Friday 30 November 2018

Northern Writer ~ Joy Pearson

I am delighted to bring to Jaffareadstoo this feature which showcases

 the work of authors who have based their work in the North of England

 ✨ Here's northern writer : Joy Pearson ✨

Hello Joy and welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Thank you for spending time with us today.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED in my debut novel, Untangling The Webs, a cliffhanging mystery relationship thriller, concerning four women of varying ages and background. Their parallel lives deal with toxic behaviour, unexpected emotional shocks, treachery and grief. Having to show grit, and aided by the common thread of a close female `rock', each struggles to overcome huge obstacles assailing them, untangling strong threads of mystery, intent on achieving joy again.

Lost letters found four years after Trudie’s married lover, Laurie, disappears without trace, offer a few clues, but a serendipitous discovery in a Cornish church reveals vital information, if Trudie is brave enough to act upon it. Alison has to deal with repercussions from unearthing vicar Henry’s and police inspector Phil’s mendacious betrayals, before meeting lovely Stephen. Her discovery of Julia’s husband David’s deep secret, breaks the impasse of her friend’s stressful situation. Phoebe’s cossetted life appears idyllic, but her late husband’s previously out-of-bounds den holds a breathtaking shock, needing Alison’s help to solve the enigma. 

Set mainly in Cheshire, the novel dips into Worcestershire, Cornwall, Cumbria and Provence. It is available from myself, Amazon, Waterstone’s, independent bookshops. My details are on Facebook as Joy Pearson Author. 

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author? 

As an imaginative observant child, my confidence to write had been knocked by my adoptive mother, who threw my poems and short stories into the fire, informing me I was useless and so were they and I would never amount to anything From that time onwards, I wrote in secret, becoming a vigilant observer of both people and atmospheres.

I have had two life-threatening incidents in my life, the second of which made me so thankful to still be alive, that I resolved to make every day count after that. 

The incident was in Jerusalem, where a friend and self went to both a Shabat dinner with wealthy ex-pat Mancunian Jews and the previous day to an Israeli run camp with 1200 Palestinian people living. One doctor and limited time allowed out for school. We were with the social worker for the camp, who had been shot in the leg on four occasions by the soldiers in the watchtowers and in prison for nothing. After only half an hour drinking lemonade with him and his family, we heard gunfire, having to hide behind sofas. Having heard their point of view and promising to report their plight, we left. The problem began when we were seen from the watchtower, getting into our hire car which had Palestinian number plates. A prime target, our car was hit twice, thankfully not on the tyres, so with my friend zig zagging out of the open gates and myself ducking down into the passenger seat, we made our escape. 

Have I made every day count since then? Mostly, but life attacks us doesn’t it? Work, children, divorce, money worries, deaths, relationships, menopause, and general stress of our complex lives. However, having learnt the internet, stressful in itself without someone on hand to advise on its vagaries, I subsequently turned to Word. I clicked on it and began to write, delete, attempt to copy and paste, eventually successfully, so wrote my autobiography from aged three to 2008, with joys, sorrows, difficulties and triumphs recorded. A bonus in case I make old bones, but forget. In 2008, I began, with experience gained from this, to write my novel. 

I had a vague idea of who my characters might be, but no idea who they might morph into. I knew that I wanted to convey parallels in people’s lives, despite totally different backgrounds. Knowing how much the support of a close friend can bring to one’s life and vice versa, that was the theme, plus their male relationships, both good and awful reported. 

This seems a clichรฉ, but ideas and words streamed out of me. I never had writer’s block. My soulmate, Pamela, always having faith in me, had encouraged for many years, urging me not to hide my talents, reminding me of so many friends I had lost to death and that I was still here, so in her words ‘digitus extractus’ 

I was born in London, but grew up in Redditch, Worcestershire, attending grammar school there, living alongside the lovely River Arrow and wildflower fields. My diverse career has included public relations, employment agent, interior design, voice-over artist, scriptwriter, antiques, Shelter for the homeless, animal charities, Esther Rantzen’s helplines for children and the elderly, counselling and stress therapies.

Interests include the arts, music, films, theatre, gardening, animals, British social history, concerts, literary festivals. I have acted in both serious and comedic plays.

