Between Darkness and the Light

Paul Mitchener

A young, bored and confused teenager is thrown into an adventurous world that he believed only existed in books and dreams. Henry is destined to become the next Host Master and to lead the everlasting fight between the darkness and the light. The Wyvern, an ancient creature of mythical powers and defender of all things living, has to find a host to be able to dwell in this world. It chooses Henry. After his encounter with Bert and the odd dog Ben in the woodland, Henry s life would never be the same again: as well as finding his only true love, he s told that his mother and aunt had kept from him that they were creatures of nature and guardians of the woodland and commanded great powers. Henry has to find a way to grow up fast and find the strength to face up to both his own demons as well as those sent by the Shadow Master, a powerful sorcerer, who has the power and the aid from dark allies to destroy life and spread darkness across the world.

About the Author

I now live in a small picturesque village called Penton Grafton in Hampshire, which consists a large duck pond, a village green where cricket is played most Sundays during the summer and a 14th century church. Penton Grafton is about four miles away from our nearest large town of Andover. Andover is briefly mentioned in my book.

One of seven children and a son of a farmer, I spent all my childhood playing in the countryside. I was born in the same house that my parents lived in for all their married life. Unfortunately, I had very pour education. That, added to the fact that I suffer from dyslexia, meant that I didn’t just struggle with the written word all of my life, but I also had to work twice as hard as others in many aspect of life. That said, I have never allowed it to hold me back from anything I wanted to achieve. I’m now retired but before that, I was a Managing/production director of company that made armoured and stretched luxury limousines for royals and dignitaries, mainly in the Middle East. I spent the best part of fifteen years travelling the world on business and met many of the royals as well as famous celebrities. Since retiring, I took a two year full time collage course in countryside conservation which is a subject that I’m very passionate about and despite my disorder, I achieved top grades and best student of the year.

Between the Darkness and the Light is my first novel but I’m now in the process of writing a sequel, my motivation for this book comes in two parts. Firstly, to become a published author has been on my bucket list for years now. I’ve always envied anyone who could write, especially writers like Terry Brooks, who have the skill to capture a moment in time and develop such interesting strong characters, so, I needed to prove to myself that someday I could write a novel. Dyslexia can be a very debilitating condition which is often overlooked, so I wanted to prove not just to myself but to others that suffer from it, that if they really worked at it, they could do the same and nothing should hold them back from reaching their own potential. I managed to achieve more than most and much more than I had hoped; but it has been a long hard uphill battle.

Secondly, I have a passion for nature and although my book is fantasy it is set in the here and now. The message I wish to get across to my readers (especially teenagers) is that we must start caring for the world in which we live. One of the main reason for choosing a teenager as the main character was to try and take others of the same age on a journey of discovery but with a teenage prospective, his first love, his new-found passion for nature and other living beings; but more importantly, discovering himself. What makes my book important to me are the characters and the location in which my book is set. Most of my characters are a mix of people that I know or have known in the past, although the people I know are interesting characters in their own right, it was fun putting them all in a mixing pot and creating new and more interesting characters. The location is set in and around the town of Whitchurch, an area where I was born and raised, the woodland was where I used to play as a child, there’re both places I still hold very dear to my heart.

The whole story of my book is set around one teenaged character (Henry Harris). Henry a confused, lazy and often very moody young man and now having left full education he has no idea what he wants from life. I’m sure most, if not all teenaged readers can relate to him, especially his relationship with his family. Henry eventually finds himself but only with the help, support and love from those that care for him most. The only message I wish to get across to teenagers is, that they don’t have to face life’s trials alone, if they have family and friends that love them and support them there is nothing in this world that they couldn’t get through.

Publisher: Brown Dog Books
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Adventure
Age: YA
Reviewer: N/A
Source: N/A
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From Daughter to Woman

Kim McCabe

This book aims to make the adolescent’s journey just that bit safer, kinder, and better supported – so parents and teens can enjoy the teenage years more.
The teen years are tough – for teens and for parents. Many parents dread the moodiness, dishonesty, preference of friends over family, exam stress, and the push for greater independence. Mothers have a pivotal role to play; this is a guidebook for parents and mothers of girls in particular as they navigate the rocky teenage landscape with their daughters aged 8 to 18. It aims to help them embrace the potential of their child’s teenage years by marking this time of growing maturity for girls and celebrating it with them. We celebrate birth, marriage and death, but this important life-transition from child to young adult is nowadays rarely acknowledged within an appropriate community.

What was your favourite thing about writing this book?
Knowing that I might have found a way to reach more girls. While I wrote I thought about all the people who care about our growing girls and felt full of optimism for how this book would share what I’ve learned to help make growing up that bit easier for everyone.

