists mingle with lawmakers, seeking profit and influence. Then the charismatic leader of the protest goes missing.

Oracle is about justice, from the brutal, archaic form of blood vengeance prevalent in early human societies to modern systems of law and jurisprudence, set in the context of a democracy. This is the law and equality under the law which allows democracy to thrive and underpins the freedoms and safeguards for individuals within it. The story is interlinked with Greece’s past, as the ancient cradle of democracy and source of many of western ideas of government, but also to its more recent and violent past of military strongmen and authoritarianism in the twentieth century.

Oracle also considers, in the form of a crime thriller, the politicisation of the police and the justice system and how that will undermine justice, especially following the banning of Golden Dawn, the now criminal organisation which wrapped itself in the mantle of politics. It touches on the new academic discipline of zemiology, the study of ‘crime’ through the prism of the harm it does to people, especially those without power.

Julie Anderson was a Senior Civil Servant in Westminster and Whitehall for many years, including at the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister, the Inland Revenue and Treasury Solicitors. Earlier publications include historical adventure novels and short stories. She is Chair of Trustees of Clapham Writers, organisers of the Clapham Book Festival, and curates events across London. 

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

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Friday Night Drinks with … Kim ten Tusscher

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Happy Good Friday, everyone! A lovely long holiday weekend -not that this means quite the same in these restricted pandemic times – but hopefully you will all enjoy some rest and relaxation, and hopefully a bit of sunshine if we are lucky! I am happy to be kicking off Easter with some Friday Night Drinks with author… Kim ten Tusscher.

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

I’ll drink a fresh, tropical mocktail. Something with a coconut flavour is always nice. I don’t drink alcohol myself, because I don’t like the taste, but don’t let that stop you from ordering whatever you like.

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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?

Somewhere calm and quiet. Most times when I’m in a café, there is so much noise that I can’t follow the conversations and that would be such a shame being in this amazing company. So preferable a nice and quiet pub or an outside terrace.

Sounds great. The older I get, the less noise I can stand! 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 would love it if Robin Hobb could join us. I’m a big fan of her stories and she’s a huge inspiration. I have so many questions about how she writes, her characters, and her world. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to her at a few Worldcons and I recognized so much of what she told. I always wonder if we have a lot in common. But that might be wishful thinking. 😉

I would also invite Peter Jackson. The movie adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings” had a huge impact on my life. They inspired me to make costumes, which resulted in being part of several movie projects myself (for example “Born of Hope”, “Ren: The Girl with the Mark”, and “Hunter’s Prey”). The films introduced me to Tolkien’s vast world and I devoured the stories. When I started writing myself, the stories naturally had to be fantasy. And of course, I’d hope I would end this night out with plans to film one of my stories. One can dream, right?

I would absolutely love to meet Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings films are some of my favourites, and one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history, IMHO, he has so perfectly brought Tolkein’s world to life. The scene at the end of the Battle of Helmsdeep in The Two Towers where Theoden rides out with Aragorn to face the Uruk-Hai and the Rohirrim pour down the valley is my all-time favourite. I must have seen it thirty times and it makes me want to cry every time still! Bernard Hill is also a genius. And what an amazing score by Howard Shore!

Anyway, enough of my LOTR fangirling! 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 very busy finishing a new book. “Storm” is the final installment of the “Tales of the Downfall”. This is an epic fantasy series about a world that is almost coming to an end. Lilith (a dragon shapeshifter you might already know from “The Lilith trilogy”) is one of the main characters, but I love to write from multiple angles, so you meet many new characters. Like Nighram, a young refugee, and Kiril, a general who is struggling with choosing the right side in the war and the fact he is losing his sight.

I write in Dutch, but I’m getting my stories translated into English. So as well as finishing Storm, we are also working on the English edition of the first part of this series: “Blood“.

