Posts Tagged ‘Guest Post’

If Only They Could Talk

Ian Walker

Miles Goodyear’s whole life has been planned out for him. Born into a wealthy brewing family in Chesterfield between the wars, he knows he will go to the local grammar school, followed by St John’s College, Oxford. After graduating, he will then follow his older brother into the family business where he will remain until the next generation eventually takes over when he retires.
But life – and a series of bad decisions – go against him and, as a result, things turn out very differently from what was originally planned.
If Only They Could Talk is the story of one man’s reflection on his life, his failed relationships, his regrets and his dashed hopes. It’s about someone born with so much, who loses everything as he struggles to cope with a changing world. Or at least that’s what his relatives are led to believe as they clear out his house following his death.
Gradually, the house reveals its secrets, but nothing his relatives find there can prepare them for the final twist to Miles’s story.

Five Favourite Things About My Protagonist

On the face of it, it’s difficult to like too many things about my main character Miles Goodyear. For a start, he is one of life’s losers. Most men can only dream of the start in life that he had. After all, he was born into a wealthy brewing family and was destined to have the best possible education at the local Grammar School. Following this, he would go on to study at the illustrious St John’s College Oxford. This would have prepared him to take up a job for life as a director in the family firm. Yet despite all the privileges that his upbringing bestowed on him, he still managed to lose everything. Miles is also a drinker, an adulterer and a person who abuses his position at work. Nevertheless, you can’t help but like him. Would I want to go on a night out with him? Yes, I would. Would I want him to run my company? No, never! Would I ask him to give me advice regarding affairs of the heart? Absolutely not.

At the centre of Miles’s story is his friendship with Sprout and Herman. He meets the two of them on his first day at school and they remain close friends for the rest of their lives. That is something not many of us manage to do and it demonstrates the type of person he is.

In some ways, Miles is a bit like King George VI. Miles was never meant to run the family business. In the same way – albeit further up the social ladder – George VI was never meant to become king. Those were the roles their brothers were destined to take on, but didn’t. As a result Miles is a person who is deeply conscious of precisely what his family has achieved. He is fully aware of the responsibility he has to pass that legacy onto the next generation. In many ways it is a chain around his neck, a burden he has to bear. However he realises it’s his duty and he refuses to shirk his responsibilities both to his family and his employees. That’s despite the fact that he would have been financially better off if he’d decided just to sell up.

Miles is also a trier. As the world is changing about him and all his competitors start to fail, he strives to adjust, to bring in new ideas and new products in order to save his family business. Ultimately he’s not successful but at least he can say he tried his best.

One of the great things about Miles is that he is able to re-invent himself. Having failed as a businessman he tries his hand at something completely different. I’ve always admired people who are able to succeed in two quite distinct fields. People like George Forman who went from being a professional boxer to selling his grill on TV, or Glenda Jackson who successfully changed career from being a famous actor to becoming an astute politician. Nobody could claim that Miles was a successful businessman. But at least he was able to start all over again as a teacher in the school where he was a pupil in his youth. Eventually he even becomes moderately successful and is relatively happy in his new profession.

Finally, Miles is no cold fish. He’s the type of person who usually lets his heart rule his head and ultimately this leads to his downfall. We all love a flawed character like him. It’s the same reason why Nelson has a column in Trafalgar Square, despite the fact he was both impulsive and an adulterer. In contrast, the cool, calculating Wellington only has a very practical pair of waterproof boots named after him.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 270
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: N/A
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Charles Dickens: My Life

