Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Tidal Tales: Fairy Tales and Ticking Clocks


2018 was a year of change for me. Last October I took a 12 month career break from being an accountant to enable me to focus on my writing, and I moved to the South Coast to live by the ocean for a few months while I finish my novel. This truly is living my dream. However, there is one slight snag…
Like Cinderella, my fairy tale comes with an expiration date. At the end of September the clock will strike midnight and I will return to my old life and my old job.
So this means I have 9 months left to live my dream, and I am making the most of every moment!
To be honest moving down here hasn’t turned out to be anything like I expected. But then assumptions are so very often wrong:

Assumption 1


I would be so lonely living miles away from everyone I know, that after one month I would be heading home.

The reality however, is that I’ve already been here 3 months and I never want to leave. I’ve made some fantastic new friends and have joined two local RNA chapters. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family and friends back home, but we keep in touch and I have no shortage of visitors. I’m assuming that is down to my sparkling personality and how much they miss me, and is absolutely nothing to do with the stunning sea view from my apartment…. Hmmm…. 

Assumption 2


With no job to go to or friends to meet I would become a recluse, shut away in my apartment all alone.
However, I spend less time indoors and get more exercise than I ever have before. I mean let’s face it, there is a beach right outside my door, and it would be unthinkable not to go for daily walks along it. But perhaps what’s more surprising is that I bought a bike. I now go cycling along the promenade every chance I get, which given my usually lack of enthusiasm for anything remotely sporty is quite astounding. Particularly as I hadn’t even ridden a bike since I was 10 years old. It however turns out that the old adage about never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I remember how to ride well… 

Assumption 3


I would retain my well-structured and disciplined approach to my work. I have always been an early riser and like to get my work done without procrastinating or getting distracted.
Until now.
Did I mention there’s a beach….?
Apparently structure and organisation have taken an extended vacation. I blame the sea air. My day is now determined by the weather and the tides. I take advantage of any sunny day to get out and explore. Which leaves the rainy, cold and windy days for staying indoors to write. Don’t worry, there are plenty of those, this is winter in England after all.



But challenging my assumptions is all part of the adventure. After all the point of a fairy tale is to live a different kind of life. How often to any of us get chances like this? Even if there is a ticking clock counting down, right now this life and this amazing apartment are mine and that’s what matters.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Book Review - Mary Rosie's War




I'm thrilled to join in with the blog tour for Mary Rosie's War by Catherine Byrne.

Both my grandfathers served in World War II. I never knew my Dad's father, sadly he passed way before I was born. But a glimpse into his life during the years he spent fighting for his country can be found in faded black and white photographs. We'll never know the stories behind the photographs, or what became of the men are that are pictured beside him. According to my Dad his father didn't talk much about those dark days. He had lived through the nightmare and didn't want relive it. But occasionally he'd tell of the friendships, the adventure, and the wonder that took him far from his home to places he barely even heard of.

Mary Rosie's War is a beautifully told tale of the conflicting emotions that war brought to the young men and women who served their country, and the heartbreaking reality that nothing and no one would ever be the same again.

Told from the perspectives of Mary and her friends and family, the novel cleverly shows the different views and expectations that were held at the time. For Mary it's seems like a chance to broaden her horizons, but to her mother it seems like the past is repeating itself. Their journey brought tears to my eyes at times. It takes a strong writer to create characters so real that you feel their heartache, love and loss in such a way.

An exceptional tale, passionately told, which gave me more understanding of the struggles my grandparents endured, not just in the heat of battle but in the tough decisions that they had to make in a time of such uncertainty.

Mary Rosie’s War

WW2 has been declared. A strange find on the beach gives Mary Rosie the chance to fulfil her dreams and contribute to her country, but all is not what she imagined.

After witnessing the first bomb to be dropped on mainland Britain, Mary watches her friends leave to join the forces and longs to be with them, but is held back by loyalty to her widowed mother.