Adopted as a baby, I voluntarily now help others to trace their roots. I have two sons, who live both in France and England. Now residing in Cheshire, I have written and published poetry, comic verse, and my autobiography. Untangling The Webs is my debut novel. When I am not promoting my book, I am working on the sequel to Untangling The Webs. 

Your books are written in Northern England. Have the people and the northern landscape shaped your stories in any way? 

From teenage years I have always loved Cumbria; some of my novel takes place there. I lived in Knutsford for some years, now Middlewich. More than half my book UNTANGLING THE WEBS, takes place in Cheshire. Villages are fictional names, Sandstone Village where a mystery is uncovered, is near Chester because of sandstone being local. 

As a writer based in the North, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them? 

None whatsoever because of internet and Facebook. Visiting various Litfests has helped – including Stratford, Cheltenham and Northwich. Visits to London for Damian Barr’s three writers events at The Savoy. 

If you were pitching the North as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special? 

The motorway system going to all points is ideal. Houses are more reasonably priced than the south, although expensive in Knutsford, Alderley Edge, Bowdon, Hale. Still much countryside is unspoilt, flat Cheshire Plain and hills in Macclesfield, Congleton, Beeston Castle areas. Farmers markets everywhere, as Cheshire is a dairy county. Industry though is flourishing. 

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors? 

I had to do it on my own, then met through Northwich Litfest, other writers briefly, attending their talks. Advised by one that my novel was double the size it should be. Worked to reduce it – took many months. Asked questions of one writer friend, as layout different from the older fiction books I have. I have recently joined Cheshire Book Connections, having secured a talk and signing event in Knutsford in November, then Cheshire Connections, a networking group of ladies with a variety of careers and talents.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work? 

I sent e-mails with attachments to Waterstones in Cheshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire. Some were very accepting, some not, some no replies. Independent bookshops have taken some books. Local reading groups disappointing as no replies to e-mails or phone calls. Library book groups, have not wanted to buy my book as it is already in their libraries. One U3A group locally and one in Worcestershire promised an hour but stopped me after half an hour as said they needed to discuss their own chosen book. Consequently I sold only two books. At other talks though people have been more attentive, loved my book and bought signed copies.

You can find Joy on her Facebook author page

Huge thanks to Joy for being my special guest on the blog today

Coming next time :  Drew Neary and Ceri Williams

Thursday 29 November 2018

Review ~ Roma Nova Extra by Alison Morton

My thanks to the author for my e-copy of this book

Suppose Roma Nova, the last remnant of the old Roman Empire, had struggled through to the 21st century – a tough little country with tough, resourceful people? 

Apulius, a young tribune sent to a backwater in 370 AD for having the wrong religion, encounters the fiery Julia. 

What does his lonely descendant, Silvia, labouring in the 1980s to rebuild her country, make of the Italian architect supervising the reconstruction? 

Can imperial councillor Galla stop the Norman invasion of England in 1066? 

And will Allegra, her 21st century Praetorian descendant fighting her emotions, find her way to her own happy ending?

My thoughts about it...

There's something quite intriguing about reading a set of short stories which have links to a book series which has really captured my imagination. Roma Nova Extra does all that is good in short story writing, which is to share enough information so that new readers can be lured in and encouraged to find out more, whilst at the same time allowing those who are familiar with the novels, to find something new to enjoy. 

There is no doubt that this author has made the complicated world of Roma Nova come alive, from its original concept in the novel, INCEPTIO and now through to ROMA NOVA EXTRA this set of short stories cleverly combines a blend of past, present and future. The power and inherent danger of ancient Rome combined with an altogether alternate way of looking at history captures the imagination with both clever story-telling and wonderful characterisation. 

It’s always a real treat to scurry back to the Rome of this author’s imagination, and in the first short story, of ROMA NOVA EXTRA, I was delighted to find myself in AD 370, an innocent bystander at the meeting of Roma Nova’s founders, in a clever little story about a girl in a marketplace. Throughout the collection, there are lots of lovely touches, and I won’t give any of the game away by recounting too much, however, I was delighted to find that the author’s alternative 1066 story, which was previously published in a collaboration with other historical fiction writers, 1066 Turned Upside Down, also finds its worthy place in this collection. 

Roma Nova Extra is a new venture into the world of short story writing by this clever author and I am sure that it will act as a tantalising taster into the fascinating world of Roma Nova.

