Do More in that Year

‘52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol. II’ by Mariëlle S. Smith

‘With this book by your side, anything feels possible.’ Jacqueline Brown

Tired of not having a sustainable writing practice? You, too, can get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be!

52 Weeks of Writing:

  • makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year;
  • helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be; and
  • keeps you writing through weekly thought-provoking quotes and prompts.

With this second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the same successful strategies to craft the perfect writing practice as she did in the first journal. The only difference? Fifty-three different writing quotes and prompts and a brand-new look!

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Bill Gates

I can’t stress this enough: I’m not a spiritual person. I was dubious about reviewing this publication because I’m also not a big believer in self-help books. There are an awful lot writing guides out there and I tend to find them full of opinions.

And we all know what opinions are like, don’t we? Everyone has got one.

My spirit sank lower when Mariëlle S. Smith mentioned yoga in her introduction. I like a good stretch as much as the next man but stretchy pants, meditation and wellness aren’t for me.

But then she pointed out they are not for her either and I began to see why this is a great purchase for people who struggle to get down on paper what they want to get down on paper.

Smith has that wonderful Dutch quality of giving it straight and without nonsense. What are your goals? What can you do to move it forward?

She also has a Facebook group, accessible for people who buy the book, to help keep us accountable. I’m investigating it now.

There is a story about the late comedy genius Peter Cooke. He used to say, “I met a man at a party. He said “I’m writing a novel” I said “Oh really? Neither am I.”

Well, with the straightforward accountability that ‘52 Weeks of Writing’ perhaps that old chestnut would not be as relevant any more.

Purchase Links

A printable PDF is available through: https://payhip.com/b/0YgJ Get 50% off until 31 March 2021 by using the coupon code 52WOW during checkout.

Author and writing coach, Mariëlle S. Smith

Author Bio –

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

Social Media Links –

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mariellessmith/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtnYOpjmj83mvMM2L348F1w

Exclusive extract from SR Wilsher’s novel, ‘Mint’

August 15th 1976

The daylight is ending as I return to the shop, the dregs of the sun in the top windows of the taller building opposite. I let myself in with the key handed back to me with my personal belongings yesterday. A brown-box time capsule, too big for my belongings. My watch, the keys, and a couple of pounds in loose change. I have the clothes I’m standing in, and my life in my pocket.

I’m surprised the key fits. My life had changed so little in prison, it left me imagining the rest of the world spinning away from me. In reality, not much has altered here either.

I expect an empty shop; the rolls of cloth sold, the buttons lost, the shop fittings looted. Brace myself for dust and dirt and the death of this place an equivalence of my mother. Instead, it manages to rescue what little light is hanging around at this hour to shine with the electric rainbow of brilliant material stacked with clashing disregard. From floor to ceiling, the shelves hold the history of her life here. She floated around the rest of the building like she didn’t quite fit, yet her feet anchored themselves here. She had lifted the rolls deftly without concern for their bulk, rolled and worked on the cutting table with swift confidence. When I was small, I liked to come here and sit on the stool behind the counter while the shop lived its life. Or I had until the teenage world called and I ceded the seat to Sam.

The wooden till drawer under the counter is empty.

The kitchen in the ground floor wing on the back of the building is small and basic. It exists behind the curtain of the shop theatre, and has therefore been accorded less attention. It had once been my favourite space, so much had gone on here. Long talks and raucous laughter. The cold, damp bathroom beyond the kitchen remains my least favourite place.

The cream enamel oven is a freestanding unit she bought on tick, cheerfully tripping to the Gas office once a month to make the hire purchase payment and get her book stamped. A rectangle of fifteen red quarry tiles is set on the floor in front of it. I’m better able to imagine the glass dish she once dropped and smashed than to picture her kneeling on the floor with her head inside trying to bring her life to an end. Any image of her refuses to form.