How I started this series is a great story. Lilith was also the main character in “The Lilith trilogy”. When I ended that series I actually wanted to leave her alone (she really deserved a quiet life, you know) and never write about her again. But fans kept asking what would happen next. For years I told them I would never write a new series about her. I didn’t even have the time, because I was already working on something else.

But the readers kept asking and eventually I started wondering about Lilith myself. And thus this new story emerged. I’m so happy my readers kept begging because the Tales of the Downfall turned out an amazing story to write. High stakes, emotional events, and challenging to write… I’m really proud of how it turned out.

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

I have had so many proud moments. Finding a publisher, the English translations, doing interviews, or being part of panels at Worldcons and festivals… But I am most proud of my latest book Blind. I have been through a tough period where I doubted everything I did. Blind was the first book I’ve finished after regaining my confidence.

My biggest challenge was trusting my own voice. Since I started writing people gave me advice on how I should do things to be successful. I’m positive that most of these people meant well, but looking back at their suggestions, they gave the signal I should change myself to meet the reader’s expectations. One of the things they told me was getting a pen name. Reasons were: women can’t write fantasy… Dutch people can’t write fantasy. In different words: I had to hide who I am to succeed. Fantasy is a genre that is not taken as seriously as it should in the Netherlands, so I always felt the need to defend my decision to write it. I am a very chaotic writer and I thought I had to change that to become better at it.

It took me more than 10 years to realise that I am really good at this craft and that I don’t have to change a thing about myself or the way I write.

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 already hinted at my biggest dream. *gives Peter Jackson a shy look.* I would love, love, love to see my stories being adapted to a movie or series. I love working together with people who are artists in other fields besides writing and see how they visualise my characters and world. And of course, a movie adaptation goes hand in hand with a bestseller, guest appearances all around the world, getting in contact with readers, and hopefully having an impact on others in the same way my favourite stories impacted me.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Of course the release of Blood. I believe this story can catapult my international career to the next level.

But the publication of Storm is even more exciting. Finishing a series is a huge thing. I’m thrilled to craft an end to the story and I can promise you: it’s going to be epic. Writing often is magic. All these clever solutions and how everything ties together… Even I am surprised by how this story is going to be. I can’t wait to share it with the readers.

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?

Traveling is something I love to do, too! My husband and I went on a camping trip to the Southwest of the USA some years ago. The most amazing place we visited was Bryce Canyon. That scenery is just out of this world. We arrived late in the day, so we drove to a look-out point to take a quick look at the view. But we decided to do a short hike straight away. It was just too gorgeous to go back to the tent without exploring a bit more.

We are planning a vacation to West Canada at the moment. But on top of my bucket list is a multiple-day dog sledding trip in Finland or Norway. Camping in the wild, building fires at night, and seeing the Northern Lights. That would be so awesome!

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

I’ll tell you something really weird about me. So weird, I haven’t met anyone who experiences this too. I have this – how shall I describe it? – it is almost a phobia for old, used metals, especially silver, copper, and gold. I’m so engrossed when I have to touch such an item. So you don’t have to be afraid I will take something out of your jewelry box ;-). And I love cake, but if I have to eat it with a fancy decorated, antique, silver fork, the cake will taste not as good as when you give me a plain stainless steel one.

Have you read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson? It’s an amazing series with a very creative magic system that uses metals. They drink potions with flakes of metals in them to be stronger and faster and manipulate their surroundings. I could handle that. But when Vin swallowed an earring from one of the other characters… Yikes!

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’?

How can I say anything else but the books by Robin Hobb? She is a master in creating amazing characters who feel so incredibly real. They are lovable (although you might scream at them sometimes out of frustration 😉 ), flawed, and intriguing. Most fantasy worlds I read about I wouldn’t want to live in, but I would book a trip to the Six Duchies or take a cruise up the Rain Wild River any day.

Start with Assassin’s Apprentice and keep reading until you’ve read all 16 books. They are definitely worth it.