How important is the topic in this book to you?
You know when you realise that you’re really good at something because it’s been important your whole life, so you’ve been working on it forever without always realising it? That’s how I feel about the plight of girls as they grow through their teens. I can really help the girls and those who care for them. These girls are the mothers and creators of the future so when we enable them to grow up well, we’re helping all future generations. That’s exciting to me.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
I don’t drink enough. Always on at my children to take their water bottles wherever they go and then I forget my own. Much of this book was written in my campervan while my children danced, played football or learned Spanish. I could have made myself a cup of something herbal but I’m very focussed when I’m writing and it never felt like I could spare the time to put the kettle on.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I twiddle my hair while I’m thinking. My mum would hate to know that this childhood habit lives on!

How did you research this book?
The seeds of this book took root while I worked as a counsellor to distressed teenagers thirty years ago. I wanted to find some way of helping that would be preventative, so teens wouldn’t end up needing to starve, cut or harm themselves in other ways. My studies at Cambridge University into child psychology gave me a good foundation but it was years of working with young people and raising my own family that really taught me what was needed. It began small, writing articles for parents on my website and running year-long groups for preteen girls. In a relatively short time my waiting list for Girls Journeying Together groups was over-flowing and mothers were pressing me to write down what I was saying. I realised that the need was greater than I could meet on my own, so I now train women from across the world to deliver Girls Journeying Together groups and I gathered my thoughts into a book.

Do you have any recommendations for books which are similar to yours?
Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls and 10 Things Girls Need Most

What was your favourite thing about your teenage years?
Sex. No I can’t say that, not publicly. In my teens I loved learning about how a dynamo worked, having boys notice me, staying out late and eating chips with my mates, doing somersaults, skinny dipping in the river at midnight, listening to Radio Luxemburg, dreaming of travelling the world, sleepovers with my best friend and the flapjacks her mum baked.

Would you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, do you know how old you were when you realised you were one?
Yes, of course. How could I not be a feminist, when feminism is the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. I was born a feminist. Talking to girls, it makes absolute sense to them that they should have equal rights and opportunities to everyone else, why shouldn’t they?

Which women do you think are good feminist role models?
Any woman who is living true to herself is a good feminist role model. Any woman who is true to her beliefs and values, who cares more for herself than what others think, and who has the courage to follow her own path. Good feminist role models live next door, serve in the corner shop, teach our kids, might even be your best friend. Some good role models are on the television, but the best ones are those that you can reach out and touch. Real women who are living their lives admirably.

About the Author

Kim McCabe is the founder of Rites for Girls. As the originator and facilitator of Girls Journeying Together groups, she offers guidance to preteen and teen girls and simultaneous support for their mothers. In training other women to facilitate these groups, her dream is that every girl grows up expecting to be supported and celebrated in adolescence. Kim was commissioned to write a section in Steve Biddulph’s latest best-selling book, 10 Things Girls Need Most: To Grow Up Strong and Free.

Kim is a home-educating mother of two boys, one girl, two cats and a colony of aloe vera plants; she is wife to a Kiwi, daughter to itinerant parents, friend to a cherished few, and lover of time alone, too. She lives in the Ashdown Forest in Sussex. She sometimes shouts at her children, accidentally steps on the cat’s tail and forgets to water the plants, but she loves her work, her family and her life. She has always had deep affinity with teenage girls, and by sharing her wisdom and compassion she infects the reader with her enthusiasm for this life stage.

Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: July 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Sureness of Horses

Kevin Arnold

When divorced Wade Middleton meets wealthy Diana Buchanan, a beautiful horsewoman who relocates to Palo Alto, California, from Texas, he is introduced to the world of horses and the fox-hunt, and a whirlwind romance spins out of control. Problems arise in the relationship when Diana can’t let go of her high-horse lifestyle, nor entirely separate from her powerful husband. Wade’s love of poetry isn’t exactly embraced by Diana, either, and they are worlds apart. Yet for some reason, the two are saddled by an attraction to each other neither understands.
Add to this Wade’s unwillingness to help his friend Jorge when he needs it most, and the guilt that ensues from his having the hots for his friend’s wife, a desire he admirably suppresses to an extent. Wade has his own demons to wrestle down, but he is unprepared for the troubles to come.


