Five on Friday with Mary Grand @authormaryg

Today I’m delighted to introduce author Mary Grand. I’ve known Mary since I reviewed her second book Hidden Chapters (you can read my review in the book link). Mary writes with heart, about family dramas, problems and relationships, and this post serves as a reminder to me, to catch up with her other books (which like so many, are sitting here waiting to be read). Hopefully you’ll be encouraged to take a look at her books and be a bit quicker about reading them, than I’ve been.

 

Mary Grand

Author bio:

I was born in Cardiff and retain a deep love for my Welsh roots. After teaching Deaf children I moved to the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I now write full time. I have two grown up children.

My novels can be described as dark family dramas. My aim is also to write accessible, gripping stories, so there are strong elements of mystery and secrets to be uncovered. I do extensive research for my novels as within the novels I explore difficult subjects such as addiction and abusive relationships

‘Free to Be Tegan’ was my debut novel and was inspired by my experiences growing up in a religious sect. The second novel ‘Hidden Chapters’ is about motherhood adoption and family secrets. I set my third novel on Mottistone Down here on the Isle of Wight, and the title of that is ‘Behind the Smile’. I have also published two books of short stories ‘Catching the Light’ and ‘Making Changes’. ‘Catching the Light’ is also available as an audiobook. I am working on novel number four, again set here on the Isle of Wight. To date I am a self-published, Indie author.

So over to Mary:-

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why.

 

At Seventeen by Janis Ian. Janis Ian said this song was terrifying write; she was completely honest and spoke from her heart. I am so grateful she found the courage to write it. This song puts into words the insecurities I experienced in my teens and made me feel I wasn’t alone.

Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. I went to college having had a very sheltered upbringing in a religious sect. I had never been to a disco and so dancing on a Friday night to Stayin’ Alive had to be one of my highlights…of course with all the John Travolta moves!

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves sung by Annie Lennox. In my late twenties and early thirties, I slowly grew in confidence. Dancing to this in my bedsit was just the best.

Thank You For The Days by Kirsty MacColl. I am sixty years this year, it sounds a lot older than I feel. My children are now in their twenties and I treasure every memory of them growing up. I feel very grateful that we all get on well, and still enjoy being together.

Look What They’ve Done To My Song by Melanie. There is a line in this song about longing to find a good book to live in. I didn’t come to writing until my fifties but the fact this song and this line in particular has been with me since my early teens, may explain why, now I am writing, I finally feel like I have come home.

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

 

Pepper, my cocker spaniel. Working days start with a walk together, breakfast, and then he sits next to me while I write. When he thinks it’s time for a break, he puts his head on my laptop (I have learned to save my work frequently!).

 

Walks on Mottistone downs. Whatever the weather, most mornings I am lucky enough to walk up there with Pepper. I am usually thinking about writing or what I shall eat for lunch.

Coffee. Many cups a day.

Reading. I read different books depending on my mood. Recently I have been reading a lot of very good and gripping psychological dramas but felt in need of a brief change. So, at the moment, I am reading a very funny book by James Acaster which I kept embarrassingly laughing out loud to on the plane.

Television. I enjoy crime series like Vera and Happy Valley, also psychological dramas like Doctor Foster and Killing Eve. I also love to laugh and enjoy programmes like Veep, Modern Family, and Outnumbered.

 

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

No one has the right to bully and frighten you.

Being chatty, laughing loudly and having opinions is fine.

It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to make mistakes, it’s ok not be the best.

Stop worrying all the time about how you look.

Learn to say no.

 

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

 

I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Cardiff Castle (my uncle was a gatekeeper) and I used to play hide and seek in the gold room on rainy days.

When I taught in London, I lived in a council flat that was broken in to. The council put up a thin wooden plank for a door which stayed there for weeks, oh the things you don’t tell you parents in your early twenties!

I taught Deaf children and have passed my initial exams in British Sign Language.

I saw a therapist for help with my anxiety and hypervigilance.

My father had tea with Agatha Christie. I owned about thirty of her books, gave them away and have now replaced them.

 

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

 

Go on a tutored writing retreat.

Learn self-defence.

Learn pottery.

Go to a small but exclusive hotel in France for Christmas.

Go to New Zealand.

 

Thanks so much for joining us today Mary,  it was lovely to find out more about you. Pepper looks adorable and walking on the downs sounds idyllic. I’m envious of your connection to Cardiff Castle, it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit because of its William Burges interiors I’m sure it’s got a fabulous history too, but that decor – wow. I suspect your Agatha Christie story is hard to beat as well. I really hope you get to achieve some (if not all of your bucket list) but with luck you’ll never need the self-defence.

 

Mary’s Books  

 

Behind the SmileBehind the Smile

Lowri is pregnant, looking forward to a new life with her lover, Simon. But her plans are shattered. She finds herself alone, her face scarred, her future uncertain
Her estranged husband, Jack, proposes they “settle” for each other, and raise Lowri’s unborn child on the Isle of Wight, in the idyllic village of Elmstone.
Lowri is befriended by Carina, the beautiful Italian woman living in Elmstone Manor, and Heather, the popular local café proprietor. However, she soon discovers that no-one is the person they appear.
What dark secrets is Heather hiding from her family and from the village?
Why is Carina desperate for Lowri to fail in her new life and prepared to go to increasingly desperate lengths to destroy her?
As she confronts her own insecurities, and faces another devastating loss, will Lowri find the courage to be proud of the person she is hiding behind the smile? Will she find true love amid the confusion and intrigue?

 

Hidden ChaptersHidden Chapters (my review here)

Catrin survives by denying her past. Her marriage is in crisis. She has devoted herself for eighteen years to bringing up her adopted Deaf daughter, Bethan. She is unaware that her life is about to be shattered by the appearance of the woman she has been told is dead, Bethan’s birth mother, Elizabeth. Catrin is devastated. How will Bethan react? Why has Elizabeth hidden away all these years?
Slowly and painfully, Catrin is forced to examine the web of lies and secrets from her past, the unexplained death of her ‘golden brother’, the truths about her alcoholic mother and the relationships she has now with her father and husband.
Hidden Chapters is an optimistic novel about the hope and the courage each of us can find within ourselves to own our past and take control of the next chapter of our lives. 

 

Free to be TeganFree to be Tegan

Tegan, aged twenty seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and from the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and naïve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains.