I fill the steel kettle from the cold tap hanging from the wall above the square sink and plug it in. The cutlery, crockery, and the coffee are in their place. There’s little in the fridge, and what’s there has turned. I empty the milk into the sink and the food into the bin.

I go upstairs to the other place we congregated, the small corner on the first-floor landing with the ragged sofa in front of the spindly-legged television. I recall her watching the old black and white whilst sitting amongst a mound of sewing. A newer colour television sits outside of her room in front of the now more-ragged sofa.

We had come and gone from here as a family, while the layout prevented us living as such.

Her bedroom is shadowed yellow from a sun at dusk sky, and I turn on the weak ceiling bulb. The room is unchanged. The familiar big flowered wallpaper, and the vaguely complementary pulled taut orange candlewick bedspread. The faded-lime carpet had been old when I was a child. A dress and a coat on hangars are hooked over the wardrobe door, open because it’s overfull. An emerald green dress lies across the foot of the bed, as if she selected it for her own laying out. The dressing table is as cluttered as I remembered. The room as if she stepped out moments ago.

The suitcase on top of her wardrobe contains the clothes I left behind. Only clothes. I told her to get rid of everything else. Fresh starts demand such decisions, and she promised. She understood my life hadn’t been one of sentiment.

Lara’s bedroom on the back of the house overlooks the neighbours’ shadowed rear yards. What’s left of the daylight helps make out the neat flower borders of the wool shop, and the stacked marble and granite of the Stonemason’s. Beyond, is an enclosed wasteland of tufted grass, mounded mud, and broken concrete. A dangerous playground, or potential money-spinner? The reason Freeman wants the shop.

On her bedside table an open book lies face down. Crossing the Water. On the plain white wall above the bed is pinned a film poster of The Exorcist. On the adjacent inner wall an Aladdin Sane poster partially covers a Bay City Rollers one. The shift from unembarrassed child to self-conscious teen. The single wardrobe holds some clothes. This room is less occupied than the other.

Her record player is on the floor beneath the window. Half a dozen albums lean against the wall, kept in place by a small tower of 45’s. On the turntable is a warped and dusty Chi-Lites single. I close the lid to prevent more dust spoiling the machine.

I don’t go into the windowless attic room, taking it all in from the doorway. I try not to see the small access door to the eaves, but I can’t not. It’s occupied my mind for too many years.

It’s Sam’s room now. With the ceiling too steeply pitched for a wardrobe, the furniture is a chest of drawers poorly painted in purple, and an unmade mattress on the floor. Above the dresser are a few ragged images badly torn from magazines; A Clockwork Orange, Slade, Roxy Music. The walls are time-spoiled white, the inner wall half painted in a deep red gloss. The manic brushstrokes peter out halfway to the door, as if whoever has ill-preparedly run out of paint, or grown bored with the effort. Either likely with Sam.

I choose Lara’s bed. The least poor choice. I like the block of darkness of the huge furniture store in the street beyond the open land. A high plain wall not unlike the outer bulwark of a prison. I appreciate the absence of noise. Freedom has vanquished the night shouts and the background hysterics of incensed men.

I leave the curtains, allowing the poor light from a small-town to channel across the backyards and into the room. I open the window onto the sultry night. The heady build of heat through a long dry summer has made rain a stranger, and I long for its return, ache for a refreshing downpour.

The empty drawers in Sam’s room, and the missing clothes from this one, suggests they’ve moved out. I presume the absence of life means they’re with their father.

I’d spent nine years among the vilest of men. Yet I’d never experienced the level of terror in prison that had been generated by the man I’d grown up with. A man worse than any of them. Coming home means facing him. I’ll go in the morning.

You can read a review of SR Wilsher’s novel ‘Mint’ here

Mint Condition

Thanks so much to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for her help as ever with this blog tour and please check out the sterling efforts of WhatCathyReadNext and Lisa at Coffee, Dogs & Books

MINT’ by SR Wilsher

This may change with so far to go!

It’s the summer of 1976, and after nine years in prison, James Minter is home to bury his mother.