Once they saw Cliff to the elevator, his leather jacket slung over his shoulder, Wade and Diana were alone. Wade helped her move a few more dishes into the kitchen, hesitant to start a conversation. “We can leave the rest on the table while the dishwasher runs,” she said over the whir of the machine. “Let’s sit down.”
She led Wade to an alcove next to the window overlooking Stanford and the lights of the houses in the foothills.
“Sorry about that scene,” he said. “A bit of a mess.” After he said it, he wondered why he was always apologizing.
“Yes. An embarrassment,” she answered tensely.
“That Billy’s a piece of work, for sure.”
“Billy?” Diana asked incredulously. “It was that woman. She was half-naked in my dining room. And who knows what went on in the kitchen. That laugh!”
“I thought Billy was a little overwhelming, too,” Wade said, wondering again if, even if it wasn’t rational, Diana might be jealous. Even more, he thought, could there be a tinge of racism? Was Marita meeting some stereotype Diana had placed on Latina women?
Diana took a deep breath. “That’s just who Billy is. He flirts, There’s no denying that. I’ve had long discussions with Jolene. She says she’s come to grips with Billy’s flirting. First she told Billy to look but don’t touch. ‘But now,’ Jolene told me, ‘I figure whatever he does is okay. He works so hard, and he’s always treated me as the most important thing in his life, so let him have some fun.’”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Diana told Wade. “That would never meet my standards for a marriage, but remember Jolene comes from a different background. I’m not sure what the Catholics believe. But I support her, I do. And Rob absolutely loves Billy. He was best man at our wedding.”
Wade frowned. He walked to the window and stared out into the darkness. He wished Diana could finish two sentences without talking about Rob. He said, “I see, so even with what you’ve been through, you can overlook Billy’s faults?”
“Yes, absolutely. I don’t understand you. Sometimes it seems you go out of your way to make me uncomfortable.”
Wade wasn’t sure what to say. From all of their conversations, he knew Diana was a warm person. But sometimes she could be so cold. He didn’t feel he’d intentionally made her uncomfortable, so what could he say? He didn’t dare look at her when he said, “I’m thinking about taking a trip back to the Midwest.”
Diana reached out to take his arm and turn him to face her. “Where’d that come from?”
“I haven’t been back in . . . whew, over twenty years, and SnyderSound has a sales prospect in Chicago. Ray found some hot potential customer. It may be time for me to return to where I grew up. I have a lot to figure out.”
Diana looked out toward the lights in the hills. “About us, you mean?”
Wade didn’t want to say yes, and resorted, for good or ill—to poetry. He recited the lines that had come into his mind as he wondered what to do―
“Should I part my hair behind?
Do I dare to eat a peach?
I will wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

“I like you very much, Wade, you and your poetry world, but you may be right. Perhaps we both need time to think.”
Rather than respond directly, Wade took the coward’s route and quoted the next of Eliot’s lines: “I do not think that they will sing to me.”
They sat silently for a few minutes overlooking the foothills until they both stood up at the same time and she walked him to the door. They stepped into the entryway. Without touching, Diana walked Wade to the elevator. After he pushed the button, they hesitated before they embraced. Wade half-expected to feel a brass breastplate, but she was as soft as his memories of her.
She gently pushed away, slowly. “Part of me is dying to invite you back in.”
She felt wonderful in his arms, but Wade kissed her on the forehead, dropped his hands from her waist, and left.

About the Author

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the US Navy, Kevin has published fifty stories and poems. He earned his Master’s in Fine Arts from San Jose State University in 2007, the same year he helped found Gold Rush Writers. He has ridden to hounds since 1999, earning his colors with the Los Altos Hounds, also in 2007. He served as President of Poetry Center San Jose for twelve years. Kevin is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, USA. The San Francisco / Peninsula California Writer’s Club recently named him Writer of the Year.

Publisher: Manzanita Writers Press
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 302
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Writing Retreat

L’atelier des ecrivains

Have you ever wanted to be whisked away somewhere remote to get that book inside you written? And do you wish that you had expert guidance and support to help you while you did it?

If you answered yes to the above questions then you should definitely continue reading this post which is going to tell you all about the Atelier des Ecrivains (Writers’ Workshop) retreat.

Becky and Sarah who are co-hosting the writing retreat, and are both writers themselves, know that there are lots of people who harbour a desire to write a book but may either lack the confidence, the skills or the headspace to actually do it. They also know from experience that removing yourself from your daily life, with all of its pressures and interruptions, and coming together with like-minded people can be a great way to overcome those barriers. Where better to do that than in a beautiful 18th century manor house outside one of France’s prettiest villages, Aubeterre?

Helen Cross, author of My Summer of Love, which was turned into a Hollywood film starring Emily Blunt and whose other novels, screen and radio plays entertain people all over the world will be leading the workshop. She is an experienced teacher of creative writing and currently teaches on the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, UK. The combination of skills and experience offered by Helen, Becky and Sarah will be invaluable to authors at all stages of their writing journey.