Guilt and shadows from her past haunt her in flashbacks, panic attacks and a fear of the dark. However she also finds a world full of colour, love and happiness she has never known before. The wild beauty of the hills, the people she meets and the secrets slowly revealed by the cottage all provide an intriguing backdrop to Tegan’s drama.

This is the uplifting story of her journey from life in a cult to find herself and flourish in a world she has been taught to fear and abhor.

 

Making ChangesMaking Changes

Four stories, four women making changes that will alter their lives for ever.

Give and Take
Days before her wedding, hairdresser Lisa has a huge row with her fiancé. He tells her she is over-reacting, so why does Lisa feel devastated? As Lisa listens to the two sides of a couple’s marital problems in the salon, she begins to find answers.

The Key
Looking at the remains of the fire in her beautiful new kitchen, Ruth is very frightened and confused. Since moving with her new husband to Worthing nothing in her life makes sense. What is happening to her?

The Right Shoes
After a devastating family tragedy, Emma moved with her minister husband and daughter to the run down seaside resort of Ruxton. She refuses to talk to anyone about it: no-one will understand. Can a new friendship and a new puppy help Emma and her family heal and make a fresh start?

Holly’s Perfect Christmas?
Holly plans her dream Christmas at an idyllic cottage in Snowdonia. However her partner’s difficult teenage daughter, ex-wife and new husband join them and then the spiteful anonymous texts start to arrive. Can Holly still have her perfect Christmas?

 

Catching the LightCatching the Light

Four women, four compelling short stories.

The New Arrival
Rachel has moved to the Isle of Wight determined to become invisible. Hiding a shameful secret she cultivates a ‘cold polite smile as effective as an electric fence.’ However, unexpectedly, into her life comes a loving, crazy, individual: Lottie the cocker spaniel. Everything is about to change.

Catching the Light
Erin thinks she has found her fairytale prince. However, the honeymoon in a remote cottage in Wales shatters the dream. For the first time in her life Erin discovers the mystical world of fairies.

Belonging
Megan works in a Theatre for the Deaf. She is Deaf. Her language is British Sign Language. One evening she meets John, who is hearing, and two worlds collide. This is the story of the struggles, joys and tears of their remarkable relationship.

The Outing
This was to be the most important day of Kay’s life. However her mission to be free from years of guilt reveals so much more than she could possibly imagine.

Also included is an excerpt from the author’s full length novel ‘Free to Be Tegan’. 
Tegan, aged twenty seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and naïve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains.

 

You can keep in touch with Mary via social media and her website.

Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Website

 

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Five on Friday with Ian Wilfred @Ianwilfred39

Today I’m delighted to introduce romantic novelist Ian Wilfred who I applaud for breaking the stereotype of  a typical ‘romance’ writer. I know that there are other male romance writers, but not all bravely publish under their real name/gender. I ‘met’ Ian on Twitter where he is always supportive and friendly and it would be lovely to say hello in real life at some stage. I will admit to being more than a little bit in love with his dog Lottie (before I discovered Jack Russells I always wanted a Westie).

Ian Wilfred

 

Author Bio:-

Ian Wilfred is 50+ but in his head he will always be 39. He lives on the Norfolk Coast with his husband and West Highland terrier and is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association.

Ian’s debut novel ‘Putting Right The Past’ was published in 2013 and is set on the island of Tenerife. In 2017 he published ‘The Little Terrace Of Friendships’ followed by ‘Secrets We Left In Greece’ in 2018.

In 2019, Ian returned to the Greek island of Holkamos for his new book ‘My Perfect Summer In Greece’.

So over to Ian:-

 

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

Lulu – Independence. I remember this song from holidays in the Canary Islands and it always brings back happy memories. I’m also a huge Lulu fan, she was the first really famous singer I saw in concert back in the early seventies.

Gladys Knight – The One and Only. There’s not a song I dislike by Gladys so I had to choose one and this one was sung at mine and the husband’s wedding – very special.

Shirley Bassey – The Performance Of My Life.  Another fabulous diva and this comes from one of her last albums, which is one of my cooking too albums. A glass of wine preparing dinner and Shirley blasting out is the perfect end to the day.

Kylie – I Should Be So Lucky. Not the original version but the slowed down, cut back, acoustic one – something else we chose for the wedding. That said, there are so many Kylie tracks I could have chosen for you.

Bette Midler – From A Distance. Another fabulous lady and so many songs to choose from but the words to this song are very special.

As you can see I do love my divas with perfect songs for what ever mood I’m in.

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

 

Top of the list has to be Lottie, my Westie. As a kid I was never allowed a dog but when we moved to the Norfolk coast it was the first thing on my wish list. I would not be without her, she’s very precious.

The beach – we are very lucky, we only live a five-minute walk from the beach so apart from days when it’s raining I walk on it every day with the dog and count my blessings every day.

Cheese – what better food is there than cheese? You can keep chocolate and sweets just give me a pound of cheese and a jar of full fat mayo and I’m in heaven. The law in our house is, if there is cheese in the fridge it has to be eaten!

Books – I love my books and I expect everyone who reads your blog understands why. A life without books would be tragic.

Twitter –  well my name is Ian and I’m addicted to Twitter!  But I do set myself some rules. I don’t get involved with religion or politics, and never get into arguments. In my Twitter world everything is happy  – not enough hours in the day for negativity.

 

 Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

What would I have told a younger me this is difficult:-

Not to take life so seriously.

Have a bit more confidence.

Make sure to have a good work life balance.

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Step outside your comfort zone.

 

 Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

 

In my two Greek books set on the island of Holkamos (which is a made up island), when you read the place and descriptions of the island they are very, very similar to Parga.

I once lived and worked on Jersey, in the Channel Islands.

I worked in a hotel in the UK that had dozens of actors staying most nights – if only those hotel rooms could talk! Though I did know some of their secrets.

The older I get the less TV I watch. I can’t watch anything with shouting, arguing or fighting  – in my world everything is a song and a dance.

Before I go to sleep I have an imaginary list that I have to check off in my head. I move  things that haven’t been done on to the following day’s list. I do get teased about this from family and friends.