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The kingdom of the Six Duchies is on the brink of civil war when news breaks that the crown prince has fathered a bastard son and is shamed into abdication. The child’s name is Fitz, and he is despised.

Raised in the castle stables, only the company of the king’s fool, the ragged children of the lower city, and his unusual affinity with animals provide Fitz with any comfort.

To be useful to the crown, Fitz is trained as an assassin; and to use the traditional magic of the Farseer family. But his tutor, allied to another political faction, is determined to discredit, even kill him. Fitz must survive: for he may be destined to save the kingdom.

I am not a massive reader of fantasy but I do like to dabble from time to time and chatting with you tonight has made me fancy a bit of fantasy, so I will give it a go. 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’m sorry, I’m of no help here.

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

Sleep until late tomorrow. Then go on a hike and enjoy a picnic. And if there are no limitations to what I can wish: find a natural hot spring or warm stream to take a swim. Are you in? When I get home I’ll probably do some writing. I can get really grumpy if a few days pass without working on my stories.

Always in for a swim in a hot spring! Thank you so much for joining me this evening, I have really enjoyed our chat and feel inspired to dip in to some fantasy books and movies again now!

Kim ten Tusscher is the author of the Lilith Trilogy, which has been translated into English and can be purchased here.

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Inferno at her breath. War under her wings. With two men whispering mayhem in her ear, which way will she turn the bloody tide?

Lilith has only ever lived with anger and destruction. The sole dragon shifter known to humankind, she despises her life as an instrument of terror at the hands of a prophetic sorcerer. Finally fleeing years of abuse, she’s distraught when she’s captured for stealing food and forced to answer to a bitter king for her crimes.

Her former abductor Kasimirh believes fervently in his righteous calling. And though he’s lost his dragon, the sorcerer’s relentless quest to convert the heathens must go on unopposed. And if the king does not yield to his army, he’s prepared to sacrifice all the royal subjects like lambs to the slaughter.

Desperate to finally break her bond to the determined prophet, Lilith vows to stand against her merciless master and stop his savage quest with equally relentless brutality.

Can she extinguish his tyrannical reign before the realm falls to his bloodshed?

This bundle contains Bound in DarknessBroken in Twilight and Born in Light.

You can read a preview of Bound in Darkness on Kim’s website: http://kimtentusscher.com/english/ If you subscribe to her reader’s tribe, you’ll receive a preview for Blood very soon and you’ll get a free e-copy of City of Illusions.

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You can watch the book trailer for Lilith here.

Kim ten Tusscher (1979) started her professional career as a documentary photographer. In all her projects, she looked for similarities between people and tried to invalidate prejudice.

Writing proved a better way to express herself. In her stories, she combines well-written worlds and characters with great emotional depth. She doesn’t avoid intense subjects. Her stories became her window to the real world.

Kim is also an avid reader. Her taste in books ranges from epic stories like the Riyria Chronicles to the more grim A Song of Ice and Fire. Her favourite reads are the stories by Robin Hobb. What these books all have in common are morally grey and thus convincing characters.

You can connect further with Kim via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jo Jakeman

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Time for another tipple with a guest from the publishing world and tonight I am sharing Friday Night Drinks with author… Jo Jakeman.

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Welcome to the blog, Jo, thank you for taking the time to chat to me. First things first, what are you drinking?

A large glass of red wine. 19 Crimes of course because, you know, crime writer!

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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?

There’s a bar I’m quite fond of frequenting on a Friday evening that’s just on the sea front and within staggering distance. They do the most amazing sea food which I like to wash down with a Dark and Stormy cocktail. Bring a coat though, it can get a bit chilly when the sun sets.

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That looks absolutely delicious, you’ve made me hungry! 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?

Claudia Winkleman, Ryan Reynolds. They both seem incredibly funny and down to earth.

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?