By clicking here you can read a guest post by Alison Morton about how she overcame her fear of writing short stories.

About the Author

Alison Morton writes the award-winning Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

All six Roma Nova full-length novels have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. CARINA is a novella set between INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write thrillers, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.

Author Guest Post ~ Roma Nova Extra by Alison Morton

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome, author, Alison Morton 

Overcoming the fear of short stories

As a serial writer of 100,000 word novels I used to find short stories difficult. Distilling a tale down to 1,000 or 2,000 words without making a good, meaty story seemed a terrifying task.

As a newbie writer several years ago, I tried hard with them, even entering short story competitions. This is what writing gurus advised us to do at the classes, courses and conferences I attended in my 2009-2012 novel writing ’apprenticeship’. It would develop my style, my dexterity and that all important, yet insubstantial thing, my voice, they said.

I studied the theory: focus on a single story/theme/conflict; two or three characters ideally with a maximum of four or five; single setting; short period of time, quick resolution after the climax. I read a lot of short stories – some fun, some incomprehensible, some trite, some amusing – and practised writing them. My style is economical and succinct which helped to keep the word count down. After a while, I duly submitted the stories wherever I could. Most received no response, although one was shortlisted in a magazine competition.

I sighed and went back to my novels.

After publishing six full-length stories in the Roma Nova thriller series (many reviewed on this blog – thank you, Jaffa and Jo) where I could let my characters, plots and twists run a good long course, I was asked to contribute to an anthology of alternative history short stories centred on 1066.  I was on the point of refusing; most of the other authors were medieval or Conquest specialists – what did I know? And I wasn’t comfortable producing such short fiction. But as a writer whose fictional world was nothing but alternative history and one who wrote and talked about it in theory and practice, how could I refuse the biggest ‘what it’ of English history? And how wonderful to have an eleventh century Roma Novan female envoy clash with the macho society of William of Normandy!

With a word count maximum of 5,000 – I nearly fainted with delight at that length – I would not feel too pinched and prodded into a tight frame. In the meantime, I had a mountain of research to do. Roma Nova traded with Saxon England but never with Normandy. It was terra incognita for both me and Galla Mitela, my heroine. I spent hours looking up eleventh century transport routes, the landscape of the River Seine (Sequana) as it was then, the town of Rouen (or Rotomagus as Galla called it), and the social, legal and economic dynamics that fell a long way below that of Rome, as continued in Roma Nova. And into all that, I had to weave a story of how Galla could possibly have stopped the Norman invasion. With collaborative encouragement from the other authors, 1066 Turned Upside Down was published.

My short story barrier was broken. Yay! But a collection of my own? Hm. In the end my curiosity bit me. While writing the full-length novels, I’d thoroughly enjoyed giving the characters their own backstory; it rounded them out and illuminated how they had developed into the characters they were. Almost without me realising it, the desire to explore incidents in my characters’ lives, to delve back into Roma Nova’s earliest days and discover what happened to characters after the main trilogies ended was gathering strength.

ROMA NOVA EXTRA sprang into life. Well, lurched in fits and starts. But this is the huge advantage of writing short stories; each one can be drafted in a relatively short time. Of course, the real work starts with the first revision! Seven of the eight range from 3,000 words to 10,000. At 18,000 words, the eighth story was originally going to be a separate novelette, but it seemed the perfect complement to the others. Together, they range from AD 370 to 2029, but all focus on people.

Lucius Apulius, a military tribune in the dusk of the Roman Empire, is posted from a plum staff position with one of the most influential commanders at the time to a Danube backwater. The reason? Wrong religion. His indirect descendant, Allegra Mitela, a tough 21st century Praetorian, struggles with her identity and emotional life. How did the eighteen-year-old Imperatrix Silvia, exhausted and lonely after the liberation of Roma Nova in the 1980s, meet her Italian husband? And what was the ancient mystery uncovered by Conrad and Carina during their ‘Roman holiday’?

Some are love stories, some are lessons learned, some resolve tensions and unrealistic visions, some are plain adventures, but above all, they are stories of people in dilemmas, in conflict, in trouble and their efforts to resolve them. Oh, and there are a few surprises…

Readers of INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO, AURELIA, INSURRECTIO, RETALIO and CARINA will be familiar with many of the characters, but it’s not essential by any means as the stories are complete in themselves. However, I hope readers new to Roma Nova may find these glimpses intriguing enough to seek out the longer books.


