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:

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


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.


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 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.
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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book Review: Summer In San Remo by Evonne Wareham


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.


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.

Monday, 18 September 2017

My Favourite Writing Place

I’ve always loved the beach. There’s nothing like the feel of the sand between my toes and my hair blowing in the sea breeze. I have fond memories of my childhood summer holidays when we packed Dads tiny Peugeot 205 full of camping gear and headed to the seaside. The drive always seemed to take forever to get there and the tent felt too small with my whole family crammed in, but it was all worth it to spend long days building sandcastles and swimming in the sea.

My love of the beach hasn’t dismissed through the years, though my standard of accommodation has certainly changed. These days I prefer somewhere with indoor plumbing, a comfortable bed and a solid roof (instead of tents that leak or blow away in the middle of the night during a storm…)

Having just returned from the Barceló Fuerteventura Thalasso Spa Hotel I can safely say whilst I am never going back to camping again, I would love to return to the lovely Barceló. It was a truly wonderful holiday. The hotel was exceptionally clean, the poolside was lovely, spacious and with plenty of sun loungers for everyone.

I would like to say thank you to the wonderful, helpful, friendly staff who helped to make my holiday so enjoyable, particularly Binta, Carlos and Daniel. 

The Barceló was a perfect haven for me to edit my latest novel; a character led thriller. However, sitting on my sun lounger beside the pool basking in the sunshine, okay shade (I burn easily), seems a strange place to write something so dark. Then again, based on the looks I got as I sat scribbling in my notebook each day, I think the general consensus is it was a strange place to write anything at all. A few people asked if I was doing course work, but mostly they just stared. Who knew I was so interesting?

I guess whilst reading a novel by the pool is the norm, writing one isn’t. That said however, it might not be as unheard of as I first thought… Over the last couple of years I’ve met a lot of authors at conferences, events, and through social media, I had however never met one at a pool side before. It was lovely to meet K S Stanley and his wife, who ironically were sitting beside me. Author of The Holmbury County Seat War and The Siege of Morton's Cross, K S Stanley was also busy working on the edits for his latest novel.
Obviously there is something appealing about that particular corner of the pool area for writers. Or more specifically western writers with a keen interest for writing music and lyrics. It’s just goes to show the old adage about it being a small world is true. Or as K S Stanley put it; at all the pool sides in all the hotels in all the world…

Friday, 4 August 2017

Book Review: Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

Everything But The Truth was recommended to me on the basis that Gillian McAllister writes gripping stories with strong emotional character threads running through them. I wasn’t disappointed. Gillian has created rich, layered characters, who I couldn’t wait to read more about as I delved further into their world.

It was fascinating to follow Rachel as one email in the middle of the night causes her to question everything she knows about the man she loves. And love him she does. Through Gillian’s elegant writing style, Rachel’s voice was clear and her emotions were cleverly portrayed throughout in her explicit yet simple descriptions of what she liked and loved, as though Rachel was confiding in the reader as a friend.

Everything But The Truth is an excellent example of how even the smallest of lies can spiral out of control. This novel made me realise that the desire to protect the image that someone else holds of us, can lead to deceit. But one little lie or one simple omission can quickly grow into something more. One lie is never enough, and more and more lies grow around it to protect the original secret, until one tiny question pulls at the threads of even the strongest of relationships, and it all unravels.

It was absorbing to watch Rachel and the lengths she was prepared to go to in order to uncover the truth as she uncovers more and more lies. Throughout the novel, hints about Rachel’s own past helps the reader to understand her motivations and yet at the same time question whether her reactions might also be slightly hypocritical. The mystery isn’t just about what secrets Jack is keeping, but also what Rachel is hiding as well.

Seeing Rachel battle with memories from her past, desperate to escape from the work she loved, and yet unable to find herself without it, gave me an eye opening window into the world of medicine, albeit safety shielded behind an thick layer of double glazing. I knew doctors had it tough, I was aware of the long hours and the tough decisions, of course I was. But until I read this I never really knew. Of course, reading a book is nothing like experiencing it as a reality every day, but it gave me a new appreciation for what they do. I know I couldn't do it, and I'm in awe of those who do.

Overall, this was an exceptional debut. A gripping page turner, full of suspense, intrigue and characters who compel you to want to know more about them.