France has capitulated. Johnny Allan’s regiment has been annihilated by German troops north of Paris. Johnny has to find a way to get home and to the girl who no longer waits for him.

Leisel is a German Jew who lost her family to the Nazis and has to make her way in Britain, a strange new country, while harbouring a desire for revenge.

Their lives become entangled in a way that no one could have envisaged.

A story about war, family ties, love, loyalty and loss.


Author Bio

Catherine Byrne always wanted to be a writer. She began at the age of eight by drawing comic strips with added dialogue and later, as a teenager, graduated to poetry. Her professional life however, took a very different path. She first studied glass engraving with Caithness Glass where she worked for fourteen years. During that time she also worked as a foster parent. After the birth of her youngest child she changed direction, studying and becoming a chiropodist with her own private practice. At the same time she did all the administration work for her husband's two businesses, and this continued until the death of her husband in 2005. However she still maintained her love of writing, and has had several short stories published in women's magazines. Her main ambition was to write novels and she has now retired in order to write full time.

Born and brought up until the age of nine on the Island of Stroma, she heard many stories from her grandparents about the island life of a different generation. Her family moved to the mainland at a time when the island was being depopulated, although it took another ten years before the last family left.

An interest in geology, history and her strong ties to island life have influenced her choice of genre for her novels.

Since first attending the AGM of the Scottish Association of Writers in 1999, Catherine has won several prizes, commendations and has been short-listed both for short stories and chapters of her novels. In 2009, she won second prize in the general novel category for ‘Follow The Dove’

In 2016 The Road to Nowhere won second prize in the Barbara Hammond competition for Best Self Published novel. The follow up, Isa’s Daughter won 1st prize in the same competition the following year.

Although the books follow the fortunes of the same family, they are all stand-alone.

The fifth book in the Raumsey series is Mary Rosie’s War.

Catherine Byrne lives in Wick, Caithness.

Social Media Links 


Giveaway

1st Prize – all 4 of Catherine Byrne’s previous books in paperback .  

6 x Runners Up Prizes – PB copy of Broken Horizon  (UK Only)

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










Monday, 5 February 2018

Guest Post: Naneh V H

I'm joined on the blog today by fellow writer @Naneh_V_H. We met recently at a writing event, and I was struck by her heart wrenching journey to creative writing:

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A DIFFERENT ONE
Although I was born in the 70s, mine was nothing like your imagined, Western experience of the decade. My native country of Armenia, to the south-east of European frontiers, was part of the Soviet Union then. One good thing about it was that by virtue of association, I’d say domination, alongside my native, Armenian language, I also learnt Russian, the lingua franca of the empire, and grew up bilingual as a result.

I am proud of the fact that apart from reading centuries-old Armenian literature, I also studied Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Pushkin and Chekhov in the original. Being a bookish pupil, I wrote poems and essays in school - in Armenian and Russian - but I began writing in earnest as Arts and Culture Correspondent in the post-Soviet Armenian media; first, there was a newspaper, then TV and Radio, where I’d interview prominent artists, report daily on the arts and write scripts for travel, youth and music shows.

One ambition of mine then was to read Jayne Eyre in English. It would be decades till I could do that, years after the collapse of the USSR, following my move to the UK as a twenty-something year-old.
Considering that in addition to Armenian and Russian, I majored in Arabic at Yerevan State University, it could be said that English is my second or third foreign language. I love it - its agility and nuances - and I use it as a tool for understanding my experience of life.

The contemporary American writer Dani Shapiro once said that she didn’t have access to her thoughts unless and until she started writing, and I identify with that. Writing non-fiction, which I do, particularly short stories and memoir, I seek to sort through the upheavals that my generation or family have gone through.

And there is a lot to grasp! For example, it’s little-discussed these days, but the break-up of the Soviet Union, whilst inevitable and desirable, brought upheaval and chaos to ordinary people’s lives, who, on the one hand, had to overcome the trauma of having lived in a totalitarian country, and on the other hand, needed to adjust to the new political and economic reality. Many of those I grew up watching and loving didn’t make the transition and succumbed to a desperate existence.