Derwin Hope

When Charles Dickens died prematurely on the 9th June 1870 aged only 58, he left behind a legacy unsurpassed in English fictional literature. But he also wanted to write his true life story and this remained undone. 150 years on from his death, I have found that sufficient material has now been uncovered to enable that narrative of his life story to be produced for the first time. Research amongst 15,000 of his letters, journalistic articles, documents and other relevant material connected to him have all combined to make it possible for me to piece together that evidence and, guided by the way he wrote his two travel books, has resulted in the production of this personal story in his own words that he so desired to tell. It shows exactly how, from difficult beginnings, he descended into acute humiliation and abject poverty, before then emerging due to his talent and incredible resolve, into one of the most famous men and popular authors the world has ever known. It chronicles his enormous public triumphs and his profound private turmoils, as well as the secret life he led when, on his own admission, he became “seized with lunacy”. It includes his two momentous visits to America, and his withering and radical opinions of institutions and situations he found there, as well as those he encountered at home – all expressed in his own inimitable style. This is his compelling and personal narrative, put together for the first time in a way that he wished his legacy to be told. It is the real and true story of his life.

How I Researched My Book

After hearing that Dickens may have led a secret life, I began by reading modern biographies of him to try and find out more and then turned the clock back to read the 3 volumes on his life produced by his friend John Forster shortly after Dickens had died in1870. I still did not feel I knew the real and true story about him when, by chance in 2004, I became a Judge in Portsmouth. I visited the humble house of his birth and as I stood in the bedroom where he was born, the question went through my mind: ”How did he get from here to the life of fame he went on to lead, and how much of this did he explain in his own words?” I then began further research, focussing only on things that Dickens had said about his life. This included not only what he had told Forster in secret about his childhood, but studying in detail 15,000 of his letters that had now been published, details of what he had written in his journalism and other documents relating to him, as well as verbatim transcripts of his speeches and faithful reports from people who had witnessed other things that he had said. I put this gigantic jigsaw of his reporting of his life into a continuous narrative form using his words, so that for the first time in 150 years the true sequence of his life is set out as he had wanted to do himself, but had left undone by the time of his untimely death at the age of 58.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 536
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The War of the Snakes

Julian Cheek

“Dreams can’t be real, can they?”
Such is the gnawing question reverberating through Sam’s head as he battles with a dilemma, which refuses to be ignored.
In his dreams, he is always confronted by one simple point: Muanga-Atua exists! And for some un-asked for and un-wanted reason, he – Sam – is expected to save this place from the calamity that engulfs the people of the Turangai. Not only that, but he is also supposed to have some sort of incredible power by which he is expected to destroy both the Bjarke and their leader, Lord Elim, the Turangai’s oppressors.
“But that is ridiculous! Right?”
Determined to ignore all that occurs in this so-called ‘dream world’, he does nothing. That is until one cold, grey, autumn morning a TV news flash captures a shocking series of events, which leads to one undeniable truth; what he has tried to ignore all along in Muanga-Atua has somehow incredibly exploded into his world and it is searching… Searching for him.
His do-nothing approach is just not good enough. Not now. He will have to go back to Muanga-Atua to seek out this power he was supposed to have obtained. Find the power, accept what it can do through him, and go out into that awful place to do battle with someone, or something that makes his very blood run cold.
But how? How can he go into this world and be all that the Turangai think he is, when he still cannot accept the truth? That he is ‘The One’. Sam, Wielder of the Staff of the Ethereals and saviour of their world. And now, apparently, of his own as well.

Favourite Things About The Main Protagonist

My favourite things about Sam, the protagonist in the Ethereal Series trilogy, is that he is both loveable and incredibly frustrating. At times, you want to encourage him not to give up and at other times, you want to pull him into a quiet corner and slap him senseless!

I have grown up with boys and I can associate with how Sam copes with his feelings of rejection from both his parents and his peers. We find out, at an early stage of “The Awakened”, Book 1 of the Ethereal Series, that a traumatic loss in the family, drives his parents into their own black holes and they cannot cope or deal with their younger son, who was only ever looking for some answers to questions which had none. As the reader follows Sam through Book 1 and Book 2 (The War of the Snakes), one begins to see the battles that Sam is having to deal with, both imposed from the outside and created from his own feelings of inadequacy. It is hopefully a scenario which the readers will be able to associate with.