A history of depression and a series of personal issues has seen her death ruled as suicide.

His refusal to accept that conclusion means he must confront his violent stepfather, deal with the gangster who wants his mother’s shop and, of course, face the family of the boy he killed.

But will his search for the truth in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small seaside town, and the unpicking of the peculiar relationship his mother had with the Stonemason next door, put his own life in danger.

SR Wilsher launces ‘Mint’ onto an unsuspecting public. It is interesting to me that Wilsher talks about how he will “never see any of his books on the shelves of bookshops” but, with writing of this quality, I’m surprised at his lack of optimism.

From the blurb and synopsis, you might be tempted to think that this is going to be a rough and tumble gangster epic. However, it is a much more subtle piece than that.

This is a tale of toxic masculinity and its consequences. It’s a tale of broken families and the impact that one punch can have on a life no matter how well meaning.

It is a very well put together tale with a narrative which skips between decades and narrators. This works very well and each character has a clearly differentiated voice of their own. However, this may be the factor which turns some readers off – you can’t relax with this spiralling story as old enmities bubble up and we learn what motives even the most unpleasant of people.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mint-S-R-Wilsher-ebook/dp/B08RZ5V3P8/ 

US – https://www.amazon.com/Mint-S-R-Wilsher-ebook/dp/B08RZ5V3P8/

Author Bio

I tend to divide my life in two. Prior to 2009, I did the long hours and the commitment to paying the mortgage, studying, and finishing the house, whilst trying to write in a way that didn’t impact too much on family and career. The reality was work affected my writing, and my writing prevented me ever committing to my job wholeheartedly.

In 2009, I had a kidney transplant. It took a while to undo the way I had lived before, my life still involved work, children, coffee and chocolate. But slowly I’ve stepped back from work and now spend much more of my time pleasing myself; writing, making furniture and creating art. I’m no better off financially, but I have been much more productive with my writing.

There was a time when I was rewriting the same book over and over in some attempt to second guess the rejections I received. Self-publishing has freed me to move on. Now I usually have two books on the go, one in development and one on its way to completion. 2020, however, being the year that it was, means I’ve been working on three.

I continue to be disappointed that I’ll never see any of my books on the shelves of any bookshop. But I console myself with the fact I’ll never see any of them in a charity shop either.

Gangsters and Geezers Keep it in the Family

Family – might be the death of you…

The Glass family business is crime, and they’re good at what they do. Vengeance took Luke Glass behind bars – but now he’s free and he’s never going back. Luke wants out of the gangster life – all he has to do is convince his family to let him go.

His brother holds the reins of the South London underworld in his brutal hands – nobody tells Danny Glass no and expects to live – not even DCI Oliver Stanford, bent copper and one of the Met’s rising stars. The way Danny sees it, his younger brother and sister Nina owe him everything. The price he demands is loyalty, and a war with their arch enemy gives him the leverage he needs to tie Luke to the family once more.

Luke can’t see a way out, until Danny commits a crime so terrible it can’t be forgiven. Love turns to hate when secrets are unearthed which pit brother against brother. Left with no choice but to choose a side, Nina holds the fate of the family in her hands.

In the Glass family, Owen Mullen has created a crime dynasty to rival the Richardsons and the Krays. Heart-pounding, jaw-dropping with non-stop action, Family is perfect for fans of Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers and Mandasue Heller.

The blog tour banner for Owen Mullen’s novel ‘Family’

“Family” is my first exposure to the work of Owen Mullen and, on this evidence, it won’t be my last trip to the world of the Glass family.

I’ve written elsewhere (and here) of how impressed I am by the work Boldwood Books are producing in the crime genre and Mullen is a very worthy addition to their stable of writers.

Here we have the crime family dynamic coming under strain as newly released Luke strains against the ties of his increasingly psychotic brother Danny while his Machiavellian sister Nina cooks up her own schemes.