Getting started – Thursday 20 to Monday 24 September, 2018
For people at the beginning of their writing journey, this workshop will help you develop your writing skills, find your creative voice, thematic material and literary style: create credible characters and reveal them through dialogue and active, dramatic scenes: and build your world – structure, point-of-view, and narrative voice. With a small group of up to 10 writers, we are promoting an environment of creativity and support with one-to-one feedback sessions and time for questions and answers.

Keeping going – May, 2019
For people who have already started their writing journey, this workshop will enhance your skills even further, help you overcome barriers and enable you to shape your words into the brilliant piece of work you know it has the potential to be.

Getting published – September 2019
For people reaching the conclusion of a writing project, this workshop is designed to support the final stages of writing and editing, and will contain lots of useful information about how to get published and successfully market your book.

You can find out more information about the hosts, venue and workshops here. To book your place or to contact the hosts, you can visit the website here.

I don’t know about you but I would very much like to go on this writing retreat!

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Running Across the Sky

Amanda Malben

Three years into the civil war that has turned his country upside down, Sami’s home village in Syria is hit by a deadly bomb attack and he is forced to leave behind everything he knows and loves. Eventually, Sami and his family are given refuge in Coventry, England, but city life is hard to adjust to. It’s grey and cold and there are no fields to play in or animals to tend. Worse still, Sami worries about the fate of his uncle and cousins back in Syria and struggles to make new friends. In a bid to take his mind off his homesickness, Sami is introduced to Harry Adams, one of the elderly residents at the care home where his mum works. Although wary of one another at first, the pair gradually form a bond, as Harry tells Sami the story of the unusually named Splen and his dog Bobby, who lived through the Second World War and the infamous Coventry Blitz. As Sami discovers more about Splen and his dramatic escape from the horrors of conflict, the two unlikely friends make peace with their troubled pasts and forge a new sense of hope for the future.

The story started from a mad conversation with my then 11-year-old grandson Alfie. We were chatting about names and he came out with “what did Splen do?” to which I replied “Well something splendid I guess!” the name stayed in my head. He also told me that books about wizards and talking trees, and strange creatures bored him and he wanted to read about real people that were, sort of, like him. So I had to listen to my audience, stop writing the story with the magician and get real. So Splen was born. Sometimes a character will worm their way so deeply into your psyche you have to accept the inevitable and write them.

I set the book in the 1940s because I felt the word splendid was a bit old-fashioned and seemed to sit in that era rather well. Having decided on an era I then needed to pick an event. To be honest if you’d asked me, “would you write about WW2?” I think I would have been very negative about it as my setting, but sometimes when you write, things just happen. I picked the Blitz in Coventry because it was a one-off event, one night of extreme horror. Something almost biblical about the night when the bombers came. The more I read about it the more it drew me in. I toyed with the idea of using the canal as the main location. Having lived on a canal boat for 12 years it’s a subject close to my heart but somehow I couldn’t make that work.

Coventry is a place that has rebuilt its self from a devastated City to an ambassador for peace and reconciliation. It is a City where hope is abundant, a City that could offer a young Syrian refugee healing and a future. I really wanted that message to be the overwhelming theme of the story.

I needed to bring the present day in as it would give the story more impact and resonate with us now, bring history to life. Syria is sadly a perfect example of, “we never learn.” War is war no matter when or where it happens. There are some moments in the book that are harrowing but I don’t believe we should sugar coat everything. Children never cease to amaze me with their emotional intelligence. They get it, they see it again and again on the TV, but they also need hope.

I also wanted to explore the wonderful relationship between the very young and the old. They seem to enjoy each other’s company with no barriers. My grandchildren get on better with my mother than any of her children or her grandchildren! They’ll happily listen to her stories which we have all heard, probably too many times!

Most of my research was done on line, what a wonder tool! Reading first-hand experiences for both Coventry and Syria. The first-hand experiences of the children in the refugee camps are extraordinary. Some of them are breath-taking in their refusal to be beaten by their tragedies, some inevitably painful and very hard to read. And books, copious books. Visiting Coventry and The Blitz Experience Museum gave me such a sensory understanding and helped me to feel it, take me right into the night of the Blitz.

Plotter or punster? Bit of both, I have a “story,” the bare bones, how it starts where it goes and how it ends. I tend to approach every scene as a mini story and once the basic structures in place then I let my imagination go. I also find that the characters have a habit of dictating the outcomes — when you write the characters and places become incredibly real. I do sometimes become a character and start talking like them, usually when out walking with the dog — I get some strange looks occasionally! So she gets to hear everything way before it gets committed to paper.

