Monday 31 March 2014

Guest Post ~ Sophie King

I am delighted to welcome back to my blog

Corazon Books
26 March 2014


When I had my first baby, the idea of a dinner party seemed ridiculous. What? Having people round to eat off a table instead of throwing baby gunk onto the kitchen floor? What was the point? Besides, we wouldn’t be able to have any adult conversation. The baby was bound to wake up – that’s if he wasn’t already awake when the guests arrived.

My NCT friends felt exactly the same.

Yet miraculously, over the next few months, we all went ahead and did have dinner parties. Usually they were with friends we knew well, who didn’t mind if small feet pattered down the stairs, demanding a cuddle and a slice of chocolate pudding.
But every  now and then we had some guests who weren’t so keen on having chocolate stains smeared all over their silk evening trousers. ‘Ugh!’ declared a friend’s girlfriend when this happened. ‘Isn’t he house-trained yet?’

I’m glad to say she got her come-uppance. The friend married her and now they have three kids who run riot. In fact they haven’t had us round since the first one was born.

As the years have gone by, so our dinner parties have changed. ‘Have you got to have people round,’ said my 22 year old son not that long ago. ‘I was hoping to have some of my mates round for a few cans of beer.’

Talk about being pushed out of your kitchen! In the end, we made an uneasy compromise. He and his friends had a take-away in the kitchen while I dashed in and out, carting burned vegetarian roasts (I’m a veggie) and chicken mish-mash (I’m also a lousy cook) for my guests in our dining room/sitting room.

‘Sounds like your boy is having quite a party in there,’ drawled one of our guests who happened to be my friend’s new American boyfriend. ‘Mind if I go in and chat?’

It wasn’t quite what he had in mind. But the funny thing was that before long, both sides were sitting round the kitchen table, roaring with laughter. Far better than the stilted conversation from before.

‘Great food,’ grinned the American as he worked his way through the take away fish and chips. Was that a compliment?

‘Wow,’ said my son, after everyone had gone. ‘Thanks. My friends had a great time. Did you know that American bloke is a sociologist? Apparently he’s writing a paper on the strange eating habits of English families. We’re going to be famous, Mum!’

Watch this space.

More about Your Place or Mine can be found :

Your Place or Mine is now available on Kindle from

or on Kindle from

As always my thanks to Sophie for sharing her family experiences with us. 
Come back and see us soon.


Sunday 30 March 2014

Sunday War Poet....

May Wedderburn Cannan

1893 -1973

May Wedderburn Cannan was a British poet who was active in World War I.
 In 1911 she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and trained as a nurse.
In 1918 she went to France and worked in the espionage department of the War Office in Paris.

Since They Have Died

Since they have died to give us gentleness,
And hearts kind with contentment and quiet mirth,
Let us who live also give happiness
And love, that’s born of pity, to the earth.

For, I have thought, some day they may lie sleeping
Forgetting all the weariness and pain,
And smile to think their world is in our keeping,
And laughter comes back to the earth again.


This sad, but rather lovely poem is reminiscent of the loss of a generation of young men and on this Mothering Sunday my heart goes out to all those mothers who have lost a son or a daughter and who are coping with their own devastating loss on this special day.


Thursday 27 March 2014

The author in my spotlight is ...Sarah Beeson MBE

I am delighted to welcome the writers of The New Arrival

Mother and Daughter ~ Sarah and Amy Beeson

 The New Arrival
Sarah Beeson

is published by Harper Collins in paperback at £7.99

Sarah - The New Arrival is about your time as a young nurse in London during the early 1970's - what made you want to revisit this time?

Before we started work on the book I met up with my old nursing friends Appleton and Lynch and we had such fun reminiscing over our wild days in Hackney; counting up all the boyfriends we’d had between us, the parties, the clothes and the hairstyles and most of all, the people we worked with and the extraordinary patients we’d encountered. It’s been a gift to take the time to remember all those experiences and realise just how far we've come as a society since the 1970s. I see it now a time when there was a spirit of optimism and fun and a real desire for social change.

Sarah (second from right) is seen with her student nurse classmates in preliminary training school
January 1970

Sarah - When writing the book did anything surprise you about your memories of that time, if so what?