So far, so ‘Lock Stock’. But what elevates this above the routine is the quality of the turns. It was Raymond Chandler who advised writers, “When in doubt, have a man with a gun come through the door (‘Trouble is My Business’) Mullen certainly likes to take advantage of this handy aphorism and there are geezers puffing into pubs with gats clapping like no ones business.

Author Owen Mullen

The real strength, however, lies in Mullen’s careful doling out of excitement. His protagonist, Luke, is an intelligent observer. His first person narration contrasts with the third person accounts throughout the rest of the tale. So we hear Luke’s thoughts, we hear his doubts, his fears, his rationalisations.

When the action explodes, it is over in seconds and gives a wide berth to the sort of sadistic, voyeurism of violence we experience in lesser writers.

Mullen is also no stranger to the odd Chandlerism. “I’d met him for less than thirty seconds and already would’ve liked to put his face up against a brick and throw a wall at it,” is Luke’s verdict on one shady character and this is worth the price of the novel alone.

We all know you can pick your friends, but not your family: however, I’d advise getting to know the Glass family very well and let Mullen propel you with his propulsive prose through the south London underworld.

Purchase Link – https://buff.ly/37rHomR

Author Bio –

When he was ten years old, Owen Mullen won a primary schools short story competition and didn’t write another word for four decades. One morning he announced he was going to write a book. He did. Since then he has written seven. Owen was born in Coatbridge, a few miles from Glasgow, where the Charlie Cameron stories take place, and where he ran a successful design and marketing business.

A late developer, he has a Masters degree from Strathclyde University which he got in his forties. In his earlier life he lived in London and worked as a musician and session singer. People tell him he enjoyed himself and he has no reason to doubt them.

The journey from rocker to writer has been a fascinating experience and the similarities between the music and book industries, never cease to amaze him. His passions are travel, food and Arsenal Football Club.

A gregarious recluse, he now splits his time between Scotland and the island of Crete, along with his wife, Christine.

Twitter https://twitter.com/OwenMullen6

Facebook https://m.facebook.com/OwenMullenAuthor

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/owenmullen6/

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCirKpr7Dzji0x-0teu2nhqw

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/owen-mullen

The Nicer the People, the Better the Network

‘Networking for Writers’ by Lizzie Chantree

The cover of Lizzie Chantree’s latest book, ‘Networking for Writers’

Are you swamped with book marketing and looking for a way to find new sales? Learn simple and effective networking techniques, to grow your readership and connect with other authors and book lovers, today!

Whether you are a new or experienced writer, self-published or traditionally published, this book will show you how to grow your readership and author network, through some of the most powerful of all marketing tools – word of mouth and recommendation. 

This book will show you:

How networking can help you sell more books.

Why author branding is important.

How networking hours work.

Specific Facebook groups for writers

How to utilise social media to grow your readership.

How not to waste valuable writing time.

How to make our marketing more effective.

Throughout ‘Networking for Writers’, we will explore running or attending book signings, hosting seminars, finding a writing buddy or mentor, author networking groups, social media planning and so much more.

This is a top class guide to every day, cost efficient marketing for those with a book to promote. Entrepreneur and author Lizzie Chantree has written a short, handy guide to marketing using basic tools at most people’s disposal.

This is a short work which makes it a perfect work for those who want to breezily navigate the world of online marketing. Chantree clearly has spent a lot of time getting to grips with the algorithms which drive a wide variety of social medias and she offers a sensible, manageable guide to help writers nurture engagement.

The picture shows a white mobile phone on desk next to an organiser. On the screen is the cover of the e-book edition of Chantree's book, 'Networking for Writers'

One of the nicest aspects of the book is Chantree’s belief, which comes through loud and clear, that networking is a two-way street and that those writers who engage with their readers regularly, politely and honestly, acting in good faith to help them, are those who will reap the most benefits. In an age of social media-driven hype powered by petty nastiness and clickbait bluster, it is really nice to have someone espousing the truth that nice people don’t finish last.