About the Author

Amanda Malben trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama but has dedicated herself to teaching. She taught adults with learning difficulties at Northampton College, specialising in drama, and English as a foreign language to adults. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she co-founded a project with Northampton University to help improve the language skills of immigrant children and their parents. Now retired, she lives in the Northamptonshire countryside close to the Warwickshire border and enjoys writing and walking her dog.

Publisher: Wrate Publishing
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: YA
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Jennifer L. Cahill

It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi, and One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4.
Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual.
Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At 28 she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming.
Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness.
Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future.

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I love forming new characters, they didn’t exist before I created them. I love the fact that, hopefully, people will enjoy my books and learn a little. I love the actual creative process, when inspiration strikes and the words start flying onto the page. When I started writing it felt like life turned into an adventure, as all of a sudden everything thwas potentially inspiration.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
I couldn’t possibly answer this without ruining the plot unfortunately!

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Simply Water, or sometimes juice mixed with coconut water, soda water and coconut kefir.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I’m not sure, I just go completely into the zone, so I’m unaware of any bad habits that I might have.

How do you research your books?
I am naturally curious and lead a busy life, and I find that life itself and the people that I meet along the way inspire me. I write first, and then verify (through research) later. Writers often find that their lives err on the side of the dramatic, and I have definitely found that to be the case with me. Drama is not always good, so with negative experiences I try to learn from them and then I include a few pearls of wisdom in my books if I think that will help people and if it fits in with the story.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I would say I’m a ‘planster’ – a mixture of both 

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
Camelot because it’s got that mixture of love, chivalry, romance, royalty, history and magic.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I would pick Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, as long as she would let me play with her dragons. I love the fact that she’s extremely feminine, very beautiful but strong and commanding at the same time. I also do like the fact that she seems a bit magical and has dragons. What’s not to love! She’s by far one of the strongest characters in Game of Thrones.

About the Author

Living in Notting Hill, Jennifer L Cahill works with both individuals and blue chip clients to help them navigate and master change and transformation. She has over seventeen years’ experience in consulting specialising in change, communications, business transformation and personal development. She has a graduate degree in International Commerce and Spanish and a Masters in Business Studies. In her spare time she loves embracing her more creative side. For more information please visit or follow her @JLCAuthor

Publisher: Little Bang Publishing
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 77
Genre: Spiritual
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Into The Summerland

Julian Cundy

The eternal question – what happens when we die? Is there a consequence from how we lived? Is there a reckoning?
Henry Ashton’s turbulent life is at an end. As he moves on from this world, he discovers how elusive the final peace can be.
With a spirit companion by his side, Henry learns there can be no peace without reconciliation, no rest without acceptance. He must walk his own path to absolution.
“For some souls the transition from mortal life to eternal peace is an easy one, soon completed. For others, who have been troubled in their life or who cannot reconcile the events and their part in them, the journey is longer…and harder. But every soul will find its rest.”

What is your favourite thing about writing books? Who is your favourite character in your book and why? What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
My favourite thing when writing books is that moment when you hit the synergy. You’ve got the idea, you’ve figured out how you are going to express it and – finally – you’ve got the right words to set down. I have been sitting chuckling away to myself, sometimes with tears, sometimes with electricity crackling in my veins at that moment when it all comes together.
That’s when you don’t care if it’s a best seller or just one that your Mum likes. It’s the moment that you validate yourself as a writer and enjoy the achievement.
In a wider sense, the great thing about writing books is that you have time and space to develop your ideas, opinions and present them in a measured way. In the heat of discussion, debate, argument and confrontation it is often hard to remain focused. At the desk, you can take your time, articulate your thoughts and let the words flow.
My favourite character in my new novella Into the Summerland is the main protagonist Henry. He has all attributes we admire and find frustrating in the war baby generation: Stoic and principled, stubborn and prejudiced. His development and eventual reclamation, whilst keeping his dignity intact is what I’d wish for to all those souls.
My favourite writing drink is tea (of course!) Steaming hot, strong with a little sugar to taste.
If I’m wanting to relax my mind into the nocturnal zone, I will quaff some Southern Comfort with Coke.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Since I quit smoking (5 years and counting!) I’ve been on the look-out for a new bad habit.
Since most of my downtime waiting for the next burst of inspiration involves walking miles and miles along the Essex coast, I don’t really suffer from indulging in any foodie treats.
I guess the worst thing that those around would say is that when I’m in the writing mindset, I get real tunnel vision to the point that the house could be on fire and I’d keep typing. But they’re all pretty considerate and I do take everyone out to dinner to celebrate once it’s all done!