I see now how exploited the nursing staff were. We worked such long hours for little pay. We went into nursing as a vocation and it was still in the spirit of Florence Nightingale which made for some fine nursing but it wasn’t fair in the sexism there was towards female nurses. We’ve come so far in striving for equality for women and children. Hackney was the real beginning of me becoming politically aware, of getting involved in feminism and social justice. I saw first-hand how the NHS really worked and learnt how to try and influence things to benefit staff and patients.

Amy -  you have collaborated with your mum on the writing of the book , what did this experience mean to you?

It’s been the best job in the world writing with mum. It’s a dream come true to get a book published but to do it together is just amazing. We’re very close so to have each other’s support has been a wonderful experience and it’s been enriching for me as a writer and a daughter to find out more about what my mum’s life was like before I came along.

What is it about the book which you think will appeal to readers and who is your target audience?

I hope the book will have broad appeal. What’s been very lovely is all the young women and girls who’ve contacted us who are considering a career in nursing. I think it has the broadest appeal for women but what’s nice is that readers from 14 to 86 have told us how much they’ve enjoyed it. We’ve got a lot to thank Call the Midwife for - it has awoken an interest in social history about NHS staff and patients, as well as in the cultural history of the recent past.

What would you like readers to take away when they finish reading The New Arrival?
I’d like them to enjoy it first and foremost. To be moved, to laugh, to feel like they have a connection with the characters because they were real people. I also hope it inspires nurses or people who want to be nurses of the value they bring to the NHS and the difference caring for people makes in the world.

Sarah receiving her MBE from the Queen for services to children and families.
Buckingham Palace , February 2006


My thoughts on The New Arrival

I'm a huge fan of the television series, Call the Midwife, not just because of the nostalgic pull of the story and its vintage setting in the 1950’s, but also by the social commentary of the life and times of those who lived and shaped the health of the nation in this important time in post-war Britain. When I was given the opportunity to read and review The New Arrival, I immediately jumped at the chance to experience what life was like for a young student nurse in London during the early part of the 1970’s. What I discovered was a social commentary, similar to that of Call the Midwife, but with an added twist of bringing the story into an era I know rather more about. My own nurse training commenced during the latter part of the 1970s, and in many ways Sarah’s nursing story is similar to my own.

An undeniable warmth pervades The New Arrival and Sarah writes with great conviction and real compassion for those in her nursing care. Her sharp and canny social observations really bring this era to life in a lively and informative way which neither patronises nor sensationalises the nursing profession but which gives huge insight into just what life was like for young nurses during this time. The book is populated with a rich array of characters; all based on real people whose lives intertwined and whose stories become deeply personal and immensely moving. There are the usual lively high jinks, which all nurses are all too familiar with, and which add a lovely richness to the narrative. I found myself with a wry smile on my face especially when Sarah describes hiding a well deserved cup of tea in the bin during Matron's ward visit -I remember doing something similar with a bowl of ice cream !

The New Arrival captured this inspirational time so realistically that  I felt like I was transported back in time to a less technological age when good nursing standards were the order of the day and where nursing sisters guarded their ward areas like the dragons they were. It made me immensely proud to have been part of the nursing profession for thirty years of my life and I am thankful that Sarah – with her daughter Amy’s collaboration - will continue to describe her nursing exploits in further volumes of her story.  

My thanks to Sarah and Amy for giving such a thoughtful interview and to Virginia Woolstencroft at Harper Collins for the generous offer of a  copy of The New Arrival for one lucky UK winner of this giveaway.

Monday 24 March 2014

Review ~ Spilt Milk by Amanda Hodgkinson

Penguin Books
February 2014

From the beginning of this book I was completely taken into another world, to one of rural deprivation and where family secrets run as deep as the river which runs alongside the tumble down cottage which is home to the enigmatic Marsh sisters. In 1913, spinster sisters Nellie and Vivian Marsh eke out a bleak existence in the isolated Suffolk hamlet where dark secrets from their past are set to overshadow the whole of their lives. Fast forward to 1939 and London barmaid Birdie Farr’s story becomes inextricably linked with that of the Marsh sisters and as tendrils of the past start to intertwine, you know that life for Birdie will never be the same again.