Furthermore, he is a young man who is also being forced to listen to his own testosterone which refuses to bend to his pleading. He cannot help himself at times, and this is one area that I enjoyed playing on, especially with his interaction with Alice, proprietress of “Timber’s Tea House, and, as an aside, leader of the Anahim, who happen to be spirit beings in charge of the worlds he interacts with. Here, he is never quite sure of himself and, what he finds incredibly frustrating, is that he cannot put his finger on what is happening that she is able to get under his skin.

On the other hand when he encounters both Ma-Aka and Pania in Muanga-Atua, we begin to see another side of him that he has kept hidden all these years; A caring, gentle soul who, ultimately, wants the best of those he comes into contact with.

I tried to make him a very believable and honest individual, one we all hopefully, can see elements of in ourselves. I enjoyed creating this character who, at times, is so physical in his stupidity, that the reader really wants to take him to oneside for a good telling off. If the character is real enough, then the reader will want to engage with him. And this, I have enjoyed creating through his stumbling slow realization that perhaps, just perhaps, he is worth a damn.

In short, the main characters of the story are split into the two worlds. The main character in both, is Sam, a 17-year old boy. In Sam’s “normal” world, his parents, Margot and Paul Gilbert, who are introduced to the reader in Book One, “The Awakened”, struggle to cope with the tragic loss of their eldest son, David; Sam’s brother and closest friend. Their overwhelming grief is so intense that they are unable to see how it is affecting their youngest son, Sam. This is purposely not made clear at the outset as I want the reader to start to journey with Sam in his angst and turmoil, (which is a pivotal element binding all three books together.) and start to associate themselves with the very real scenario that happens to many families when their world is torn apart by the loss of a family member.

Binding the two worlds together, is Alice, Proprietress of “Timbers Tea House” and, unbeknownst to Sam, an Anahim, (a powerful and magical “angel” of sorts, sent by the Ethereals, the ultimate spiritual powers in Muanga-Atua) sent from the alternate reality to watch over him and hopefully, guide him into becoming what his destiny demands of him. Again, I did not want the reader to know this at first, but I have tried to weave the words in such a way so that the reader starts to guess but is never quite sure until the right moment.

In the alternate reality, Muanga-Atua, which he accesses whilst dreaming, Sam’s main “partner” is Babu, a Padme. In Muanga-Atua, no-one can exist without a Padme, which is revealed to each person when they reach a certain age. The fact that Babu happens to be a small, furry, lethal fang-bearing, snake-tailed apparition,does not endear him to Sam to start with. In the beginning, the reader is introduced to the fact that, for some reason, Sam has been to this place before, but cannot remember why. So whenever he meets other people who all seem to know him, his natural inclination is to strike out at them in defense, a trait roughly taught by his feelings of a total lack of love from his parents over the loss of his brother David, for which he blames himself!

In book One, the reader is introduced to a further three main characters who all interact with Sam during his journey. Ma-Aka, Pania and Ngaire are all woven into Sam’s world and become an unbreakable trio of companionship, friendship and love. In Book Two, these characters remain but now the reader is introduced more fully into the world of Muanga-Atua being introduced to five unique and challenging monks of the realm together with three strange men who become lifelong aids to his plight. The lives and workings of the Bjarke, the sworn enemy of the Turangai, are drawn out in stronger detail together with the direction behind the scenes of Lord Elim, the main person responsible for Sam losing his memory in the first place.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 600
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Loss of Some Detail

Mandi Martin

Forget all you know, for all you know might well be false.
That is how is often seems to asylum worker James Grey as he tends to the patients abandoned to Oculus Mentis, an austere asylum lost to the world. His day to day quite literally forgettable.
Until now.
Slowly the world around him starts to change. Plagued by lucid dreams, a haunting drawing and visions of a pleading female he feels his mind is dissolving.
Aided by the enigmatic Silas and silent Marianne he seeks to solve the mysteries that are tormenting him.