How do you research your books?
With Into the Summerland there were many references to faiths both old and new. Not overtly, I wanted to keep them subtle! But it’s critical if you are going to stray into areas that are special to people that you get it right. The old religions as well as new ones, along with general philosophies and modern life coaching tips have more in common than their followers would admit, but woe betide you for a misplaced edict! My collection of online bookmarks and library of reference books grew quite a lot during that period.
If I’m writing in the ‘real’ world then I spend a lot of time checking timetables for planes, trains and ferries. Time zones, languages and currencies all have to be right if you want to be taken seriously when writing an international thriller.
It’s also always good fun to go out and meet the experts where you can. I walked into Chelmsford Police station a few years ago to check the exact wording of a caution, much to the desk sergeant’s bemusement. Maybe I should have reflected that “You do not have to say anything…”
On a very practical level, when I’m reviewing the manuscript, I’ll make sure the story is hanging together, whilst drawing big blue crosses next to the entries where something needs to be checked. It’s important to get things right, but not as important as making sure you’ve written a great story!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
When I get the first sketch of an idea, I figure out how it’s going to start and end. What the key plot slices are and which characters need to end up where. Then it’s just a case of how they all get there.
Which I guess makes me the classic Planster. I need the signposts, but I need freedom so the story can be flexible.
I can’t imagine having everything worked out in advance. That would be too restrictive. But I can’t imagine an open-ended writing odyssey without even the slightest notion of a destination.
When writing a previous book, things were really not working out right. I’d completed the manuscript but wasn’t happy. So I changed the ending, removed a couple of chapters and gave one of the main characters a wife.
All of which needed new back stories and a new plot line to get the now-married character to the critical part of the story. As well as a forensic line-by-line re-examination for impacts.
It was at times tortuous, but I came out with a much better book. Upshot being I guess that I need to work on my inner panster!

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
As my Steampunk style would suggest, something within the 19th century, where the worlds of Charles Dickens and HG Wells would come together in a cacophony of social rectitude and dazzling, anarchic adventure!
I’d revel in the exchanges of social niceties, knowing the underlying tensions that crackle under the surface. I’d join the mad inventors, reaching to the skies and beyond in challenging all known laws of physics, time and gravity.
I’d pick from the finest collection of gentleman’s attire and walk out along the fine streets of London, then donate the rest to the desperately poor that even to this day still live among us.
I’d attend the presentations of the most overblown, sumptuous launches, toasting the lunatics pledging to venture to the moon and back before the smoky chimes of Big Ben call all good subjects to their beds.
There must be fun, or life has no meaning. And there must be compassion or life has no purpose.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. A tragic hero. A waster who falls in love with Lucie Manette, already pledged and then married to Charles Darnay.
Sydney has no time for social niceties and apparently has no concern over how he is perceived. His careless manner belies the relentless drive – initially we believe catapulting him towards an early demise.
Whatever Dickens plugged into to bring this fascinating character to life, I recognise and understand totally. In a world that requires conformity, the rebel shall find mischief, mirth but a long road to peace.
His triumph – and final valediction is by laying down his life for the man who makes his true love happy. He has no affection for Darnay, but complete devotion to his unattainable wife.
I’m sure that Sydney would be highly suspicious, if not highly amused by my interest in him. But he would be splendid company. And spending an evening with a bowl of punch in a tavern with him would be wonderful!

About the Author

Living in Westcliff-on-Sea Essex, Julian Cundy is a British adventurer, dedicated day dreamer, wordsmith and observer of life and all its absurdities. He is a recognisable character in his home town thanks to his eye-catching outfits comprising fine hats, cravats, tails and spats.

Publisher: Little Bang Publishing
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 77
Genre: Spiritual
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Double Felix

Sally Harris

He skips every second step when he takes the stairs, taps door handles twice and positions objects in pairs. The problem has become so bad that Felix is on the verge of being expelled from school because the principal has had enough of trying to run the school around his very specific rules. Then Charlie Pye arrives and turns his world upside down. She s grown up with very few rules. She eats cereal for lunch, calls a boat home, and has a very loose interpretation of school uniform. The question is, can Felix ever learn to be wrong when he is so obsessed with being right?

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
My favourite part of being a writer is that I get to make things up and get paid for it! I also love the challenge of trying to be relentlessly entertaining in the way that I tell a story and getting to create characters to take on adventures. The hardest part about being a writer for me is creating characters that I really like and then having to give them problems. In my ideal world, everyone would be happy all of the time, but that would make for some very boring stories!