 

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

 

I don’t really have a bucket list. I suppose the big thing was to move to the coast which we did five years ago, but,  if I had an endless pot of money to keep spending:-

I would love to charter a huge ship for family and friends and spend a long summer sailing around the beautiful Greek Islands. Sunshine, fabulous food, lots of laughs and a smashing tan

Also it would be lovely to have a nice house on a Greek island, with a sea view of course.

Something else that would be rather nice if money was in great supply would be to fly around the world to see all the big divas performing live on stage Barbara Streisand,  Celine Dion, Bette Midler, and Diana Ross.  I could go on and on.

 

Thank you so much for letting me be on Five on Friday Jill.  I think to sum me up is quite simple, I love to walk the dog on the beach, eat vast amounts of cheese and love listening to all the big divas sing. Add some red wine to that and Mr Wilfred is in a very happy place.

 

Thanks so much for joining us Ian, it’s been great discovering more about you. Your avoidance of conflict and love of life just confirms what a kind person you are. The world would be a much better place, if more people were the same. Here’s hoping you one day come into money so you get the chance to see your divas or move to Greece. On the other hand, I suspect you’d still be quite happy with your family and friends, books, Lottie and a nice hunk of cheese. 

Ian’s Books

(Click on the image for a non-affiliated buying link) 

 

My Perfect Summer in GreeceMy Perfect Summer in Greece

Family Friendships and New Beginnings.Cheryl is excited her sister Julie has asked for her help in organising her wedding but things aren’t turning out the way Cheryl had hoped. There’s going to be no little village church and no bridesmaids dress; the wedding is taking place on the Greek island of Holkamos.Vangelis has the perfect beach location for a wedding but his little beach cafe has never catered for weddings before. Will he be able to cope with all of Julie’s demands?Andréas has moved back to Holkamos to help run the family gift shop after the death of his father. The business has to move with the times but will his mum allow things to change?Johnny is Cheryl’s best friend. He doesn’t like the way Julie treats her and has a plan to put things right but is it the right thing for Cheryl and what happens when they both arrive on the Greek island. Could it become more than just a weekend wedding for Cheryl and Johnny?

 

Secrets We Left In GreeceSecrets We Left in Greece

Treasured memories and hidden secrets follow three generations returning to their favourite holiday destination – the beautiful Greek island of Holkamos – after a long absence.

Every year, Miriam, her daughter, Heather, and young granddaughter Amy would spend the long summer holidays enjoying the picturesque scenery, visiting local landmarks and integrating with the local community. However, life had moved on, and now with Amy having grown up, married and set up her own business, Miriam suddenly decided to take her family back to this idyllic holiday location.

This news brought back poignant memories for all three of them. Thoughts of love and romance combined with dilemmas, choices and a cocktail of emotions would force life to never be quite the same again.

Is it always wise to revisit memorable locations? Should the past remain in the past?

Learn how Miriam, Heather and Amy all confront their secret fears.

Discover whether previous friendships and relationships stand the test of time.

Add in the intriguing stories of newcomers whose lives intertwine with the family trio. and how events of the past, present and future merge to form unexpected outcomes..

 

Goodbye, No More ExcusesGoodbye, No More Excuses

Caroline and Paul had been married for 20 years. Although they loved each other as much as the day they first met, their relationship had run into problems and Caroline knew she couldn’t continue with it any longer.

Leo is Caroline’s flamboyant gay friend who helps her to make a new start. Before long they become the talk of Norfolk and the hot new people to know.

Paul is devastated to lose Caroline and knows that if he wants to win her back he must change certain things in his life.

When John, George and Ringo enter their lives it’s not just their careers that are on the up, but romance also comes knocking at the door.

 

A Secret Visitor to Saltmarsh QuayA Secret Visitor to Saltmarsh Quay

A warm welcome to Saltmarsh Quay!

Devel Devonshire is a famous Hollywood actress and has been for forty plus years. Recently life started to change for her. Why is she in England, hiding at Saltmarsh Quay, and what is her big secret?

David was recently divorced from his wife, who left him for one of his best friends. He should be sad but he isn’t as he has another love in his life; the five star hotel he manages in Norfolk.

Saltmarsh Cliff is one of the top Hotels in Norfolk but life for the staff and the hotel is going to change forever. Or is it?

One actress
One hotel
Two secrets

 

Putting Right The PastPutting Right the Past

Carole Harding is in her 50s. She divorced her husband after he cheated on her with a prostitute. She hated her life – working in a Bristol supermarket – and the only exciting thing she’d done was to go on holiday (to Scotland in a caravan).

Then she inherited 2 million pounds.

Now she lives in an apartment in a plush complex in Tenerife, but it seems all her neighbours have problems and Carole finds herself helping to change their lives…

Nadean is the actress who hit the headlines and had to go into hiding; Victoria, a model, why did her family turn against her? Hamilton spent his life traveling the world, earning so much money, but was so lonely; Riley gave up everything for love… Then there are Peter and Paul, who only seem to be happy when having a crisis and Jeremy – who has secrets from his wife and from the law.

As Carole gets involved with the lives of her neighbours, she blossoms into the woman she’d always longed to be… when she meets Robson, can Carole make the biggest transformation of her life?

 

The Little Terrace of FriendshipsThe Little Terrace of Friendships

Maggie Hosking is in her early sixties, and she lived in Devon with a husband who never worked and took her for granted. But now Maggie is going to have an adventure of a lifetime taking her to London, New York and Martha’s Vineyard.

All her working life Maggie has been a cleaner in hotels and private homes. Maggie cleaned for actress Helen Heacham’s parents until their deaths, when Helen moved Maggie up to London to take care of her home. Helen lives in a beautiful terrace in Kensington along with famous and not so famous neighbours. Actors, writers, models and businessmen; they all seem to need a cleaner and that’s when Maggie’s adventure starts.

It’s not just Maggie’s life that’s changing but big things are happening for the other residents in the terrace; success, romance and fraud, but most of all friendship.

 

You can keep up to date with Ian via Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Annual Bloggers Bash Awards 2019 voting is open.

I was lucky enough to be nominated again this year and feel very honoured. The change in categories means that all book bloggers are now in one category. As we only had one nomination each, it also means that many wonderful bloggers may have missed out. I know you’ll all have your favourite book blogs, and because we are all ‘battling’ it out between each other, it will make it harder for voters to choose. However, if anyone feels they could vote for me it would be very much appreciated.
The link at the end will take you through to the voting page. The best Book/Review Blog is down at the end of the list and you just scroll down to find Jill’s Book Cafe.
Good luck to all the nominees, in all categories. I know that for me, just being nominated is a prize in itself.
You can vote for your favourite here.