Just finishing up the line edits for Who Killed Oscar Lomas? which is the book that will be coming out in January 2022. It’s about a woman, called Beth, who refuses to believe that her husband died by suicide, despite all evidence. I’m often moved by that strength families have – that insistence that they know better than the police in the face of all the evidence because they know their loved one wouldn’t have died by suicide, or know that their daughter wouldn’t have run away. Is it faith? Stubbornness? Or is there some sort of bond that we can’t explain?

Really interesting ideas to explore. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’m proud of so much (not in a braggy way!) but getting a book deal was amazing. Selling in America, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Greece… Every time I see my book in a shop it gives me a thrill. But I think the thing that makes me the proudest and makes all the knockbacks worthwhile, is when I hear from a reader that my book meant something to them, that it helped in some little way.

The biggest challenge has been dealing with the self-doubt. When the book doesn’t storm the charts or you see an amazon review saying that they didn’t like the book, you doubt yourself. And when I’m full of self-doubt I find it hard to be creative. Book 2, Safe House, was a slog because I was second guessing myself all the time.

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 want to be a Sunday Times best seller. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It is validation, it’s all that hard work paying off. And it means I might be able to afford a holiday next year.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

This is between us, yeah? I’m a little bit ahead of schedule now seeing as so much has been delayed because of COVID. So, I’m doing a bit of research for a novel set in the 1950s. I was left a few boxes of letters and diaries of a family friend called Moyra, and I’m writing a story based on them. It’s a lot harder than writing my modern day thrillers as there are actual facts and dates to contend with but I am loving it. I feel so lucky to have access to these resources.

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 settle for anywhere warm. I was born in Cyprus and I have a soft spot for a Greek island, so I’d love to do some island-hopping and cross some others off my list. Kefalonia and Ithaka have been my favourites so far.

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That look beautiful, Kefalonia is definitely high on my bucket list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m addicted to cold water swimming. I was in the sea on Christmas day wearing an elf hat!!

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Brrr! 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’?

Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid.

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Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six.

From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation. Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They sold out arenas from coast to coast.

This is the story of their incredible rise: the desire, the rivalry – and the music.

Then, on 12 July 1979, Daisy Jones and the Six split up.

Nobody knew why. Until now…

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

Drink a pint of water before bed, and makes sure there’s bacon in the house for tomorrow morning’s bacon-buttie.

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

I wake up to a gorgeous sunny day, so I walk the coastal path with my husband and kids round to a secluded cove where I have a quick dip in the sea then back home for a barbecue and a couple of beers.

Jo, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been a real pleasure.

Jo’s latest book, Safe House came out in paperback in January, and you can buy a copy here. It is only 99p on Kindle until the end of the month. Charlie has been recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved. Now living in a remote Cornish village, with a new identity, she wants to put the past behind her but someone knows who she is. And they don’t believe in second chances.

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SHE LIED TO PROTECT A KILLER. NOW THERE’S NOWHERE LEFT TO HIDE. . .

The morning after a great storm, a woman arrives in a remote Cornish village.

But Charlie, as she now calls herself, steers clear of the locals and keeps a low profile – because she has a terrible secret.

Recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved, Charlie wants to move on and start afresh. But someone, somewhere, is watching her, determined that she will never get that second chance.

Jo Jakeman was the winner of the prestigious Friday Night Live Award at York Festival of Writing where she was also shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter for the novel that would become her debut. This book was shortlisted for Best Revenge Novel at the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Born in Cyprus, Jo worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire and changing careers.

Following completion of a Creative Writing course with Curtis Brown Creative, Jo has used her experience of family and work life to write stories which challenge readers to think past the respectability of domestic facades.

Her novels are published by Harvill Secker in the UK, Berkley in the US and Random House Canada.

Find out more about Jo and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Nathan Sritharan

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It’s the beginning of the weekend and time for another Friday Night Drink. Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author… Nathan Sritharan.

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

Thank you for having me, I’m enjoying a Japanese whiskey, Hibiki, on the rocks of course.