The story unfolds almost like beautiful cinematography; sometimes in slow motion and at other times in fast freefall. Time and place are captured so perfectly that I could sense the languorous heat of the summer hay field and felt the fast flow of the river as it took the Marsh secrets away.

Beautifully written, this story really gets into the heart of soul of relationships; the love and rivalry between sisters is captured in tortuous detail and the heartbreaking  pain of unrequited love lingers in hidden corners.

Without doubt Spilt Milk is real joy to read and it is a story which will stay with me for a very long time.

Highly recommended.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books for my review copy of this book.


Sunday 23 March 2014

Sunday War Poet...

Edith Nesbit 

(1858 - 1924)


Spring In War-Time 

Now the sprinkled blackthorn snow
Lies along the lover’s lane
Where last year we used to go-
Where we shall not go again.

In the hedge the buds are new,
By our wood the violets peer-
Just like last year’s violets too,
But they have no scent this year.

Every bird has heart to sing
Of its nest, warmed by its breast;
We had heart to sing last spring,
But we never built our nest.

Presently red roses blown
Will make all the garden gay..
Not yet have the daisies grown

On your clay.

Edith Nesbit was an English author and poet. She wrote or collaborated on over 60 books for children although she is probably best remembered for her book The Railway Children which was published in 1906
 under the name of E. Nesbit.


Friday 21 March 2014

The author in my spotlight is ...Annie Thomas

I am delighted to welcome

Annie   Thomas

Annie Thomas is a British writer, and the author of ‘A Woman’s Choice’. Brought up in London, after a degree in English and History she now works in an English university, and lives in a rural converted Victorian pub where Tolkein and C.S.Lewis once stopped for a beer on one of their many walks together.

author of A Woman's Choice


Annie ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for sharing your lovely book with us.

What is it about your book that will pique the reader’s interest? 

I think if you like stories with a strong central female character, someone who questions herself and her own decisions as she grows from a child into a young woman, you will enjoy ‘A Woman’s Choice’.

It is a story of a young emigrant girl striving for success. But it has a more complex hinterland – a strong moral compass and a sense of values.  It sits firmly within popular, commercial women’s fiction, but brings some insight into the times Clara lived through – a world of people living in tenements, so close to wealth and power and yet so distant; the impact of approaching war in Europe on Americans in 1914.

You have set this book in early 20th Century America  - how important is location to your story?

The location in New York is central and far more than an exciting back-drop.  Although many emigrants to America in the early 1900s went straight through Ellis Island and on to mining or agricultural areas, many stayed in New York, and created neighbourhoods that became associated with the country they came from. It was a time that was the beginning of the wonderful ethnic mix that New York is today, filled with the energy of thousands of different people trying to make their way, in a era when success was beginning to turn into skyscrapers.  The contrast between that, and the almost feudal rural England where Clara was born, demonstrates just how far Clara has come; and how she tries to keep the values of her childhood while absorbing the drive and ambition of her new home. The setting also allowed me to show that not everyone was able to adapt to such a different life. Some people failed.

Why do you choose to write in your particular genre?

I have always loved historical fiction, from Anya Seton and Jean Plaidy, who I read as a girl, to Philippa Gregory, Lindsey Davies and Kate Mosse who I enjoy reading now. 

Historical fiction enables us to share the experience of living in a different social and political world.  It’s the inter-connection between the public and private that fascinates me. I believe that a well researched, well told story gives us a perspective and insight about another time and place, and does that through the imaginative leap of seeing through the eyes of another person.  It’s the genre I feel most comfortable with, maybe because I believe that even within a completely different context, there are some fundamental truths about humanity and individuals that are timeless.

A Woman's Choice has an attractive cover - why did you go for that particular design?

Clara is the heart of the novel.  It is her story.  And I knew it was her as soon as I saw that beautiful work by Guy Hoff. In the early 20thC there was an American literary magazine called ‘The Smart Set’, and the portrait was originally published there.  New York is an essential element of the novel, and the cover designer used an early black and white photograph, to highlight the emerging city, as the backdrop.