On a personal level, through my writing I aim to voice my devastation about my four-year-old son’s sudden death and make sense of or find hope in life. In fact, it was following that crushing loss that I finally sat down to do creative writing in English. When Samuel died in his sleep, while I was pregnant with our daughter, my previous life disappeared overnight. As a way to cope with the tragedy, I began dedicating pieces to Sam and charting our years together, so I didn’t forget.

But anyone who knows anything about coping with a loss knows that how we deal with it is a lot to do with how we deal with life. So I began to expand into creating written tributes to other things I missed. I had been working in vibrant offices in Central London until then, feeling accepted in the sea of foreign faces, but all the while thinking of people back in my home country. So, I started interviewing fellow immigrants, writing and speaking about cross-cultural identity, including at Ignite Liverpool, in order to bring my past and present together. In recent years, I’ve also spoken at Nursery World Awards for the national charity Home-Start about child loss. These subjects have a lot in common: belonging, trauma and transformation.

I am a part-time Community Centre Manager, as well as a busy mum and wife. This year I am also working on my collection of autobiographical non-fiction, emboldened by terrific feedback from published authors and experiences agents. In it, I am documenting the personal stories of those people I grew up watching and loving. I was wrong: I hadn’t left them behind.  

Twitter: @Naneh_V_H

©Naneh V H, 2018

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Book Review: The Season For Love by M.W. Arnold



Rating:


Book Summary:


Believing she was responsible for the death of her husband, Chrissie Stewart retreats from all those who love her. A chance meeting with mysterious stranger, single-parent Josh Morgan and his bewitching young daughter Lizzy, breathe new life into her and gradually, she feels able to start to let go of the memory of her lost love. Unexpected links are revealed between the two families that strengthen the growing bonds she feels to this man and with the encouragement of her best friend Annie, herself hiding a hidden conflict from Chrissie, she battles with her demons to believe in her ability to trust and love again. Everything comes to a head on Christmas Day; which all goes to show that this is truly The Season for Love.

Review:


Congratulations to M.W. Arnold on his debut novel; The Season For Love.

There is a strong theme of love, loss and friendship running through the novel, which had me desperately hoping for Chrissie to find her way, after the heart-breaking loss of her husband causes her to sink into her own world of grief and guilt.

The Season For Love is full of heart wrenching plots, but cleverly combined into a wonderfully uplifting story. Chrissie learns no matter how bad things are or how cut off she feels, she is never really alone. That is something that I’m sure all of us need a little reminding of sometimes…

I love a book that surprises me, and The Season For Love certainly did that. I did not expect the fantastic plot twists! Well done M.W. Arnold.

Available from:





About the Author:


Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England, and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elisabeth II in the Royal Air Force, before putting down roots, and realising how much he missed the travel. This, he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and writing a regular post at the www.NovelKicks.co.uk blog site.

He’s the proud keeper of a cat bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys and enjoys the theatre and humouring his Manchester United supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, with the forthcoming publication of his debut novel The Season for Love.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MWArnoldAuthor/

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book Review: Summer In San Remo by Evonne Wareham

Rating:

Book Summary:

Cassie Travers is a strong, independent women who is determined to maintain control of everything in her life. However, life is never quite that straightforward. In order to get her out of one mess, Cassie ends up in another as she takes a job that causes her to be reliant on a man she vowed never to need again. To resolve her future, she must first resolve her past.

Review:

Summer in San Remo takes us on a captivating journey from the quaint streets of Bath to the stunning Riviera. The beautiful descriptions had me planning my next holiday destinations!

Cassie is a wonderful character; strong and capable, but hiding a vulnerable side that makes her doubt herself and always push herself harder to achieve success. Her curiosity is contagious and I found myself captivated by the mystery that she and her old flame Jake were on a quest to unravel.