Favourite Things About The Main Protagonist

When it comes to my favourite things about my main protagonist, in this case; James Grey, it is quite hard to answer.
I like all of my characters, including those less pleasant, for different reasons, they are after all a part of me.
The first thing that springs to mind is his compassion. He is trapped in a world of woeful treatment and surroundings that would take whatever sanity one possesses. Despite that he is able to hold on to his heart and still care for people who others long since gave up on.
He simply sees people as people, despite their quirks and difficulties. After all, we aren’t here to judge others.
I tried to think back to when I was on a psychiatric unit, being bounced between there and the main hospital, for over six months. The staff were putting up with a great deal of stress and strain and seeing the worst in life more than the best.
Yet they were always so caring and comforting. Without them I wouldn’t have managed to last.
I took inspiration from that and I believe in some ways it shows in James.
In the Victorian era the mentally ill were the dregs of society and the asylums were little more than a dumping ground or a place for experimental ‘treatment’.
Staff maybe started with the best intentions but slowly many of them were worn down, becoming bitter and distant and not seeing the patients as people anymore.
The name ‘Bedlam’ was an apt name for an asylum.
The staff James works around are very similar to that but James himself has maintained his caring nature even though it is tested greatly as well as his own sanity. Many believed that getting too close to the afflicted would mean they ‘caught’ their deficiencies, a mind-set that made conditions worse.
He also has an inner strength that might not seem obvious but when one reads the entire book they will see what I mean. Life is fragile and is very easy to give up but he holds onto it, even though there would be many an occasion where it would be simple to cut those narrow strands that tie us here.
I think he finds solace in the fact he has at least two people he can confide in, despite them not being able to solve what bothers him they can still offer an ear to listen and to accept that small aid is strength in itself.
Consequently he has to rely on himself, a hard ask and a struggle when one is conflicted and fearful.
Compassion and strength are two things I admire in anyone and that stretches to fictional characters also. They are important traits that I strive for in my own life and I hope others do as well. I like to try and get across that people are different but that doesn’t mean we cannot like each other, appreciate each other’s uniqueness and I hope that comes across.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 162
Genre: Historical
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Vatican Games

Alejandra Guibert

Vera is born on the day an apocalyptic revenge is unleashed, annihilating half of the world’s population.
Her birth marks the beginning of a new world order run by powerful gaming corporations.
A warless existence with no poverty has been secured, until this fine balance becomes once more under threat.
Vera is the female David to beat Goliath and prevent further devastation.
The future lies in her hands. It’s a game that she needs to win.

Five of My Favourite Things About Being An Author

by Alejandra Guibert

I love creating stories, imagining a world that is not my own but someone else’s. As a child, I always created stories during bath time and became lost in my imagination to a point that my mother had to drag me out of the bathroom when I had been too long!

Of course creating characters gives me great pleasure too. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they feel and doing what they would do brings an incredible feeling as I’m putting it on the page. It’s almost as if I were introduced to these characters at the beginning of a book and as time went by and they developed, they would end up telling me what their next step would be.

One of my favourite things of being an author is the ability to be in my own bubble of creation. Spending time in the worlds I’m creating and with those people within those worlds and being able to create meanings and ideas through them.

I also enjoy immensely being inspired by other authors. Alongside my own journey as a writer, I am constantly reading and looking for inspiration from different sources: I enjoy looking into different and inspiring forms of expression from other novelists but I also thrive on the knowledge passed on by non-fiction authors. I usually have four or five books on the go, from which I gain inspiration, as long as they are relevant to what I’m writing.

And last but not least, I love the interaction with readers, I enjoy learning of their own interpretation of events and characters and sharing deeper meaning to a story or a poem. Some of my ideas and wishes translate into a kind of message that I want to convey. In brief, communication with the reader is paramount to my writing. Showing viewpoints and concepts that might help change reality for the better, whilst somehow moving or touching the reader is my ultimate goal.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: January 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 242
Genre: Sci-Fi
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Legend of Sidri

Rauf Khalilov

In the mythical realm of Badalonium, a young boy named Sidri lived happily with his beloved parents. But the family is shattered by an evil figure from the afar, triggering a series of events that lead Sidri on a journey of self-development, friendship, family reunions and retribution.