What is your favourite thing about being a MG author?
My favourite thing about being an author for Middle Grade readers is that they are discerning. As a writer you’ve got to respect them as readers or they won’t go along with the journey you have planned for them. There is no talking down to them or trying to pull the wool over their eyes and this really tests you as a writer. Once you have them hooked, however, you can take Middle Grade readers along for the ride to anywhere and they will come along with you. I also love that MG readers enjoy a good laugh and a rip-roaring adventure, yet they are mature enough to tackle some big issues too.

Why did you choose to write a character with OCD traits?
I think that it is really important for readers to be able to see themselves in the characters of the books they are reading. There are lots of children who struggle with various mental illnesses like OCD and I think that they are unrepresented in stories. I wanted to share Felix’s story as a way of showing readers that they are not alone and as a way of helping other students to empathise with their peers. I’m hoping that once someone has read Double Felix, it will help them to understand people around them who are different to themselves and help them to connect in a really positive, inclusive way.

What is your favourite moment in Double Felix? (Without any spoilers!)
That’s such a hard question to answer! I have lots of favourite moments in Double Felix, so I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite three scenes to write:

1. Chapter Two when we meet Felix ‘improving’ Mrs Lovejoy’s Office – because who wouldn’t enjoy messing up their Principal’s Office!

2. I loved writing the scene where Felix and Charlie visit her ‘home’ as I’ve always wanted to live somewhere like that myself.

3. I really enjoyed writing the scene where Felix wants to get into the Library but the door is locked. The image of his bottom wiggling in the air as he tries to squeeze through the window will never leave me!

Where is your favourite place to write?

If I am writing at home, I love to be cosy. Right now it is winter here in Australia, so I’m under a woolly blanket with my dog at my feet acting like a fluffy hot water bottle and my computer on my lap. I also love to get out of the house and write when I can. Taking my laptop to a local cafe for an hour with a cup of coffee is a great way for me to get some words onto the page. Bonus points if I can avoid connecting to the Internet while I’m there and extra extra bonus points if the cafe is in a bookshop!

About the Author

Sally Harris grew up in rural Australia and after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in Children’s Literature, Sally has been busy writing and working as a primary teacher, in both Australia and the UK. Her first book, Diary of a Penguin-Napper, sold over 10 000 copies and her second book, Ruby Marvelous, has inspired children all over the world to try their hand at cooking exploding finger buns! Sally loves animals, including penguins, and, as she can’t have one of those as a pet, she has found that a dog is definitely the next best thing.

Website. Twitter.

Publisher: Wacky Bee Books
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Genre: MG Contemporary
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Awakened

Julian Cheek

My name is Sam. I am nothing special but apparently if I don’t wake up, both this world and that other one will be destroyed. Nice One! All I wanted was to disappear into my own world and be left alone. But, No! Even THAT was taken away from me.
Well just wait. You want me to fight? I’ll show you “fight.”
You took the most important thing in my life away from me, and now I am coming for you.
Hidden away in your mountain stronghold, even the rocks around you will not stop me getting to you.
You started this war.
I am going to finish it!
Seventeen year old Sam just wants to be left alone!
He has enough to cope with in his invisible, suburban, existence without having some fantastic and, frankly, unasked-for, alternate reality drop into his life asserting that he has powers beyond his wildest dreams. And that unless he does something, both his world, and that of Muanga-Atua, will come to a horrible end.
A terrifying episode one blustery night may be enough to start to erode the impregnable shell he thought he had built up around himself. A shell, not to keep others out, but to keep the rage in. Could he afford, as was the norm now, just to do nothing?

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
For me, my favourite things is the wrestling, trying to find the right/best way to describe a scene such that the reader is instantly transported into that environment, regardless as to whether they have ever experienced the same for themselves or not. And when there, for them to then associate with the scene, experience or event unfolding, and this, star to associate with the story as a whole

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Alice! I loved playing with the fact that she is a total enigma to Sam. He doesn’t know whether to blush, curse, get frustrated or run away, but there is something about Alice that gets under his skin, so he is almost powerless to keep away from her. Without giving too much of the story away, Alice is also key to Muanga-Atua, the alternative world Sam discovers. The reader is slowly introduced to her, and hopefully, is kept guessing till the very end.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Part of the reason for writing this trilogy, (of which “The Awakened” is book one) is because when my partner and I went to New Zealand on sabbatical, we were so amazed with the place, in terms of the scenery, culture, grandeur… and coffee, that we wrote a blog ( about our experiences, and interestingly, an awful lot of coffee is consumed. So, coffee, which I find comforting, or a G&T, which is of course, the best cold drink, ever

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Of course not! Although I am sure my partner, Mitch, would easily be able to rattle off numerous habits, which, whilst not bad in themselves, annoy her! I will leave it for her to come to my rescue. Probably looking out the window and day-dreaming, rather than concentrating on the subject at hand…. And waffling, I am very good at just rambling on and on and…. Hmmm. Enough said.