Five on Friday with Richard Lumsden @lumsdenrich @TinderPress @headlinepg

Today I’m delighted to feature another debut novelist, Richard Lumsden. I was fortunate to meet Richard earlier this year and was somewhat starstruck. Some of the more eagle-eyed among you will probably recognise Richard from his many and varied stage and screen appearances. Based on the reception that his debut novel – The Six Loves of Billy Binns – received, and knowing he has more in the pipeline, I suspect Richard will have to get pretty adept at juggling between writing and acting going forward.

 

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Author bio:-

Born in Manchester & brought up in Derbyshire, Richard has worked as an actor in tv, film & theatre for over 30 years. Leading roles in tv series include ‘First Of The Summer Wine’, ‘Sharp End’, ‘Is It Legal’, ‘Wonderful You’, ‘Sugar Rush’ and ‘Millie InBetween’. He has performed in over 30 theatre productions, most recently appearing in ‘White Teeth’ in London. Films include ‘Sense And Sensibility’, ‘Sightseers’, ‘Downhill’ and ‘Darkest Hour’. He is about to start shooting ‘The Singapore Grip’ for ITV.

Writing work includes the 7 hour drama ‘Wonderful You’ for ITV and six verse plays for Radio 4. His debut novel ‘The Six Loves Of Billy Binns’ is published in hardback by Tinder Press. Richard also recorded the audiobook for his novel.

Richard lives in London and has two sons. He is currently finishing a second draft of his next novel.

So over to Richard

 

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

DAVID BOWIE – ‘SWEET THING / CANDIDATE’ from Diamond Dogs.
I could have chosen so many Bowie songs, but this is dramatic, cool, mysterious and sexy.
Bowie’s voice is astonishing. I was a teenage obsessive and still playing all his records now. Station To Station is probably my favourite album, but that can change on a daily basis.

PREFAB SPROUT – ‘CRUEL’ from Swoon.
In my opinion, the best pop song, written by the best pop songwriter of all time –  Paddy
McAloon. I borrowed this album from Bakewell library when it came out in 1984 and struggled to like it at first. As a musician myself I couldn’t work out his chord progressions. I still can’t. Three plays back-to-back and I was in love with it, and I’ve stayed that way ever since. All Prefab Sprout albums are works of art, but Swoon will always be special.

TALKING HEADS – ‘ONCE IN A LIFETIME’ from Remain In Light
It’s not nearly 40 years old, is it? Odd and timeless and fresh as a daisy. It shouldn’t be this beautiful but it just is. And you will ask yourself, how did I get here… Those weird verses and the searing chorus. Haunting and ethereal, same as it ever was.

TALK TALK – ‘AFTER THE FLOOD’ from Laughing Stock.
Ok, so I wrote a novel about an old man trying to remember what love feels like. This piece of music is what I wanted my book to be like. It’s another song I’ve been listening to all my adult life. Mark Hollis’s oblique vocal takes you on a journey to the depths of a broken heart.The music is closer to jazz, but it pins you down and doesn’t let up. Turn the lights off, lie still on the floor and give yourself over to it. Halfway through, the beautiful track gets ripped up by a distorted drone that rattles your head and shows you what a broken heart really sounds like.

CHAKA KHAN – AIN’T NOBODY
I’d rather not to spend my evening dancing (thanks for asking), but this is the one song
impossible to resist getting up for when it comes on.

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

I’m not sure if this is a materialistic question, or should I be saying ‘peace & harmony, good health, the love of friends… ’ as three of my five? Let’s take the holistic stuff as read and go for material objects, mainly because it’s more fun:

A beautiful 1970s Hohner acourstic guitar given to me by my American friend Jane when
she went back to the States after college. We had dinner a couple of months ago and I could tell her it’s still lovingly played.

Two paintings by Lincolnshire and Scottish artists (Stephen Newton & David Morrison)
whose works I love. I’ve bought a small number of paintings over the years and each one
gives me a lot of pleasure. I don’t have a car, so I figure I’m allowed to buy the occasional
piece of art.

Red wine. I have 3 or 4 days every week without any alcohol. Today was meant to be one of them, but I started answering these questions this evening and couldn’t resist finishing a bottle left open at the weekend.

My laptop for writing. If I had a typewriter, like Billy Binns, I’d probably give up. And my
handwriting’s terrible so no one would be able to read what I’d written.

Is it weird that my Filofax still feels so very pleasing to hold?

 

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

You will only regret the things you don’t do.

Despite trying hard at school, your inability to do exams well wont matter in the future.

The orange hoodie looks good, but that mustard yellow jumper against your sallow teenage complexion is a disaster.

You will have the best friends you could wish for.

Stop kidding yourself before a lie becomes its own distorted version of the truth.

 

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

I enjoy privacy and solitude, which I shouldn’t really be admitting now because it defeats
the object.

I gave up caffeine 15 years ago.

I once learned how to Morris dance for a feature film, and really enjoyed it.

My friend Paul told me I think too much, and I know he’s right but I don’t know what to
do about it.

I’m actually much better looking than most people think I am. (see answer no 5 in ‘advice
to younger self’).

 

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

Visit Japan

Northern Lights

Another walk around Stanton Moor – my favourite place in the world.

Last meal: Skate wing with capers and black butter and a pile of hot crispy chips.

Tell all those I love that I love them.

o-o-0-o-o

Thanks for joining us today Richard, it’s been lovely to discover more about you and we appreciate you letting us intrude on your privacy. Apologies for being responsible for having you fall off the wagon as a result of completing these questions.  I very much concur with your advice to your younger self, in that you will only regret the things you don’t do. On that note I hope you get to achieve your bucket list thereby giving you 5 less things to regret. 

 

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden

(Click on image for non-affiliated buying link)

 

billy binns

I remember my dreams but not where they start.
Further back, I recall some of yesterday and the day before that. Then everything goes into a haze.
Fragments of memories come looming back like red London buses in a pea-souper.
Time plays funny tricks these days.
I wait for the next memory. I wait and I wait.