Rauf Khalilov’s Favourite Books

1. Sans Famille by Hector Malot.
As a child I read this book probably a thousand times. I like this book because it showed the struggles and sufferings of poor people in capitalist France and England. The protagonist was probably the same age as I and I could relate to him and his struggles. I also loved the fact that he was in the end able to overcome his impediments and triumph. Every story must have a positive ending.

2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.
I like this book for several reasons. This book was very popular in my household and I grew up with various elements that were taken from it. For example, my dad always called my oldest aunt Cossette. I had no idea why this was the case when I was a child. I only found out the reason when I read the book. Les Misérables is a book about human nature. It’s a book about injustice, human suffering and sacrifice. My most favourite characters are Jean Valjean and Bishop Myriel.

3. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
This is one of the first books I read in English. I was fascinated by it because it described the harsh realities of 19th Century England. I was fascinated by Dicken’s writing because he could describe England and the life of people there in such detail that I could picture it in my head. Years later when I arrived in England, I noticed everything I had imagined whilst reading Dickens was exactly the same.

4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevski

A masterpiece touching on a variety of moral and existential issues. One of my favourite moments is when Raskolnikov bows in front of Sonia and kisses her feet. He says “I did not bow down to you. I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity”. Of course, this sounds much better in Russian.

5. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
I love persian poetry especially the ones by Omar Khayyam. I find Khayyam’s poetry very interesting because he talks about deep issues through poetry. As a poet I find this fascinating because I know how difficult it is to philosophise through poetry.

Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 50
Genre: MG
Age: Children
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Outremer IV

D. N. Carter

A great secret from antiquity is threatened; its eradication, if successful, will lead to mankind’s destruction. There can be no compromise in safeguarding it, whatever the fateful consequences to those entrusted with its continuation. Paul faces impossible choices, ones he cannot make alone. Who can he trust? How can he protect this secret as the world around him falls apart as Outremer descends into a deliberately orchestrated war of unparalleled violence, with Christianity and Islam pitted against one another? Amid the horrors of total war, Paul must decipher the secret, how it has been updated and encoded within the mysteries of Mary Magdalene and the sacred feminine, and how it must be restored if is to be preserved successfully so that mankind can claim its true inheritance, one of unimaginable power. Evil forces wish to control and destroy the secret to stop a new dawn of spiritual awakening, cultivating instead a climate of fear, anger, judgment and the eventual enslavement of our souls. Wiser, braver and nobler individuals step forwards, just as they have always done in the past to intercede against evil, and it is to those men and women Paul must turn. Just when all appears lost, Paul must find true courage, perseverance and faith, and make the ultimate sacrifice. Failure on his part will risk losing this arcane message forever. The time to act is now. Outremer IV is the final instalment of D. N. Carter’s epic historical quartet.

Top Five things about the main protagonist in Outremer

Paul Plantavalu.

He is the leading character within Outremer. Tall and handsome, fair haired with hazel eyes and of a quiet nature and disposition he was intellectually sharp, inquisitive and very much into the arts and architecture who placed honour, truth and justice above all things. He sought answers to what his real surname meant and why it was changed, Plantavalu not being his true identity. Paul fell deeply in love with Alisha al Komaty despite the many warnings he should not because she was from a Muslim family. Alisha was, in his mind, his world. His mother died giving birth to him but he learnt that his father was descended from Segisbert IV, son of Dagobert II and that all traces of their family were eradicated by the Roman Catholic Church. Paul was very much like his father Philip in both physical appearance and nature. Throughout Outremer being told, Pauls character is revealed as he grows from a young, somewhat naive and protected, some would say entitled and privileged upbringing, to manhood. It was not an easy path for an individual who sensed so much and felt things deeply…some would say too deeply at times to his own detriment.