How do you research your books?
I do a lot of reading and go online frequently during research periods. Another aspect, for example, when describing the scene in Paris (and, no, I will not be writing any spoiler alerts here!) is that we travel a lot and soak up the culture and landscapes as much as possible. We both write, and this comes naturally to us, so we are not describing areas or places which are unrealistic.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I take my writing seriously and so I would describe myself generally as a plotter. The story needs to have some structure from which to build itself. However, once I have refined this “skeleton” I would rather that certain aspects are allowed to wander into the “pantser” home, rip off the curtains and turn up the music till the windows crack. Both feed off each other.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
In Piers Anthony’s Adept Series, he paints a fantastic world called “Phaze”. If one could combine the world of Phaze with that of Lord of the Rings, that is where I would like to live. I love wide open scenery with huge mountains that break the skyline, and then disappear into the forests where mankind becomes so small in relation to the ageless trees, earth and nature.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Thomas Covenant, from the Stephen Donaldson series, would probably be the one fictional character I would love to try to befriend. It would be fascinating to sit with him and learn all about wisdom carved from adversary. But, like most best friends, it would be bloody difficult to stop myself thumping him at times for his sheer bloody-mindedness. Sorry, am I allowed to say, “bloody”? No? Bugger!

About the Author

Living in Petersfield, Hampshire, Julian Cheek has worked for over thirty years as an architect working on several major projects including Mercedes World, a competition for Battersea Power Station, NikeTown and most recently a high rise, Versace branded residential building in London. When not designing he is embracing his other creative interests, writing. His first book, You should not wake a hibernating Puff-Adder (2011) was a series of short stories inspired by his childhood growing up in South Africa.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 306
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Past is Present

Kathleen Webb

After the untimely death of her mother and father, twenty-four year old Catherine Morgan leaves the Cambridge home where she has spent the better part of her life, to move to Cornwall. She takes a job as a teacher, working in an old rambling school which has been converted from a domestic home, perched high up on a hilltop, overlooking the beautiful Cornish coastline.
Out of the blue a letter arrives from a bank in Switzerland, advising Catherine that she is the sole heir to a fortune of over thirty million dollars. With no living relatives, save for a great aunt in the USA, Catherine sets out to uncover the source of this staggering inheritance, and to unravel the mystery that lies behind it.
With the help of her great aunt, Catherine begins to dig deep into long forgotten family secrets. Strange dreams begin to plague her. She is haunted by the eerie feeling that someone from her family’s past is trying to help her. Catherine must work to make sense of the past while defending herself, and her fortune, from someone in the present who will stop at nothing to secure the money for themselves.
The Past is Present is the debut novel by Kathleen Webb.

My favourite thing about writing books
I think my favourite aspect of writing is plotting the story line. All the twist and turns gradually come together and the characters come to life!

My favourite character in my book
My favourite character in my book is Great Aunt Izzy. She is quirky and a little eccentric. At the age of 83 she wears long Laura Ashley floral frocks, floppy hats and trainers, but she is highly intelligent and quite canny!

My favourite drink while writing
My favourite drink when I write is a nice cup of tea, several in fact, together with a slice of homemade cake!

Bad habits whilst writing
The only bad habit I think I have is ‘grazing’. I tend to graze on nuts, chopped fruit, dates etc. It helps me concentrate on the plot and keeps my energy levels up. Not good for the waistline!!

How do I research
I research nearly all information on line. I do have a set of encyclopaedias which I refer to from time to time.

Am I a plotter or a pantser
I am definitely a plotter. I devise the beginning and the end and fill in the body of the story as I go along.

Which fictional world would I live in?
I would live in the world of St. Mary Meade; the village in which Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple lives. This period of history is fascinating and the village looks beautiful.

Which fictional character would I befriend?
This would definitely be Miss Marple. She is such an interesting clever character. She comes across as unassuming, but has a wonderful knack of solving all the mysteries.

About the Author

Living in Hertfordshire, Kathleen Webb has always held a passion for writing and since retiring she’s finally found the time to realise her dream and complete her first novel. When not writing she can be found spending quality time with her grandchildren and children and baking delicious decorative cakes.

Publisher: ClinkStreet Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary Horror
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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