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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?

The night would likely start out in the cinema for either a comedy or Marvel movie, from here we’d go for dinner, ideally for a curry and we’d end the night at a brew house for a few craft beers.

Sounds perfect, I’m looking forward to all those things as soon as we are allowed 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?

I’m a huge fan of comedy and excellent writers so it would have to be Eddie Murphy and Tina Fey. The only downside to this would be me laughing so much that I’d likely spit out my drink.

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 currently working on my 2nd book, the follow up to my debut novel, however trying to write this last year with constant lockdowns, working from home and my 3rd son being born has been incredibly difficult. The 2nd book is part of a trilogy I’ve been working on for years, I finally published Book One early last year but COVID has really thrown a spanner into the works.

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

My proudest moment has been finishing and holding a physical copy of my first book in my hands. It was something I’d been planning and working on for years and to finally feel the book and see the cover was beyond anything I could imagine.

The biggest challenge was researching the self-publishing process and figuring out the best way to promote and market my work. If I’m  honest I think this is something that will be a constant learning curve as there will always be better way to present yourself and your product.

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’ve never been one for wanting millions of pounds (however nice that would be), my ambitions lie in wanting to be a successful writer, preferably being able to write as a full time profession. I love creating stories and creative content so a writing job I could do at home which allows me to balance my work with my family would be the dream.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Since last March and the first lockdown my wife and I have made a list of ALL of the things we’ve wanted to do which we’ve been unable to do. This has ranged from going to a water park or theme park to going to a variety of musical festivals and of course going on holidays both in and out of England.

 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 spent 2 weeks in Thailand for my brothers in-laws wedding, we travelled to a small island called Koh Chang, the food and scenery were out of this world. Although I did love Bangkok as well the smaller island was a literal paradise.

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I’ve always been fascinated with Brazil and I’m not sure why, as a kid it looked like such a glorious place to visit, beautiful beaches and of course the rain forest were both very appealing to me. I’d generally love to explore all of South America.

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

I’ve been and still am a HUGE wrestling fan, I consider it the best soap opera ever made. It has equal parts drama, comedy and athleticism and it’s fortunately something I can share with my kids.

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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’?

Anything by Lucy V Hay, I know that isn’t one book but her work is fantastic. Not only does she produce beautifully crafted stories The Coven being her latest release, she also offers incredibly insightful and helpful advice for writers and authors. I’ve been following her work for years now.

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Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

I actually have a copy of this waiting on my TBR, I have heard great things about it. 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’ve yet to find a failsafe plan to preventing a hangover, however I’ve found stodgy food and plenty of water before bed helps reduce hangover symptoms the next day.

I weirdly find exercise (swimming or running) the next day can help shake off a hangover, I’m sure there’s a science to that but it does help me, the hardest part is finding the energy to actually get up and go. Also, a beer and something spicy helps with the hangover.

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

Relaxing by a pool or by a beach with a few beers and some friends and family would be perfect for me most weekends, throw in some group games and I’m a happy man.

Thank you so much for hanging out with me this evening, Nathan, it has been great fun.

Nathan’s debut novel, The Big Smoke, is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

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The Big Smoke is set in a modern day dystopian London, after years of mistreatment towards those who work hard to keep the country afloat the country slowly descends into chaos after the 2011 London Riots, when a revolution takes over the city and other major cities around the country.

Throughout this time of anarchy and uncertainty one woman, who refers to herself as THE BOSS, rises up from angry YouTube vlogger to the Prime Minister of Britain who eventually isolates the city of London from the rest of the country with a giant fence. After years of promising to make the country a better place for all, corruption and power take over and she loses track of her original intentions, gang warfare breaks out in the city and London becomes divided between supporters of The Boss and those who resist her.

With nobody able to escape, the city is left in a constant state of civil war with no end in sight. NICK KING, the second in command to The Boss, who has been with her since humble beginnings, can no longer sit and do nothing as The Boss continues to destroy the city she swore to save. He goes on a daring mission with his sister in tow to escape the city and bring The Boss down once and for all.