When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

Finding time is difficult because I work full time! Sunday mornings are my best time, and I love working in our dining room. I can see people walking their dogs, and in the winter it’s cosy even if I know it’s cold outside, because the walls are dark red.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

Yes, I have started another story, which might end up including some of the people from ‘A Woman’s Choice’.  The difficulty is that when you have lived with some characters for a while, it is hard to leave them behind…

It's been a real pleasure to host this interview with you Annie, Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing and look forward to the continuation of this story.

**A Woman's Choice is currently on promotion 21st - 27th March available to buy 

from and **


My thoughts on A Woman's Choice

When we first meet Clara Foley, she is a stalwart twelve year old, with an old head on young shoulders, her compassion belies her tender years. As she boards an emigrant ship at Liverpool to start a new life in America with her delicate mother, her energy and zest for life is palpable. What then follows is a beautifully written account of Clara’s time in the land of opportunity, of the people she meets and of the friendships she makes along the way.

I really enjoyed this lovely historical saga which effortlessly takes you back in time to the early part of the twentieth century, to a time when America was the Holy Grail of opportunity and where the melting pot of humanity mixed and mingled on the streets of New York. The author captures the time and place so perfectly you can imagine you are there, and the sights and sounds of this vibrant time in America’s history echo realistically amongst the abiding theme of friendship, ambition and ultimately of the power of love.

Well worth reading if you like historical sagas.


Thursday 20 March 2014

First day of Spring....

Happy Spring 

My mother always said that her first glimpse of Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara) heralded the start of spring.

I spotted this pretty bunch yesterday.


Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
  Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush             
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring       
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;             
  The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush          
  The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush       
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.               
What is all this juice and all this joy?             
  A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning        
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
  Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,          
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,             

  Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Although the tree branches are still bare
there's a lovely yellow carpet of celandines just peeping through
and the hint of catkins.


Monday 17 March 2014

Review - Will by Christopher Rush


This imagined autobiography of the life of the eminent bard starts as William Shakespeare, on his death bed, attempts to exit this mortal coil by recounting his life story to his lawyer Francis Collins. Making sense of this enigmatic playwright’s life and times is no easy feat and the author has done a commendable job in fleshing out the details of Shakespeare’s life from his early childhood in Stratford, through to adulthood amongst the glittering court world of Elizabethan politics and Jacobean skulduggery.

There is no doubt that the author has done his research extremely well and has unearthed snippets of Shakespeare’s life which shows that the bard lived a colourful and extremely lively existence. There are some lovely descriptive accounts of both Elizabethan and Jacobean England when the glittering prose really does leap off the page and by leaving nothing to the imagination the sights, sounds and smells of the era really do come gloriously alive.

There is a compelling lyricism to the narrative which is rather poetic and it certainly has more than enough historical content, in fact, there were times when I forgot that the book was a novel as it is presented more like a non-fiction account and some of the lovely literary prose is achingly reminiscent of some of Shakespeare’s own writings.

I’m not sure that this book will appeal to reading groups per se unless they have a real interest in complex historical content. My view is that this book stands rather as a multifaceted personal read and more as one to be savoured slowly rather than read at full speed.

My thanks to newbooks  for my review copy of this book


17- 23 March 2014

Sunday 16 March 2014

Sunday WW1 Poem....

Sara Teasdale

1884 - 1933

Sara Teasdale was an American lyrical poet. She was born Sara Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri, and after her marriage in 1914 she went by the name Sara Teasdale Filsinger.

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

This poem imagines nature reclaiming a battlefield after the fighting is finished.

I think it's rather lovely.


Saturday 15 March 2014

Review ~ Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young

Penguin Books
January 2014

One simple lesson in seduction between two friends can turn into so much more… 

Before Jamaica Lane sees the friends-to-lovers story of Olivia Holloway and Nate Sawyer. Olivia beautiful but emotionally insecure needs the charismatic Nate to give her the sexual confidence she feels she needs in order to pursue her own relationships, but of course the sizzling chemistry between the two of them reaches boiling point very quickly. What then follows is a steamy story with some soul searching about past life events both of which threaten to engulf this lovely young couple. The other characters which have featured in the previous two books give their usual supporting role but this book is really all about Nate and Olivia.