At 117 years old, Billy Binns is the oldest man in Europe and he knows his time is almost up. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time. As he looks back at the relationships that have shaped his flawed life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a life full of hope, mistakes, heartbreak and, above all, love.

Follow Richard via:-

Twitter

 

 

 

March Book Haul

Quite a large haul this month, but I’m blaming Orenda publishers for that as I went to the Orenda Roadshow at Waterstones in Manchester earlier in the month. Not only did I succumb to a handful of paperbacks, I also discovered that several of the attending authors had Kindle books on offer – well it would have been rude not to!

Kindle Purchases

(Click on images for non-affiliated buying links)

 

East of EnglandEast of England by Eamonn Griffin (Unbound Feb book choice)

Dan Matlock is out of jail. He’s got a choice. Stay or leave. Go back to where it all went wrong, or just get out of the county. Disappear. Start again as someone else. But it’s not as simple as that.

There’s the matter of the man he killed. It wasn’t murder, but even so. You tell that to the family. Especially when that family is the Mintons, who own half of what’s profitable and two-thirds of what’s crooked between the Wolds and the coast. Who could have got to Matlock as easy as you like in prison, but who haven’t touched him. Not yet.

Like Matlock found out in prison, there’s no getting away from yourself. So what’s the point in not facing up to other people?

It’s time to go home.

 

CullCull by Tanvir Bush (Unbound March book choice)

Alex has a problem. Categorized as one of the disabled, dole-scrounging underclass, she is finding it hard to make ends meet.

When in her part-time placement at the local newspaper she stumbles onto a troubling link between the disappearance of several homeless people, the government’s new Care and Protect Act, and the Grassybanks Residential Home for the disabled, elderly and vulnerable, she knows she has to investigate further… but at what cost to herself and her guide dog Chris?

Sunset over the Cherry OrchardSunset over the Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas

It’s time for Beti Winter to dance to her own beat.

After three failed engagements Beti is in desperate need of a fresh start. What better place than the sun-drenched hills of southern Spain?

But it’s not all sangria and siestas. Beti finds work on an old Andalusian cherry farm where there are cherries to be picked, trees to be watered and her fiery boss, Antonio, to win over.

As the sun toasts her skin, Beti finds herself warming to the Spanish way of life. Embracing the art of flamenco, she discovers there is much to learn from the dance of passion. She just has to let loose and listen to the rhythm of her heart.

 

Casting OffCasting Off by P I Paris

When the residents of a Highland care home discover that the new owners are about to substantially put up the fees, they know that dramatic action is called for. But what can a group of senior citizens possibly do against a big organisation? For Dorothy, the situation is serious. If she can’t raise money she’ll have to leave all her friends, like dear Miss Ross.

In protest, the residents barricade themselves into the lounge. However, their rebellion fails, so worldly-wise Joan suggests a most unusual way to cover the rise – a very naughty chat line for men who want to talk to older women ‘in a particular way’! As their lives take a series of unexpected turns, things get increasingly out of control…

 

The SuspectThe Suspect by Fiona Barton

‘The police belonged to another world – the world they saw on the television or in the papers. Not theirs.’

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

 

A Vintage YearA Vintage Year by Rosie Howard

It started with ‘happily ever after’, yet just three years after Bella’s fairy-tale wedding to irrepressible Charlie Wellbeloved, her best friend, Maddy, is expecting a baby, while Bella’s own weight gain is purely from comfort eating. Only her little Labrador, Dolly, can boost her spirits as she gloomily surveys her failing marriage and fledgling interior design business.

Dovecot Farm is just a rainstorm away from ruin, but Charlie is hoping against hope his family vineyard will produce a vintage year, saving his business, his childhood home and – most of all – his marriage…

When handsome Rufus appears in the tight-knit Havenbury community, he quickly charms Bella and makes himself indispensable to Charlie. But is he really too good to be true…

 

I Can See YouI Can See You by Michael Leese

SOMEONE WANTS JONATHAN ROPER DEAD.
His would-be-killer is desperate to spend some quality time with Scotland Yard’s brightest young star. He tries to grab Roper’s attention with some gory messages but no-one is noticing and now he’s getting angry.

Roper owes his detective skills to an astonishing memory, and attention to detail that allows him to spot links other people miss. But his autism makes things complicated. He doesn’t mean to be difficult, but his lack of social skills make him a hard man to like. Detective Chief Inspector Brian Hooley is the one man who “gets” him… even though the DCI needs to withstand a barrage of bracingly direct observations that many would see as insults. This forms the back-drop for some laugh out loud moments as the tension mounts in this gripping crime thriller.

 

The Missing SisterThe Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25 year old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

 

Dig Two GravesDig Two Graves by Keith Nixon

When teenager Nick Buckingham tumbles from the fifth floor of an apartment block, Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray answers the call with a sick feeling in his stomach. The victim was just a kid, sixteen years old. And the exact age the detective’s son was, the son Gray has not seen since he went missing at a funfair ten years ago. Each case involving children haunts Gray with the reminder that his son may still be out there – or worse, dead. The seemingly open and shut case of suicide twists into a darker discovery. Buckingham and Gray have never met, so why is Gray’s number on the dead teenager’s mobile phone?

Gray begins to unravel a murky world of abuse, lies, and corruption. And when the body of Reverend David Hill is found shot to death in the vestry of Gray’s old church, Gray wonders how far the depravity stretches and who might be next. Nothing seems connected, and yet there is one common thread: Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray, himself. As the bodies pile up, Gray must face his own demons and his son’s abduction.

Crippled by loss Gray takes the first step on the long road of redemption. But is the killer closer to home than he realised?

Set in the once grand town of Margate in the south of England, the now broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark police suspense thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

 

An Italian JourneyAn Italian Journey by Neil Maresca

“An Italian Journey” is the light-hearted, inspirational story of Nick and Laura Lobono’s love affair with each other and with Italy. When they win a free bus tour of Italy, Nick, an emotionally fragile veteran, is reluctant to go, but Laura insists, and as they travel from Milan to Venice to Florence and finally on to Rome sharing hilarious misadventures and moving experiences with their fellow travelers, Nick slowly heals, and he and Laura find they have embarked, not on a vacation, but on a journey of reconciliation, recovery, and love.

 

Getting over GaryGetting Over Gary by Jessica Redland

How do you move on when life keeps throwing surprises at you?