I loved the fiery chemistry between Cassie and Jake. She might need his help, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to make things easy for him. Jake is the irresistible hero. He’s handsome, wealthy and seemingly eager to help Cassie, but can he be trusted?

Full of intrigue, secrets, lies and romance, I couldn’t put this book down.

Monday, 9 October 2017

A Book Launch & Obscure Loves

I'm so excited to tell you that Rhoda Baxter has a new book out today! I loved Girl on the Run and can't wait to read Rhoda's new novel; Girl in Trouble. 

Just to tempt you, here's the fabulous cover and book blurb:

Girl In Trouble blurb:
Grown up tomboy Olivia doesn't need a man to complete her. Judging by her absent father, men aren't that reliable anyway. She's got a successful career, good friends and can evict spiders from the bath herself, so she doesn't need to settle down, thanks.

Walter's ex is moving his daughter to America and Walter feels like he's losing his family. When his friend-with-benefits, Olivia, discovers she's pregnant by her douchebag ex, Walter sees the perfect chance to be part of a family with a woman he loves. But how can Walter persuade the most independent woman he's ever met to accept his help, let alone his heart?

Girl In Trouble is the third book in the award nominated Smart Girls series by Rhoda Baxter. If you like charming heroes, alpha heroines and sparkling dialogue, you'll love this series. Ideal for fans of Sarah Morgan, Lindsey Kelk or Meg Cabot's Boy books. Buy now and meet your new favourite heroine today.


Now for the challenge:

Walter thinks hydro-thermal vents are beautiful. Strangely no-one else shares his passion. Following on from this Rhoda asked what my obscure love is and why...

The answer is figure skating.


Now, I know on the surface it doesn't really seem all that obscure. After all, what little girl who'd read Noel Streatfeild's White Boots didn't grow up dreaming of learning to skate like Harriet? Or stare transfixed at the TV screen watching Torvill and Dean, and fall in love with the beauty, grace and fabulous costumes?

However, there are several factors that might not be be considered when you're sitting on a nice comfy sofa in the warm:



  1. Early mornings - Skating lessons tend to take place outside general public skating times. In my case this was 7am. On Saturday and Sunday!
  2. It's cold - I know that's an obvious one, but until you've spent two hours at a rink you don't appreciate just how cold it is.
  3. Falling over hurts - Think about it, you're landing on solid ice. It's hard. And despite how easy the professionals make it look, the reality is it took a lot of practice and falls to reach that standard.
  4. Toe picks - These are the spiky bits at the front of a figure skating blade. They're great for fancy footwork and helping you leap into the air for jumps. They're also great for tripping over (refer to 3 above).
  5. The chicken dance - You will undoubtedly see this move at your local rink. You must not laugh. Not until you've tried crossing your feet one behind the other and discovered that flapping your arms and bobbing your head, whilst utterly unhelpful, is apparently essential.
So, basically what I should have said at the start of this blog is: My obscure love is for giving up my weekend lie in to spend hours in the cold, with tiny bits of metal strapped to my feet, whilst attempting to defy logic by taking a literal leap of faith and jumping as high as I can on the assumption that this time I will land on the blade and not my head.

Hydro-thermal vents are suddenly looking far more appealing right now aren't they?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Heading Back To Fuerteventura

I know I haven't been home from my holiday very long, but I enjoyed it so much I've just booked a return trip. It's not until Christmas, so it feels a long way off yet. Mind you given the amount of Christmas stock I see sneaking onto the supermarket shelves, perhaps it will be here quicker than I think.

I'd started working on a new novel when I was away. I know I really should be finishing the edits on my current works in progress first, but what can I say, I was inspired. The words kept springing into my head and obviously I just had to write them down. I'm hoping to feel equally inspired on my return trip so I can find the ending for the novel. So if you think about it, this means that my return trip to Fuerteventura isn't really a holiday at all. It's all research. Every part of it, including sitting on the beach, paddling in the sea, lounging by the pool, exploring the local market and meeting new people. It's absolutely all research for the novel. Honest.