And Chantree is an engaging guide. She uses her own experiences – humbly bad as well as motivatingly good – to steer the reader through what they can do to put more copies of their books in readers’ hands.

There are just two caveats I would highlight for readers: firstly, I would have been interested to know how Chantree went about building a following before she had a book to promote. Secondly, if you are not a regular user of Facebook or Twitter I think this book might be a little challenging. That’s not a criticism per se, Chantree is very clear about the processes she chooses to write about, but if the thought of scheduled posts or you don’t know what RT stands for, this is advanced enough to bring you out in a cold sweat (I imagine).

Overall, a slim volume of sensible, cost-effective advice which can be read in one sitting or used as a handy reference book. As an aspiring novelist myself, I know where I will be turning when I have a book to promote.

Purchase Link – viewbook.at/NetworkingForWriters

Author and entreprenuer, Lizzie Chantree

Author Bio –

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000.

She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Visit her website at www.lizziechantree.com  or follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantree https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree .

Social Media Links –

Website: www.lizziechantree.com

Author page: https://www.viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7391757.Lizzie_Chantree

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzie_chantree/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/

FB Groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/647115202160536/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lizzie-chantree

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lizzie-chantree-03006425/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCop-RlAcGqggZG3JfE-Mw

Strong Foundations See Slow Horses Set For a Long Time in the Saddle

‘Slough House’ by Mick Herron

The cover of the latest Mick Herron novel, ‘Slough House’

‘Kill us? They’ve never needed to kill us,’ said Lamb. ‘I mean, look at us. What would be the point?’

A year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead from novichok poisoning, Diana Taverner is on the warpath. What seems a gutless response from the government has pushed the Service’s First Desk into mounting her own counter-offensive – but she’s had to make a deal with the devil first. And given that the devil in question is arch-manipulator Peter Judd, she could be about to lose control of everything she’s fought for.

Meanwhile, still reeling from recent losses, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold. Slough House has been wiped from Service records, and fatal accidents keep happening. No wonder Jackson Lamb’s crew are feeling paranoid. But have they actually been targeted?

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

I wasn’t having the best of weeks. A family member died of Covid and, you know, 2021 was about as far removed from the joy of 2020 as A to B.

To compound my joy, I was revisiting an old novel I had begun years ago to see if there was anything there.

There wasn’t. I gave up. Then I opened ‘Slough House’.

This confirmed two things for me: I have the same talent in my entire body as Mick Herron has in a clipped toenail and I should abandon writing prose forever. Immediately.

And that good writing – the really good, exceptionally paced, the stuff described and as winningly put together as this, will offer an escape from grief and lack of talent in a way we should cling to like a life raft.

Because, by God, he’s good.

It didn’t take long for me to be laughing – not something I expected on that day, I don’t mind admitting.

‘Slough House’ begins, after the Prologue, with the traditional disembodied guided tour of our favourite, dilapidated office building. It’s been a wind, a cat and now it’s a rat – sorry, an estate agent, (even worse.)

“Authentic period detail there, and the seventies is a decade that’s coming back, isn’t it, what with the riots, the recession, the racism – ha! Our little joke. But no, really.”

When we lost the Maestro at the fag end of last year, Herron’s name came up quite a bit. I’ve had my say on Le Carré elsewhere and my abiding love for the work but one of the irritations I find is the constant repetition in some circles citing Herron as the new Le Carré.

He isn’t.

He’s the current Herron and we better embrace him now because he’s to be savoured and enjoyed while he’s on the go.

Author Mick Herron poses alongside Lamb’s Passage. Not somewhere the Slow Horses would want to be…

Le Carré, Lord knows no stranger to anger at politicians or lacking cynicism, never wrote a sentence like This was the spook trade, and when things went awry on Spook Street, they generally went the full Chris Grayling.”

But you just know he’d have liked to.

He’s not the new Le Carré, despite the terminology of his own making and the Connie-like Molly in the Archives. He’s the current Herron and we better embrace him now because he’s to be savoured.