Nathan Sritharan is a husband and a father of two who was born and raised in London. Coming from a mixed race Sri Lankan/British background, Nathan grew up in a very diverse world. He was exposed to a variety of cultures and a wide array of cinema and TV, quite often viewing content he shouldn’t have been, however, he attributes his early introduction to media to his vivid imagination and creative storytelling.

Nathan always had a fascination with compelling storytelling and a particular interest in how stories were put together, specifically how characters and subplots were interwoven within a story. Nathan would often write short stories and poems as a child and later in life he wrote scripts throughout his TV and Film University course. He currently works as a freelance script writer for an independent film company, a trainee Relationship Counsellor and for the NHS. Despite Nathan’s occasional blunder with spelling and grammar, which he faults to a failing and inflexible school system, a severely dyslexic mother and a father whose second language is broken English, he has always been very good at putting stories together and coming up with unique ideas, the proof of this being in the number of awards he has won for his writing at secondary school and University.   

Nathan spent most of his life doing what he felt needed to be done of him, going to college, graduating from University and finding a career he would be in until retirement. When he wanted to break away from this pattern he wasn’t given much in the way of support and felt restricted by an unhelpful system, a system he saw restrict so many other people around him. It wasn’t until Nathan was forced out of the “traditional” patterns of life did he get an opportunity to start looking at his own path, which unfortunately still came with constraints out of his control, including being evicted and forced into temporary housing with his family, through no fault of their own.

Nathan’s writing brings together his love of storytelling and the atrocious behaviour and treatment he has seen impact hard working people every day.

Find about more about Nathan via his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… D. Wells

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The weekend is here! Last day of homeschooling today, kids are back at school on Monday. Things feel like they are moving, slowly, in the right direction, so I’m feeling good. Time to celebrate and welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, author… D. Wells.

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

I’m drinking an ice cold Gin and Tonic, with a slice of lemon.

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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’ve never been a big ‘night out’ person, but I do enjoy eating out. So I would take you to a restaurant; any one that cooks with really fresh ingredients.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m not sure I can think of anyone. I find non-famous people much more interesting!

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 am finishing up on novel three and despite willing myself not to I have already started writing novel four. I am currently self-published, but these two novels I will try and find a publisher for.

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

Uploading the manuscript for 6 Caledon Street was a massive moment. I wrote the novel while pregnant, so I had a very definite deadline to getting it finished and self-published. It was my first full length novel and I was proud to get it out in time.

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 get a book deal first and foremost. And to then be able to write full time. I have always loved the idea of writing screenplays too, so I hope to learn how someday.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I am very excited about book four as the plot is quite a step out of my comfort zone, although the genre is still similar to my other books. I am excited to see where it goes. I plan my novels to a degree, but they always go off on a tangent, so I never quite know how they’ll end up, and that’s part of the fun.

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 went on a tour of Israel over ten years ago. It was fascinating and I found myself falling in love with the place. The history, the food, the architecture – it was quite something, and the memories have really imprinted themselves. As far as the bucket list goes, I don’t actually have one. I love to experience new cultures though, so travelling would certainly be on the list.

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

My husband is originally from South Africa. We met and married in the UK, but we decided (pre-children I might add!) to pack up and have an adventure. We spent six years living in South Africa. It was a crazy six years, for many reasons, but I learned so much from the experience.

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 would recommend any of Carmen Radtke’s books. She mostly writes cosy mystery books, but often incorporates an historical element too. My two favourites (because I can’t choose one) are her Alyssa Chalmers Mystery series (start with The Case of the Missing Bride) or her stand-alone novel Walking in the Shadow, which is about a leper colony in New Zealand. This one isn’t a mystery novel, but a beautiful story about friendship.