1: He was a dreamer, in a very real sense, but learnt to use his vivid dreams that he would often experience to guide his designs, artwork and even actions in life. He became heavily influenced by several characters he came into contact with, three main ones in particular being Theodoric, Attar and Kratos. Kratos was a truly enigmatic and mysterious character who stood over seven feet tall. With blue eyes that appeared to have flecks of gold in them, similar to Alisha, he looked like a man in his early 60’s but with a full head of pure white hair and no flaws upon his white skin. No one had ever seen him ever look any different despite the passage of time. Living mainly in Malta, he was powerfully built and unbelievably strong and exuded confidence but also a genuine sense of warmth and kindness. He always carried a large staff and had knowledge beyond his time those who knew him would often claim; especially in the sciences and medicine. He would have a very deep and profound role to play in Paul’s life. Attar of Nishapur was a Persian Sufi Mystic famed for his poems. Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm, better known by his pen-names Farīd ud-Dīn and ʿAṭṭār which means apothecary. He was a poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer who had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism. Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds) and Ilāhī-Nāma are among his most famous works. Attar was the son of a wealthy chemist, receiving an excellent education in various fields. He initially practiced the profession of pharmacy and personally attended to a very large number of customers. The people he helped often confided their troubles in him which affected him deeply. Paul likewise was constantly affected by the people he helped and came into contact with…something he had to learn to manage carefully to keep his own sanity. Attar eventually, abandoned his pharmacy store and travelled widely to Baghdad, Basra, Kufa, Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Khwarizm, Turkistan, and India, meeting with Sufi Shaykhs and returned promoting Sufi ideas. He had a major influence on Paul’s studies and guided him wisely. He helped Paul learn how to interpret his dreams but also his growing insightful and spiritual abilities and how to trust his instincts. Then there was Theodoric. In his late sixties he was a wise esoteric maverick recluse who helped Paul to learn, but more importantly understand esoteric and exoteric codes. He also taught him martial skills of close combat. With a great sense of humour he wore an old habit and was rather pale looking and his weight often fluctuated between being thin to rather rotund, not fat as he would often argue…but always hungry. He was incredibly wise and insightful and imparted much of his knowledge and wisdom gained over several decades from many schools including Sufi mysticism and secrets of the Magi to Paul. He was a former knight with a mysterious past he kept close to his chest but Paul instinctively trusted him. Theodoric’s black sense of humour always came to the fore when he was in dire trouble with many funny comments and observations being made by him. Always calm and utterly unflappable he was an acknowledged great illusionist.

2: Paul was an accomplished artist being able to execute incredibly lifelike drawings of people and places. He drew many people in his time including some of the most famous names of the period from Saladin, King Guy de Lusignan, to Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem, Princess Stephanie and the infamous Reynald de Chatillon. He was even able to draw the enigmatic leader of the Ashashin, Al Rashid, the Old man of the Mountains himself. Paul felt that drawing people closely brought him a deeper sense and understanding of the person. But drawing in such fine detail and accuracy alarmed some people but also led to some very dire consequences later in his life as Outremer reveals.

3: Paul was fundamentally a very sensitive, kind and gentle soul…and consequently as a deep thinker his nature was at times often at odds to the scheming and violent world he found himself in. But it was Alisha who would galvanise his spirit to stand up and fight, to use extreme violence to protect his family and protect others in need when necessary; but this caused him a great personal inner conflict that he found hard to reconcile with the person he thought he was and his beliefs. As Outremer progresses Paul questioned everything he had ever known about Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

4: Having a genuine empathy for others he was naturally both loyal and courageous. Paul considered himself spiritual, not necessarily religious as he saw the two as being two totally different things. Totally believed in, and felt that all life was sacred and that humankind is inherently kind first and foremost and that love is the key to spiritually evolve. He felt that all of us are connected by the very nature of our eternal souls whether others believed in it or not.

5: Service to others before service to self was his overriding character trait. He was prepared to give up everything and sacrifice all that he loved and held dear for the long term benefit of humankind, especially when he considered with utter conviction from the things he had seen and learnt, that the information he was guarding for future generations and the planet we live upon itself, was ultimately for the very survival and advancement of our souls themselves…to guarantee we evolve. This is why he wrote down the codes of antiquity for future generations to rediscover when we again would recognise them for what they are. That generation and that time is now!