I say “savoured” but I’m, well, lying.

I last read one of the Slow Horse novels, ‘Joe Country’, in May 2019 and I should have done my due diligence before starting this one.

But I’m a glutton for Herron and so I had to sheepishly beg Slow Horse expert – owner of honeyed tones and producer of Slough House podcast ‘Barbican Station’ extraordinaire, Jeff Quest- to remind me who had died and how because I’d lost track.

In my defence, prose like:

‘But she deserved to die. Even Gandhi would admit that.’

‘Did it never occur to you that for a supposed backwater of the Security Service, we suffer a lot of fatalities?’

‘I’ve always assumed that was down to public demand.’

Prose like that is so good it needs to be gulped down.

And so what does this instalment of the series bring? Sort of everything you want. Jackson Lamb is still a big man with a foul mouth and an odd imperviousness to HR complaints.

Di Tavernier is exactly as evil as you hope. Peter Judd is as duplicitous, sleazy and so toned down compared to real world politicians he’s almost preferable.

Satire? “The paths to power of current world leaders – paths including conspiracy to assault, knee-jerk racism, indeterminate fecundity and cheating at golf – were so askew from the traditional routes that only an idiot would have dared forecast future developments.” Check.

This time, it’s not just Slough House which has come to life. Even the other buildings in the area are personified and living in petrified fear. “Down here, a few timid retail premises huddled; the kind that looked like they’d not survive ten minutes in the open air.”

Mick Herron is about to go stratospheric. He’s already part of a dominating duopoly of the finest spy writers around alongside Charles Cumming.  In my opinion, they will soon to be joined by Simon Conway, whose novel The Stranger’ was hands down the best novel I read in 2020 (including Cumming’s exceptionally strong ‘Box 88’)

Gary Oldman in costume as Jackson Lamb as reported by the Daily Mail

But as soon as Gary Oldman dons the dirty mac of Lamb for Apple TVs adaptation, he’s going to reach a new audience. With that will come the petty jealousies, the hatchet the reviews, the constant nagging that he’s not as good as he was.

Well, if this novel proves anything, it is that he is. At one stage, the narrator says: “‘Make it, don’t fake it’ was Channel Go’s mission statement, unless it was its mantra, or its logo. But its general thrust was to encourage choleric rage in its viewers, so, if nothing else, Cantor had tapped into the spirit of the times.”

As had Cantor, so too has Herron. And long may he continue to do so.

‘Slough House’ is available for purchase from 4th February 2021 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1529378664/ref=bseries_primary_0_1529378664

Dasher, Dancer, Donner and Dachshunds

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay’ by Nicola May

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

The cover of Nicola May’s latest novel, ‘Christmas in Cockleberry Bay’

I am new to the world of Cockleberry Bay. To be entirely honest, I was enticed in by dachshund. And the murder mystery. Always like a bit of cosy crime.

This is the fourth novel in the series and I can see why Nicola May has proved so popular. Honestly, I was expecting the glow of small, English country life. 

I was expecting characters who are mainly well intentioned and who struggle through their various travails with fortitude and the support of their friends and family. 

What I wasn’t expecting was how funny the novel was going to be.

May really has a nice line in coarse humour. I especially enjoyed Rosa dealing with Davina in the shop: “’There are some sparklers for Fireworks Night too, if you’re interested,’ she added, wishing she could light one and stick it up the rude cow’s arse.”

Additionally, Titch falling asleep on the toilet, heavily pregnant with her head on her bump, knickers around her ankles, is a delight of light touch comedy.

However, this is not the only form of comedy May extracts from her cast of characters. There’s an absurd, black comedy present too. Especially around the undertakers. I especially enjoyed the man mountain, former rugby player bawling like a baby and riling against his mother’s death atop her gardener. “’A tradesman! Young enough to be her grandson! The shame!’ He hugged himself in torment.”

What ‘Christmas in Cockleberry Bay’ really does best, however, is leave you warmed right through like a hot chocolate with marshmallows on a December day.