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It was supposed to be the start of a happy, new life …
1862 – a group of young Australian women set sail for matrimony in Canada. 
Their presence is withheld from the male passengers and all but a select few 
members of the crew. But their worlds collide when one of the gentlemen
stumbles over the women. 
When one of the intended brides goes missing, only Alyssa Chalmers, the 
one educated, wealthy woman in the group, is convinced the disappearance 
is no accident. She sets out to find out what happened. 
Has there been a murder?
Alyssa is willing to move heaven and earth to find out the truth. She is about 
to discover that there is more to her voyage into the unknown than she 
bargained for. 

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 am a light drinker, so I don’t think I’ll be much help with a hangover cure! One tip to not end up with a hangover in the first place, is to switch over to lemonade and angostura bitters after a couple of drinks.

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

I’d take my family out for the day – we love exploring the countryside. Then home to curl up with a good book. It would be great to not have to cook either!

One of our local beaches, near Cape Town

Thank you for joining me tonight, it has been a pleasure chatting to you.

D. Wells’ latest book is 6 Caledon Street, and you can buy a copy here.

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In an attempt to escape her painful past Sarah Miller moves into a beautifully restored Edwardian property in Caledon Street.

Soon her life intermingles with not only her concert pianist neighbour, and her landlord, but also upon the discovery of some dusty journals written by an original occupant of the house.

Recognising parallels in her life and the young teenage girl’s among the crisp pages of the journal, Sarah is faced with the choice to overcome her past, or allow it to hinder her future.

D. Wells has written four books; a full length novel 6 Caledon Street set in contemporary times, with an historical subplot, and several short story compilations under the previous pen name D. van de Merwe.

She enjoys writing about family dynamics and if she can manage it, slip in a few historical references too. She is currently working on a couple of new novels she hopes to share with you soon.

D. Wells is married, has several small and exhausting children and lives in East Anglia, as close to the countryside as she can get.

You can find out more about D. Wells and her books on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Richard Fulco

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It’s the end of the month, hasn’t that come around quickly? It’s starting to feel quite spring-like here, not sure how it is where you are, and we are all looking forward to the easing of lockdown, slowly, slowly! So, with an air of optimism for better times ahead, I am joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Richard Fulco.

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

Well Julie, I’m a boring person, so you’re going to be sorry that you asked me to get a drink. I’m sipping a cold glass of water with a slice of lemon. However, since we’re having virtual drinks, and I won’t be waking up with a hangover, I’ll pour myself a tall glass of whiskey. How’s that? I plan to get virtually drunk.

Virtually drunk is the only way to go. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d take you to a concert where we can shout over pounding drums, wailing guitars and smoking amplifiers. We might not be able to hear each other that well, and we’d have to communicate by facial expressions and body language, but the music would be worth it. I miss live music. Don’t you? Before the pandemic, I had tickets for the Black Crowes and the Go Go’s.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Since my latest novel is set during The Summer of Love, I’d ask music producer Tom Wilson and singer Janis Joplin, who are both characters in the book, to join us for drinks. I’d pick Mr. Wilson’s brain about producing Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and the first Velvet Underground record. As for Janis, I’d love to hear her story about her performance with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Monterey Pop Festival.

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 revising another draft of my latest novel WE ARE ALL TOGETHER. Facebook has reminded me that I’ve been working on it for six years. I’ve also been writing poetry, which is something I haven’t committed to in more than six years.

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

Writing and publishing my first novel, THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE.

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

I’d like to continue writing novels and reach a wider pool of readers who might appreciate my storytelling. Is that ambitious enough?

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

WE ARE ALL TOGETHER will be published by Wampus Multimedia soon.

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?

Do I have to use the term ‘bucket list”? Well, as I write this, we’re still amidst a raging pandemic, so my favourite place is either on my couch or on a hiking trail. When the pandemic breaks, I promised my kids that I’d take them to Niagara Falls. I’ve never been there. We’re going to go over the falls in a barrel.