I feel rather like I have come a bit too late to the party with this series of books as this is now the third in the successful On Dublin Street series of steamy romances which take place in Edinburgh. This is the second book which I have read and reviewed for the publisher and whilst I have enjoyed the way in which the author manipulates the characters and blends sweet romance nicely with erotica I do feel that I have lost something by reading the stories in a disjointed way.

All I'm saying is that this series is best enjoyed from the beginning and I am sure that Samantha Young's legions of fans will devour Before Jamaica Lane in one sitting.

My thanks to Penguin for my review copy of this book.


Thursday 13 March 2014

The Author in my spotlight is ...Wendy Unsworth

I am delighted to welcome

Wendy Unsworth

Author of 

Berriwood Book 1

What can you tell us about The Palaver Tree that won’t give too much away? 

The Palaver Tree is about four women, each very different from the other, whose lives are drawn together by the schemes and desires of one man. 
Ellie Hathaway has lived her life putting the needs of others before herself and so, when she takes a teaching post in a poor African country, it is as a volunteer and for the good of the children. But once she is settled into the school, Ellie begins to realise that headmaster, Gabriel Cole, is not the guardian angel he professes to be and that she is far from the only one to have been taken in by him. Finally her focus changes, she knows she must do something, but what?
I am always fascinated by ( and in awe of) the real-life tenacity of the human spirit, how much inner strength people can muster when they find themselves in very difficult, even terrible, situations. In my fiction, I like to test my characters and see where they will go when the chips are down!

You have set this book in Cornwall and Africa - how important is location to your story?

Location is key to the story. Ellie's origins are in the sleepy, Cornish village of Berriwood. She is a product of the upbringing that imposed on her a sheltered, even restricted, life of duty, looking after her widowed mother. I wanted to take her completely out of that rural comfort-zone to give her the experience of adventure. Africa is a place of stark contrasts where Ellie's decisions become increasingly vital to the survival of herself and those she holds dear.

The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

Getting your book noticed is a huge and constantly evolving task. It's about tenacity because you have to just keep going with it, finding what works for you and what doesn't.  It's also about careful refining of the work balance so that writing time, the very thing that most writers never have enough of, is not compromised. 
Book bloggers are a great help, many willing to try new and self-published authors. It's a case of telling everyone you can think of about your work -which often doesn't come naturally to writers!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

This is probably not sound financial advice but, I would say, forget everything else,( and by that I mean all the marketing razzmatazz), get lost in your creativity and see your book through to the end. Savvy author/marketeers will probably be appalled at that advice but it is what I would give from a very personal viewpoint 
Many authors, like myself, take years to complete their first book. For most of us it is hard in our busy lives to find solitude for writing. So I would say, give that precious time wholly to creating your book. Complete that ambition and when you do, celebrate it before you move on to telling the world! It may be a blinkered view but the writing process is long and complex and, only with the first book, can it be enjoyed by the author in total and blissful isolation! 

Have you always wanted to be a writer? 

Quite simply yes. And more than that I have always been a writer, though of things like diaries and short stories, a little poetry, even lists, I am an avid list maker!
When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

Now that I am writing full time I find I have to split the day to keep sane! I write mostly in the morning as I'm just more creative and able to totally focus first thing. Afternoon is for all the non-writing activities in my life but if I'm alone and what I'm doing doesn't involve too much concentration I will think-write at the same time and maybe jot down a few notes.

Early evening is for social media, interviews, marketing  and general contact with the outside world! 
If I'm awake enough later to burn a little midnight oil I may re-read what I have written that day to see how it sounds, otherwise that is the first job the following day.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

The second novel in the 'Berriwood' series is due out on 15th June 2014. This is the story of the village postmistress, Beryl Carroll. It's a mystery with a creepy twist. 
Beryl's husband, Gordon, inherits a house on the edge of the village. 'Beneathwood' is one of the oldest houses in the area and has been in his family for several generations. He and Beryl are as delighted as they are surprised to be the new owners. 
But the Carroll's daughter, Olivia, is not at all happy. She hated the old place long before she found Auntie Edith lying in the kitchen... smouldering. She thinks the sensible thing would be to sell Beneathwood and buy one of the new-builds on the prestigious Oak Dene Estate. 
Then an accident happens and the Carroll's move in much sooner than planned! 