If you enjoy festive movies with dustings of romance, humour and dachshunds, then this is the Christmas novel for you.

#CICB 

Purchase Links

Kindle – UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08JHJKLQF/

Kindle – .com – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JHJKLQF/

Paperback  – http://eye-books.com/books/christmas-in-cocklberry-bay

Author Bio – 

Nicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year. 

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Follow Nicola May

Website – www.nicolamay.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/NicolaMayAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/nicolamay1 

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/author_nicola/

Blood on the Streets of Scotland – Blood of Brothers

Blood Brothers by Heather Atkinson

When you’re running the streets, loyalty is everything…

Gangs rule the streets of the rough Gallowburn Estate in Glasgow, but the deepest rivalry of all is between Jamie Gray and his friends, known as the Blood Brothers, and their enemies, the Lawsons.

The two gangs clash frequently, but when a phone containing incriminating evidence disappears after a particularly brutal run-in, the stakes are higher than ever.

Jamie’s mother Jackie is as hard as nails and is not going to let anyone hurt her boy – even if she has to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in. What she wants more than anything though, is to see Jamie turn his back on the street life. And when he meets spoilt rich-girl Allegra, who has a penchant for shoplifting, Jackie thinks she could be Jamie’s way out.

But with the Lawsons closing in, and everyone taking sides, there is only one way out for Jamie, and to triumph he must take out his biggest enemy…

If you love Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers, and Jessie Keane, you’ll love Heather Atkinson. Discover the bestselling author Heather Atkinson, her crackling plots, unforgettable characters and page-turning pace and you’ll never look back…

I’ve lived in Scotland over 20 years now. It is a country which has changed immensely in the near quarter of a century since I first arrived.

Additionally, I have lived in isolated rural splendour of tourist trap mountains and charming wee fishing villages as well as in crowded, post-industrial towns where men are hard and drugs rife.

It is a country of contrasts.

The area Heather Atkinson is writing about here – Gallowburn – is fictional. Except, it isn’t. it’s an amalgamation of a whole bunch of places most Scottish readers can piece together without too much difficulty.

Atkinson clearly has an unpatronising affection for her street level protagonists. The characters are rendered as fully rounded humans with clear motivations and driving ambitions.

She also is an accomplished writer of dialogue. Having published over 50 novels, it would appear that she is well attuned to her surroundings, picking up the language of the Scheme and playing it back to readers to create an atmosphere of intense verisimilitude.

Even as her protagonists are sucked further into their worlds of violence and chaos, Heather Atkinson keeps them grounded as the plot runs away outwith their control to the natural end of violence. It is a climax moving, horrifying, engaging and entertaining.

Boldwood Books are an interesting independent publisher who have selected some exciting authors to work with (Alex Coombs, who I enjoyed immeasurably for one) https://pajnewman.com/2020/09/24/missing-for-good-by-alex-coombs/

With authors of the quality of coombs and Atkinson, they will be well worth following in future.

Purchase Link –  https://amzn.to/32GYs5H

Author Bio –

Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre. Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. Her new gangland series for Boldwood, set on the fictional Gallowburn estate in Glasgow begins with Blood Brothers which will be published in December 2020.

Social Media Links –

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

Website https://www.heatheratkinsonbooks.com/

Twitter @ https://twitter.com/HeatherAtkinso1

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heathercrimeauthor/

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-atkinson

Only a Glimmer of Hope amongst the lives of these economic units

‘Glimmer of Hope’ by JA Andrews

Sometimes chasing a dream can become a nightmare…

Alecia Preen is living in poverty and desperate to make a better life for herself. Having moved to a new area for new beginnings after being disowned by her family, money was fast running out. She is struggling to make ends meet.

With the intention of charging lonely men online for her services, Alecia realises she can supplement her income by being unscrupulous. In meeting Jake Parker he requests that she role-plays as a psychiatrist, but he makes her aware of an underground millionaires playground called Sordida. He warns her to stay away.