Elise married her childhood sweetheart, Gary, straight out of college, and they’ve been happy together for over twelve years. Elise is now desperate to start a family, but Gary doesn’t seem to share her enthusiasm anymore. Arriving home early from a party, she discovers why: Gary’s been keeping a secret from her. A very big secret.

While her own marriage appears to be falling apart, being a supportive bridesmaid for her best friend, Sarah, isn’t easy. Especially not when Clare, her nemesis from day one, is one of the other bridesmaids. If she’s going to get through it, she needs to put her own feelings aside, find herself again, and get over Gary, fast.

Could recently-divorced Daniel be the tonic Elise needs, or is he full of secrets and lies too? Is his hostile, but strangely attractive brother, Michael, the genuine article instead? And why do the good guys like Stevie turn her down?

But then Elise discovers she has a secret of her own and getting over Gary suddenly becomes the least of her worries…

 

HydraHydra by Matt Wesolowski

A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six stories. Which one is true?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Storiespodcasts have become an internet sensation.
King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out.
As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…
Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

 

Deep Down DeadDeep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.
Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest amusement parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.

 

Good SamaritansGood Samaritans by Will Carver

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach…

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.

But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…

And someone is watching…

 

Beton RougeBeton Rouge by Simone Buchholz

On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of Germany’s biggest magazines. He’s soon identified as a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in a similar way.

Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the hothouse world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

 

Dead in the DarkDead in the Dark by Stephen Booth

How do you prove a murder without a body?

Ten years ago, Reece Bower was accused of killing his wife, a crime he always denied. Extensive police searches near his home in Bakewell found no trace of Annette Bower’s remains, and the case against him collapsed.

But now memories of the original investigation have been resurrected for Detective Inspector Ben Cooper – because Reece Bower himself has disappeared, and his new wife wants answers.

Cooper can’t call on the Major Crime Unit and DS Diane Fry for help unless he can prove a murder took place – impossible without a body. As his search moves into the caves and abandoned mines in the isolated depths of Lathkilldale, the question is: who would want revenge for the death of Annette Bower?

 

Paradise Por FavorParadise Por Favor by Robert Dodds

Money in the bank and a new life in Spain… what could possibly go wrong?
After making his pile in the building trade Tom Rook has an eye for the easy life. With his partner Linda he moves to Elysium, a splendid new house on the Costa del Sol. But their lives get ever more complicated as their slender contacts with the ‘real’ Spain grow into life-changing connections.
This is a humorous novel that also takes a serious look at relationships under strain – both British and Spanish.

 

The Battle for Spain

The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor

The civil war that tore Spain apart between 1936 and 1939 and attracted liberals and socialists from across the world to support the cause against Franco was one of the most hard-fought and bitterest conflicts of the 20th century: a war of atrocities and political genocide and a military testing ground before WWII for the Russians, Italians and Germans, whose Condor Legion so notoriously destroyed Guernica.

Antony Beevor’s account narrates the origins of the Civil War and its violent and dramatic course from the coup d’etat in July 1936 through the savage fighting of the next three years which ended in catastrophic defeat for the Republicans in 1939. And he succeeds especially well in unravelling the complex political and regional forces that played such an important part in the origins and history of the war.

 

A Fractured WinterA Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie

From the outside, Olivia seems to lead an idyllic existence with her husband and children. But when she starts receiving notes, she knows her perfect life is under threat.

She thought she’d managed to put the past behind her, but someone seems determined to reveal her secret.

Meanwhile, girls are vanishing in the area and Olivia fears for her family’s safety.

Has someone discovered the real reason she left Scotland all those years ago?

And does her secret have links to the recent disappearances?

When someone is out to get you, is there anywhere you can hide?

 

Sewing The Shadows TogetherSewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie

More than thirty years after thirteen-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

When modern DNA evidence reveals that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona?

Soon Sarah and Tom find themselves caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and everyone is a suspect.

The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears.

 

LOS HOMBRES DE BOLTONLes Hombres de Bolton by Paul A Rose

This is the story of Dave Atkinson, Ian Taylor, Stan Stead and Brian Horrocks; four friends all in their mid-forties who embark upon a road-trip around the north of Spain, finally arriving in Madrid. Los Hombres de Bolton documents their journey, as the four meet a number of interesting and amusing characters including cheeky waiters, a hen party from Yorkshire and a gay Guardia Civil Officer and his long-suffering senior colleague.

 

A Thousand Roads HomeA Thousand Roads Home by Carmel Harrington

Where is home? Wherever the people you love are.

Single mother, Ruth, and her son, DJ, have never truly fitted in, but that didn’t matter, so long as they were together. When their home comes under threat, their quiet life will change forever.

DJ meets Tom, a man who ten years ago walked out of his house and never looked back. Ruth, DJ and Tom have all felt like outsiders. Burdened with grief and insecurities, they are not living their best lives. But together, these three ordinary people will do an extraordinary thing…

 

Curse of the PoppyCurse of the Poppy by Emily Organ

A woman dies in a burglary in Fitzrovia. A man is murdered in an opium den in Limehouse. Gutsy Fleet Street reporter Penny Green suspects the two deaths are connected, but how can she prove it?

The answer may lie in Whitehall where the India Office reaps the benefits of Britain’s opium trade. But when Inspector James Blakely of Scotland Yard begins investigating, an unforeseen danger looms.

Soon Penny is forced to act alone and is put to the ultimate test when her quest becomes personal.

 

In a House of LiesIn a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

Everyone has something to hide
A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent
Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

 

Paperback Purchases

 

InbornInborn by Thomas Enger

What turns a boy into a killer?

When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?

Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community.  As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has a relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?

It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.

But can we trust him?

 

Worst Case ScenarioWorst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald

Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation offer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line. Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife, and he’s published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that makes him an unlikely hero – and a poster boy for Men’s Rights activists.

Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.

 

Call Me Star GirlCall Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

 

Palm Beach, FinlandPalm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary.

With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives – chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

 

The CourierThe Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.

And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

 

House of BeautyThe House of Beauty by Melba Escobar  – (Reading in Heels – March choice)

House of Beauty is a high-end salon in Bogotá’s exclusive Zona Rosa area, and Karen is one of its best beauticians. But there is more to her role than the best way to apply wax, or how to give the perfect massage. Her clients share their most intimate secrets with her. She knows all about their breast implants, their weekends in Miami, their divorces and affairs.