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

I enjoy soft rock from the 1970s: Elton John, The Carpenters, Jim Croce, Bread, Orleans, Gordon Lightfoot. America. I love it all. Such great melodies.

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’?

Jeff Tweedy’s HOW TO WRITE ONE SONG. Even if you’re not interested in songwriting, Mr. Tweedy writes brilliantly about the creative process. He also includes writing exercises that might help jumpstart your writing.

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One of the century’s most feted singer-songwriters, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, digs deep into his own creative process to share his unique perspective about song-writing and offers a warm, accessible guide to writing your first song.

There are few artistic acts more mysterious than writing a song. But what if a shift in perspective – and some practical guidance – could overcome that mystery? Anyone wanting to experience more creativity and mindfulness will be inspired to do just that after reading How to Write One Song.

Why one song? The difference between one song and many songs isn’t a charming semantic trick – it’s an important distinction that can simplify a notoriously confusing art form. The idea of becoming a capital-S Songwriter can seem daunting, but when approached as a focused, self-contained practice, the mystery and fear subsides and songwriting becomes an exciting pursuit.

How to Write One Song brings readers into this intimate process – lyrics, music and how they come together. It’s equally about the importance of making creativity part of your everyday life and of experiencing the hope, inspiration and joy available to anyone who is willing to get started.

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?

In the first place, don’t drink too much, but if you can’t control yourself then be sure to stay hydrated. Accompany every drink or shot with a glass of water. Be sure to take two aspirin before going to bed. But don’t call me in the morning.

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

Sleep. Sleep and sleep. I’m kidding. A perfect weekend will include: reading, writing, napping, long walks, a couple of morning runs, a bike ride, movies and scrumptious food.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been fun chatting.

Richard’s first book is There Is No End to This Slope and you can buy a copy here. His second book will be published soon.

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John Lenza, an aspiring writer from Brooklyn, hasn’t completed a novel, a play, or any other publishable work. His obsession with his part in the death of his best friend Stephanie in high school undermines his confidence and self-esteem. His struggle to reconcile his lingering guilt with the possibilities of the present sets the tone for Richard Fulco’s emotionally charged debut novel, There Is No End to This Slope.

By day, John sells textbooks to New York City schools. Like a 21st century Willy Loman, he drifts through life, letting things happen to him rather than taking charge of his life. On a sales call he meets his future wife, Emma Rue, an impulsive semi-alcoholic. At a “writerly” coffee shop near his new digs in Park Slope he meets Teeny, an overweight gay man, who mines John’s life for his own creative material. A homeless man, Richard, becomes a voice of reason, while Pete the landlord worries about whether John is truly taking “special” care of those beautiful wood floors in the apartment.

At one point John describes himself as intelligent, perhaps too intelligent to do anything. He and many of the other characters find it difficult to navigate the day-to-day while nurturing a sensitive and creative spirit. Should John be tortured by something that happened so long ago? Or is he using an old trauma to sidestep his creative responsibility and potential?

Through deeply wrought characters and scenes, Richard Fulco touches on a fundamental issue that drives great artists to self-destruct. But when John has wrung all he can out of his pained self, it may be the mundane certainties of life that ultimately save him.

Richard Fulco’s first novel, There Is No End to This Slope was published in 2014. His second novel, We Are All Together, will be published by Wampus Multimedia soon. Richard received an MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College where he was the recipient of a MacArthur Scholarship. His plays have either been presented or developed at The New York International Fringe Festival, The Playwrights’ Center, The Flea, Here Arts Center, Chicago Dramatists and The Dramatists Guild. Richard’s one-act play Swedish Fish was published by Heuer Publishing and his stories, poetry, interviews and reviews have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Failbetter, Across the Margin, Fiction Writers Review and American Songwriter (among others). Richard is a member of the Pen American Center where he is also a mentor in the Prison Writing Mentorship Program.   

You can find out more about Richard and his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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