I also write for children and have two new books in my 'Come-alive Cottage' series planned for this year so it's all go! 

**** The Palaver Tree is currently on promotion with and 
10th - 31st March ****

Wendy ~ thank you so much for taking part in this author spotlight and for sharing your love of writing with us. Jaffa and I wish you much success and look forward to the continuation of the Berriwood series.


My Thoughts on The Palaver Tree

This beautifully written story looks at the dynamics of relationships both personal and private and explores what happens when the world around us becomes tainted with corruption, greed and betrayal. By opening the story in a cosy Cornish village we are lulled into comfortable domesticity but tragedy is about to strike at the very heart of the community and for Ellie Hathaway life will never be the same again. Ellie’s search for a new start will take her thousands of miles from her home village to the political melting pot of central Africa, where she takes up a teaching post run by the charitable Hope Foundation and the enigmatic Gabriel Cole.

 What then follows is a tense and action packed story which sees the intertwining of lives all touched in some way by Gabriel Cole’s inscrutable power. The author has an impeccable way of drawing together all the different strands of the story, from the warm and comfy cosiness of Cornwall, to the majestic beauty of Africa, time and place is captured perfectly and she succeeds in creating a finely drawn portrayal of what happens when greed and dishonesty are allowed to take centre stage.

I enjoyed it and look forward with interest to the continuation of the Berriwood series.

Recommended read.


Wednesday 12 March 2014

The author in my spotlight...... is N J Alexander

I am delighted to welcome

N J Alexander

Author of

What was your inspiration for Past Present Future?

I pretty much lived through most of what happened in the novel, minus a few twists and turns. I will say that there is a very fine line separating the main narrator Nicole and myself, although she is ultimately braver and far less submissive to authority than me.

The events definitely felt like they were unfolding like a book and I could see that Facebook was drawing so many of us in for better or worse that it would make a good topical platform for a novel. But let’s just say I walked away with a novel and Nicole, well – you’ll have to read the book.

What can you tell us about the story that won't give too much away?

It is based around Facebook, a classic novel called Simon Dale written in 1898 and a string of extraordinary coincidences that send Nicole’s sanity spiralling. She lusts after a man on her Facebook who is out of her reach but who sends her hidden messages via his status updates. At the same time her long-term partner, Richard, receives sinister text messages from an anonymous source. Nicole’s dangerous desire is fuelled by the financial chaos triggered by the credit crunch that causes her to reach for the ‘what-if’ man from her past.

This is your first novel, how much of a challenge was it to get your work finished and published?

I knew when I set out to write the story in 2009 that it was going to be a challenge. There are so many blogs out there quoting the misery of less than 1 per cent of novels ever getting published via the traditional route and that the author’s hard work generally ends up in an agent’s slush pile. But I was so convinced I had a story worth telling that I was determined to rise to the challenge even though I needed to learn how to write an actual novel. I would guess that with all the writing, re-writing and editing, I must have written around five hundred thousand words to end up with a hundred thousand-word book. At one point I was advised to switch from present tense to past tense, and that meant re-working every single sentence, but it was that task that gave me the inspiration for the title. But even when I thought I’d finished the final draft and was lucky enough to engage the interest of one of the UKs leading agencies, the agent there wanted more twists and turns and to push up Nicole’s paranoia. So once again I had to re-work it and weave new bits in. But then after all that work the agent said that it still wasn't menacing enough for her. She wanted it to compete with SJ Watson’s Before I go to sleep. The mere fact that she was even reading my manuscript with this book in mind was unbelievable and was enough to boost my confidence as a writer. But I think we were trying to turn the story into something that it wasn't and I really wasn't comfortable with some of the changes because they were sitting within a book that contained so much truth. After the agent dropped it, I stripped some of the things back (more work), but kept the changes that I thought enhanced it. The agent’s input really did improve the pace in the first five chapters, so I was really grateful for all her help even though it ended painfully.

Fortunately I had already been offered a contract direct with a publisher. It came through the same week that the agent had asked to read my full manuscript. I stalled the contract offer, to see how things would go with the agent, so after it was ultimately rejected, I took up the contract.