One rainy afternoon a teenage girl turns up for a treatment with Karen, dressed in her school uniform and smelling of alcohol. The very next day, the girl is found dead.

Karen was the last person to see the girl alive, and the girl’s mother is desperate to find out what she knows. Most important of all: who was her daughter going to meet that night?

 

Review Copies

 

Messy, Wonderful UsMessy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac (courtesy of Simon and Schuster) due November 2019

Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.

Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.

But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.

 

 

 

 

Five on Friday with Fiona Erskine @erskine_fiona @OneworldNews

Today I’m delighted to introduce debut novelist Fiona Erskine. I had the pleasure of meeting Fiona when we were sitting next to each other in the audience at an author event at Harrogate. I think I have been forgiven for initially believing her husband was a well-known northern playwright (a quick Google of more recent pictures of said playwright made the comparison a particularly unflattering one!) Fiona’s novel The Chemical Detective was published in e-book format this month, and will be published in hardback on April 4.

Fiona Erskine

Photo credit Gary Walsh/Stockton Library

Author bio:

Fiona Erskine is a professional engineer based in Teesside. She grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, before heading south for university. She is married to Jonathan, a university academic, they have two sons, a magic cat and a lot of fun.

 

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

 

I love music, and as I get older I love listening to music, especially live classical music. I used to have music playing in the background all the time, but now I find it distracting because I stop to listen.

JS Bach St Matthew’s Passion. My primary school sang a small part in St Matthew’s Passion at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. We were meant to go home after the first act, but I hid under the stage so I could listen to the rest. The aria “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” (Have mercy, my God) might be the pinnacle of all music for me, the alto voice and violin weaving melodies around one another with haunting, transcendent, pathos. Listening to it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Nina Simone – Sings the Blues. I love strong female vocalists, they defined my teenage years: Joni Mitchel, Joan Armatrading, Janis Ian, Helen Reddy, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald – But if I have to choose just one it would be singer, songwriter and amazing jazz pianist, Nina Simone.

Elbow – The Seldon Seen Kid. My two sons have introduced me to podcasts and lots of amazing music. I love Guy Garvey’s gruff voice, the inventive melodies and many-layered lyrics, especially the ultimate love song “An Audience with the Pope”. It makes me think heading off on family holidays in the car, with everyone singing along.

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust. I had regular dreams about this international superstar all through my working life. He was surprisingly interested in chemical engineering and always gave excellent career advice in our regular, if slightly peculiar, sleep encounters.

Benjamin Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and String. When I listen to the recording by Peter Piers and Denis Brain in China, I come to terms with jet lag induced insomnia. Who needs to sleep when you can listen to something so pure, so sublime, so perfectly still.

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

Spike the cat. He’s my feline muse. He sits on my lap when I’m writing in the early morning and purrs encouragement. He has a very loud purr.

My polar bear onesie. I get up very early to get 2 or 3 hours writing time before I cycle to the day job. My cream fleece onesie may not be flattering, but it means that Spike and I are deliciously cosy on dark winter mornings.

My bicycle. I love that I can cycle to work across a park. Even in the middle of Teesside, I see deer and herons.

Books. Although I have a kindle, and it is great for travelling (though not great when it falls in the bath), I love physical books. My recent favourite was Ironopolis by Glen James Brown, but I have a huge pile of books still to read.

Bath. Most of my reading happens in the bath. I can stay in for hours. I have some soggy books.

 

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

Put in the hard work early on to play a musical instrument well. I was a fast learner, a great beginner, but I never stuck with any single instrument long enough to excel.

Knitting during university maths lectures is a very bad idea.

When you travel long distances in a foreign country, don’t leave your rucksack and tent at the back of the train and walk to the front, just in case the train splits in two and you arrive at your destination without shelter. If you arrive in a foreign place without shelter, don’t go to the police station. Always carry a padlock to lock others out.

Don’t take up ski-ing aged 50 if you are overweight and unfit.

Take risks. You don’t know what you are capable of until you try.

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

 

I learned to sail racing yachts on the Firth of Forth, dodging oil tankers. The waters of Southern England required different skills. I became the worst sailor in the history of the Cambridge University sailing team when I capsized a dingy on a flat calm lake during a critical competition. They still gave me a half-blue.

My cousin, Cathy, is a belly dancer, and when I was a teenager she used to take me to her shows in London restaurants and I’d be given wonderful things to eat.

My friend Marjory and I lodged in a very friendly guest house for quite a while before figuring out that it was a working brothel.

I love motorbikes, but I stopped driving them after my children were born.

I am no good at skiing.

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

California – my eldest son moved to Los Angeles last year and is a fantastic guide and host. Last year we got talking to a male stripper beside a swimming pool, and he snuck into my latest story when I wasn’t paying attention.

A big swim. We love going on outdoor swimming holidays with Swim Trek. My husband is a brilliant swimmer, a former lifeguard who likes to race the others, whereas I like to swim to admire the scenery. We meet a great bunch of people and the hard work during the day makes the relaxing at night all the more rewarding.

Eurorail trip – a train journey through Europe, criss-crossing from Finland to Turkey, Portugal to Poland, visiting some good friends and finding new outdoor swimming spots.

A trip to the North West coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, with some of the most beautiful swimming places in the world.

There are lots of places I have visited for work, but never had time to explore: Brazil, Russia, India, China. Now that my children have left home, I plan to try to co-ordinate work trips with my husband so we can do a bit of travelling together. And find more places to swim.

o-o-0-o-o

Thanks so much for joining us today Fiona. Delighted to discover another Elbow fan and who knew David Bowie was so well versed in chemical engineering! I love the things people don’t know about you. We inadvertently stayed in a rather dubious B&B in Paris once, but realised quite quickly, you and Marjorie were obviously more innocent. Here’s hoping you get to tick off some items on your bucket list, travel and swimming are always a good combination. I’m looking forward to reading your latest story as I’m more than a bit curious to meet your male stripper!  

The Chemical Detective by Fiona Erskine

(Click on image for non-affiliated buying link)

 

The Chemical Detective

Dr Jaqueline Silver blows things up to keep people safe. 