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: September 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 582
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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North of the Rock

Ian Jones

John smith is a man who solves problems, just don’t try to stop him. As a favour to an old friend in the FBI John returns to West Texas. But there is now a whole new town and way of life that has sprung up since he was last there ten years previously. He soon finds out he is in the middle of some very rich men who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

How North of the Rock become a book

by Ian Jones

This book started out as a vague idea I had after watching a documentary on the rise of far right politicians and public figures in the United States. I wondered if it would spread significantly over here in the UK and suspected that it probably could. So I came up with the idea initially of John Smith working to uncover an organisation in London, then as I started to write in earnest it evolved quite rapidly. I had written quite a lot then changed the text so the main body would be current day with a strong reference to work that John Smith had done several years previously while working for the government.

This was actually a very interesting book for me to write. I had been in El Paso several years previously for work, and found the whole area fascinating. I drove out to Odessa one day purely because I enjoyed both the book and the film Friday Night Lights, and there are hundreds of miles of nothing at all between the towns. There was a Sheriff’s convention at the hotel I stayed at, which was like a movie in itself. Most were friendly, but some would sit at the bar with a big shiny gun on their belt and talk furiously about the recent election at the time of Barack Obama, there was a lot of anger. The one thing that I noticed was how much the town deteriorated as it got down close to the border.

As the book unfolded I was able to establish Gray Rock so it became completely real in my own mind, and the three wise men were everything that was wrong with the rich manipulating the world to suit themselves.

Somebody who read the book said to me that I had made ‘the bad guys REALLY bad’ and I think that is probably true. Some of the facts we discover in the later stages unfolded almost on their own as I wrote (I actually write my books in order) but I don’t think that my story is incredible or unbelievable. There are those who believe themselves untouchable, and I wanted to give the book some definite right and wrong. It is fair to say that as I progressed the book almost started to write itself.

I am proud of this book, I know it isn’t perfect, and of course I know that not everyone will enjoy it but I am glad I wrote it.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 308
Genre: Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Rock ‘N’ Roll. ‘N’ That…

Steven J. Gill

“Rock ‘n’ roll is a nuclear blast of reality in a mundane world where no-one is allowed to be magnificent.” The former manager of The Runaways said that. The mad bastard. And Johnny Harrison swore by it. He had to. Almost forty, fully paid up member of the rat race and bored sh*tless. He had to believe in something. Then something happened. Something magnificent. A once in a lifetime band dropped out of the sky and right into his lap. A band unaware of just how great they could be. A band that had no idea what was about to hit them. A band that needed someone to light the fuse. That someone was Johnny Harrison and the truth was he needed them so much more. They were his ticket out. That’s how it is with THE ROCK ‘N’ THE ROLL. ‘N’ THAT. Buy your ticket and take the ride.


1) An incredible sense of achievement when I typed ‘The End’. Writing is a discipline and you need great levels of perseverance which is not easy when you get tied up in knots with narrative cup-de-sacs.

2) When I ‘outed’ myself as an author/writer, the levels of support and admiration from friends really was quite something. My favourite comment from a friend who read an early draft was “I’m really glad it’s not shit!”

Quite possibly the best back-handed compliment I’ve ever received.

3) Seeing the hard copy of the book was a proper head spin moment.

It arrived just after Xmas and I’d just placed a sizeable Amazon order which by my reckoning had all been delivered. Upon openings the package, I was stunned to see my name on the cover of a book. An actual book!

And do judge a book by the cover, because the artwork is brilliant and I’m biased about the story but I know it will hook people in.

4) I’m enjoying talking about it no. The gestation period feels so long the relief is now palpable and I can take a step back and talk about it.

5) And lastly, the best thing about writing my book was seeing the narrative unfurl and take unexpected directions. I knew the ending from the outset but not the journey it would take to get there. It’s great to surprise yourself because you know that you’ll also be surprising your potential readers!

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: January 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 217
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: N/A
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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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