The book world is very competitive - how do you get your story noticed?

I’m still living and learning with this one. I was well aware that the story had a strong journalistic angle right from the start and after sounding out several journalists, I eventually got good national coverage leading up to the novel’s release. It was probably a little too good – at one point my mum turned on the TV and I was the topic of conversation on ITV’s Loose Women. I still break out in a sweat even thinking about that one!

I also have a website: as well as a blog, so I’ve been busy with SEO to try and drive readers to the site based on keyword searches.

Finding reviewers has been far more difficult as those good enough to give their time to read new books are swamped. So as a new author I have been so grateful to every blogger/book reviewer who has been kind enough to take on my book.

I can say without question that I’ve had more doors slammed in my face than opened, but I just keep on knocking. I suppose if I was to give myself tips for a PR campaign based on experience then I would say:

1.) Start looking for potential reviewers at least three months before release. (I was a bit late moving with this.)

2.) Seek media coverage – as in articles – by making contact with journalists who have good links with the national press. But keep the coverage as close to release as possible. (I peaked dramatically, but six months too early.)

3.) Have more than one novel in the pipeline. If it weren’t for the fact I wanted to be one of the first to explore Facebook, I would have delayed this one until I had at least two ready to go.

4.) Build up good social networks with readers and authors. I’m trying my best with this one but had such a nasty experience with social networking that I do find it difficult. But if you’re a reader or writer on Twitter, then please follow me – I follow back J

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

‘Planned’ is definitely the key word here. I’m still at the research stage, as I am having to fit it in around rather a lot of commitments at the moment. But what I can say is that the story involves an insurance policy and a crime and will be entirely based on fiction – it’s far less restricting.

Nicola ~ Thanks so much for taking time to share your novel with us and for giving such a fascinating insight into the writing process.

Jaffa and I wish you much success.


Mt thoughts on Past Present Future

I was taken by surprise by this book. Not only because it was based on events which happened in the author’s life but also because it brought to my attention the sinister and often overlooked aspects of social media. Once I started to read Nicole’s version of events I became totally involved in the story and even though the instability of Nicole’s role as narrator often left me with more questions than answers, I was so intrigued by way in which the story evolved; I couldn't help but read the book quickly.

I think we are all aware that whilst social media has potential for great good, it also has an equal potential for great harm. This story acts a salutary warning about the way in which we conduct our personal and very private life and how we sometimes share our innermost thoughts and feelings with people we know very little about in real life.

I've always had a healthy respect for the role of social media in my life but after reading Past Present Future I certainly view Facebook in a whole new light.


Sunday 9 March 2014

Sunday War Poets...

Alice Corbin Henderson

(1881 - 1949)


He was wounded and he fell in the midst of hoarse shouting.
The tide passed, and the waves came and whispered about his ankles.
Far off he heard a cock crow — children laughing,
Rising at dawn to greet the storm of petals
Shaken from apple-boughs; he heard them cry,
And turned again to find the breast of her,
And sank confusรจd with a little sigh…
Thereafter water running, and a voice
That seemed to stir and flutter through the trenches
And set dead lips to talking…

Wreckage was mingled with the storm of petals…
He felt her near him, and the weight dropped off –

Alice Corbin was an American poet, author and  poetry editor. Despite not being directly involved in the war she was moved to write this war inspired poem in 1917.


Monday 3 March 2014

Feeling Poorly....

I'm sad to say that I am feeling a little poorly at the moment.

Normal blogging will be back soon.

In the meantime - Happy Reading

Sunday 2 March 2014

Sunday War Poets....

Katharine Tynan


Joining the Colours

THERE they go marching all in step so gay!
Smooth-cheeked and golden, food for shells and guns.
Blithely they go as to a wedding day,
The mothers' sons.

The drab street stares to see them row on row
On the high tram-tops, singing like the lark.
Too careless-gay for courage, singing they go
Into the dark.

With tin whistles, mouth-organs, any noise,
They pipe the way to glory and the grave;
Foolish and young, the gay and golden boys
Love cannot save.

High heart! High courage! The poor girls they kissed
Run with them : they shall kiss no more, alas!
Out of the mist they stepped-into the mist
Singing they pass. 

August, 1914