Working on avalanche control in Slovenia, she stumbles across a delivery problem with a consignment of explosives. After raising a complaint with the supplier, Zagrovyl, a multinational chemical company and her ex-employer, her evidence disappears. She is warned, threatened, accused of professional incompetence and suspended. Taking her complaint to Zagrovyl head office, she narrowly escapes death only to be framed for murder. Escaping from police custody, she sets out to find the key to the mystery.

From the snowy slopes of Slovenia, to the wreckage of Chernobyl, Jaq attempts to expose the trade in deadly chemical weapons, while fighting for her life.

 

Follow Fiona via:-

Twitter

Her blog

What a difference a year makes

This day last year I was marking the end of my formal treatment for breast cancer. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy I was champing at the bit to ring the bell. Not in a crowing, triumphal way, but rather marking the end of  nine months of what seemed, at times, like hell. That bell was ringing out ‘Thank God that’s over” it was drawing a line under the worst of the treatment and representing a moving forward. It doesn’t herald a cure, that word doesn’t readily pass the lips of the doctors, surgeons and oncologists I’ve met so far. But in my case, I remain positive that the early, speedy capture and treating of the odious little bugger I christened Boris has done the trick. If only certain human Boris’s could be similarly caught and zapped.

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Ringing that bell allowed me to start to move forward, and I think I have with a vengeance. While the treatment hadn’t finished at that stage (still had the dreaded Herceptin injection every three weeks until just before Christmas) plus the joy of daily medication for five years. I had at least got back some control of my life. That in some ways creates a problem in itself. Having been pushed from pillar to post with appointments, treatment and generally feeling like death warmed up some days, having the ability to take stock and start making decisions about what you want to do can be daunting. I think having shared my experience with this blog, made it easier for me as I’d been able to get it out of my system. I hadn’t bottled things up and not dealt with things, but put my feelings and frustrations ‘out there’.  So thanks to all who endured my bra buying dilemmas, my constipation, my aches, pains and rotting toenails (to be honest I think I spared you the worst of that last one!) You all made excellent therapists!!

My blog helped in other ways too, as it gave me a sense of normality and purpose. While I wasn’t able to concentrate on reading (and by default, reviewing) I did worry that my blog might fall by the wayside. I’d initially set it up to bring together my reviews that were scattered around the ether via Netgalley, Amazon and Goodreads to mention a few. Without reviews it would largely consist of my monthly book hauling posts. I’m delighted to report that whatever else was happening, I was always able to buy books. But my real saviour proved to be my Five on Friday feature. The very first one went live three days after I’d received my diagnosis. What began life as a one off Q&A has snowballed into a regular feature. While I couldn’t read I was still able to email authors, prepare and schedule posts and this gave me something positive to focus on. This feature now attracts my biggest viewing figures.

When I wrote my last ‘one year on’ update it was largely medical, concentrating on the treatments and procedures. While I can’t pretend everything in the garden is rosy, I still sniff Vaseline for Britain in an attempt to relieve my sore, bleeding (that’s literally not swearingly) nose. I still have peripheral neuropathy in my feet, my legs and knees could give an arthritic 80 year a run for their money (bad choice of phrase as running is definitely not on the cards!) and I’m a good two stone heavier than I was before this process started. However I’m also much more akin to my old self and have re-discovered my lust for life. So this time I’d like to do a round up of the more positive and enjoyable achievements in the past year, again not in a crowing way, but in a happy, thankful and  appreciative one.

 

Personal Highlights

Visited Italy twice (Lake Garda and Sorrento area)

Visited Spain (Mallorca)

Spent two wonderful relaxing holidays in Powys.

Started Tai Chi classes along with my OH

Attended a learn to crochet course (I’d say I’m not a natural!)

Managed to produce 45 charity shoe boxes for Christmas with my friend (we had worried that last year we might have managed far less)

Have already knitted 29 beany hats for this year’s shoe boxes.

Went down to London to see the Edward Burne Jones exhibition at The Tate

 

Book Related Events 

Went on my first (self created) Reading Retreat

Attended Gina Kirkham’s book launch event for Whisky, Tango Foxtrot in Liverpool

Made it to Harrogate for the Theakston Crime Writing Festival

Attended the Crime day of the East Riding Festival of Words in Beverley

Attended two author/blogger meet ups in Stoke

Attended a Headline Publishing event in Liverpool

Attended the Orenda Roadshow in Manchester

 

Blog and bookish highlights

Came second in the Bloggers Bash Awards for Most Inspirational Blog

Amazing have been nominated again this year in Bloggers Bash Awards for Best Book Blog

Acquired 536 e-books (eeek!!)

Acquired 84 tree books

Read 33 books

Achieved my most viewed blog post by miles – Privilege vs Entitlement

Posted 18 reviews

Published 34 Five on Friday features.

Published 45 other blog posts

Had over 17,000 views from over 9,000 visitors

 

Forthcoming Highlights

A second Reading Retreat – (this week, so expect a blog post to follow)

A holiday to Catalunya with my friend

Hopefully attending the next author/blogger meet up in Stoke

Going to Powys for 2 weeks with my OH

Back to Harrogate for the 2019 Crime Writing Festival

I’ve got Five on Friday’s covered off (hopefully) until June

My reading is definitely improving, though the reviews are proving a little slower (I forget very quickly)

Visiting the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition in Liverpool

 

Sorry if this feels a bit gloaty, that wasn’t the intention. I’m just very thankful and grateful to be able to get out and about again. Especially as I still can’t drive myself anywhere. Before my diagnosis Harrogate had been my first bookish event. I hadn’t attended any blogger meet ups or publisher events as I didn’t feel I had the confidence to attend things on my own. My blog, as I said before, in many ways has been my saviour, it helped keep me sane and gave me focus. In addition the support and comfort I received from authors, readers and the blogging community was immense. It made me feel accepted and I felt like a real blogger for the first time and while I’m still good at hiding I am getting better at putting myself out there. So if you’re still here at this point, thanks for all your support and apologies for the book haul posts which always end up costing you money.

I’ll leave you with a picture from the last author blogger meet up in Stoke (February 2019). This is me with author Graeme Cumming who I originally met at my very first Harrogate outing (so Boris was with me but we didn’t know him as such then). Apart from the extra weight (mine, not Graeme’s) this could easily have been taken at Harrogate way back in 2017 so that’s a fair indication that all is well on the way to being back on track as well as neatly bringing things full circle.

Blogger meet up Stoke