As Alecia’s curiosity gets the better of her, she is amazed by the wealth and decadence on offer. Sordida is not the club she had anticipated because behind the legendary name lurks a very dark secret. A secret that could cost her everything.

He pays by the hour and Alecia pays in ways she had never imagined.

The cover of JA Andrew’s novella, ‘Glimmer of Hope’

JA Andrews has written a novella which is interesting in tone and style. In an author’s note post-script, Andrews explains that this is an expanded and enhanced version of a shorter, earlier work.

Sometimes this shows in the text, other times it is well hidden. Andrews cites it as a cross between ‘50 Shades of Gray’ and ‘Hostel’ and the mix of erotica and mild horror are certainly visible in the DNA of the text.

The story of a young girl sucked into the world of prostitution and, eventually, the sordid but supposedly “glamorous” world of the aptly named Sordida is as depressing as one might expect.

Little play is made of the fact that this is a northern girl, transported to the south with no friends or family for emotional support.

Conversely, great play is made of her desperation for money and people are used and seen as currency in this world of flashy lingerie and limos. The people are economic units to be played with, discarded and used.

However, what Andrews really manages is to draw his readers into a spiralling world of desperation and horror as the plot plays out at breathtaking speed and the nail-biting conclusion, the reversals of fortune and the ever mounting tension make it a very handy afternoon read.

Just don’t read it alone at night if you’re of a squeamish disposition.

Author JA Andrews

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08L9JR183/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L9JR183/

Author Bio –

JA Andrews is the author of gripping twisty psychological thrillers. Mummy’s Boy, and You Let Him In, are his full length novels, while Glimmer of Hope is a shorter story as a Kindle exclusive.  As well as writing fiction, JA Andrews enjoys reading a mix of genres, watching various reality TV and spending time with family and friends.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @JasonA1980

Beverley Learns to Type

EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT FROM MINE by Alison Knight

You can read a review of ‘Mine’ by Alison Knight here: https://pajnewman.com/?p=497

In this scene, Jack comes home from work to find his teenage daughter, Beverley, teaching herself to type. She’s an unmarried mother to baby Kerry and is already finding full-time parenting difficult. She decides to look for a job. After all, her mother goes out at work, so why can’t she?

On Friday afternoon, Jack let himself into the house and whistled. The only response was a soft tap-tapping from the kitchen. 

            He walked down the passage and opened the door. Bev was sitting at the kitchen table with Lily’s old typewriter, a book open beside her. She was looking at the book and typing, a frown of concentration on her face.

            “Hallo, love.”

            She jumped a mile.

            “Shit!” she yelped. “Don’t do that!”

            “What? Walk into me own kitchen? What you doing?”

            “Baking a cake, what does it look like?”

            “Then you’re a lousy cook,” he grinned.

            Bev giggled. Jack knew she could never resist her old dad’s jokes.

            “Any danger of a cuppa?”

            She rolled her eyes and got up to put the kettle on.

            “Where’s the baby?”

            “Upstairs in her cot. She finally decided she was tired.”

            He walked round the table and looked at the paper in the machine.

            The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick btrim

            “What’s a b-t-r-i-m?”

            “It’s an old man what sneaks up on you.”

            “Ah, I thought so.” He sat down. “So, you’re learning to type?”

            “Yeah. I’m using Mum’s old book. It’s easy. Or it was till you scared the living daylights out of me.”

            He held up his hands. “Sorry, love. So, how long’s this been going on?”

            She shrugged. “Not long. I got bored, so thought I might as well do something useful.”

            “Something useful, eh? Like doing some housework to help your mum out?”

            She leant against the sink and gave him a look, just like Lily. What was it about his girls and those stroppy looks?

“Something useful for me,” she said. “So I can get a job.”

            He frowned. “There’s plenty of time for that. You’ve got Kerry to think of first.”

            Bev huffed and turned away, spooning tea into the pot, muttering to herself.