Buying links for ROMA NOVA EXTRA

Paperback from your usual online and physical bookstores

About the Author

Alison Morton writes the award-winning Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

All six Roma Nova full-length novels have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. CARINA is a novella set between INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write thrillers, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.

Social media links:

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:

Twitter: @alison_morton 

Alison’s Amazon page:

Huge thanks to Alison for being such a lovely guest and for allowing us a glimpse into the fascinating world of Roma Nova.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Christmas Poetry from Candlestick Press

I always look forward to the Candlestick Press Christmas Poetry Pamphlets 

and this year sees two absolutely stunning collections 

Ten Poems about Robins

What is it about robins that makes them so easy to love? Is it the jaunty red breast? Or the fact that they have been known to build their nests in kettles, boots, coat pockets and even under car bonnets – places that seem to suggest a wish to be close to our human world? Perhaps it’s because they appear to want to keep us company by perching close by while we’re gardening or flitting alongside us when we’re out on a walk.

The special postcard features the poem ‘Brou-Rhuddyn’ by Pippa Little, winner of our postcard poem competition.

Selected and Introduced by Hamish Whyte

Cover illustration by Sam Cannon.

My thoughts:

There is so much to love about this collection of jaunty poems about robins and, let's face it, robins are so perfectly reminiscent of the winter months that no image of Christmas is complete without one perched upon the branches of a tree in the garden. The ten poems contained within this collection bring this cheery little bird to glorious life :

from The Key-Note by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

"Yet robin sings thro' Winter's rest,
when bushes put their berries on;
While they their ruddy jewels don,.."

to After Christmas by Peter Walton

"Today in woods in Kentish countryside
we saw them in their scores ignite inside
Each thicket's heart a ticking pulse of red - .."

There is something both old and new in this pamphlet to help celebrate the splendour of our much loved, Robin Redbreast.

The switching on of festive lights in towns and villages across the land announces the fact that Christmas is fast approaching. It also marks the start of real winter.

This delightful selection contains ten brand new poems by leading contemporary poets and comes with a limited edition poem postcard. We find light in all its many shapes and forms – from the ‘glittering heart’ of Paris in December to the glint of a skater’s boot on a frozen lake or the sugary shine of a child’s candy cane. And worlds away from the hubbub and dazzle, there’s the silent watcher at the window who:

The special postcard features the poem ‘This little town’ by Rob Miles, winner of our postcard poem competition.

Cover illustration by Sarah Young.

My Thoughts:

The twinkly lights that brighten our cities, towns and villages make the magic of Christmas come alive and these ten poems about dark winter nights take us on a sparkly journey which reminds us about the beauty that can be found in quite ordinary things, especially when they are lit up with magical Christmas lights.

From Christmas Lights by Stephen Keeler

"Now the village is
en fรชte: dressed for a party in the dark
across filed , along uneven paths.."

To the beautiful Northern Lights by Nancy Campbell

"..In winter she wakes
at midnight to an intense silence
as if the town is stalking itself,
and she knows the skies will be bright as butter"

This collection of wintery poems about the beauty of dark skies is alight with the promise of time made golden with the hope of perfect light.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously-produced poetry pamphlets, as well as short prose fiction and non-fiction. The pamphlets make a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Blog Tour and #Giveaway ~ A Little Christmas Charm by Kathryn Freeman

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on A Little Christmas Charm Blog Tour

Choc Lit
October 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Rachel's Random Resources for my ecopy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey? Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes. But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone. Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

My thoughts about it..

Owen Cooper is a bit of a charmer, the quintessential salesman, who can talk himself into and out of many a situation and yet, when it comes to charming his work colleague, Gabby Sanderson, he really has to try hard to get her to even agree to go for a drink together. Gabby has her own trust issues and even though she is attracted to the handsome, Owen, there are lots of things that Gabby has to sort out before she can commit to a relationship.

A Little Christmas Charm is one of those wonderful feel-good stories which draws you in from the very beginning. I enjoyed getting to know both Gabby and Owen but, for the life of me, I couldn't see why Gabby was taking so long to be charmed by Owen, he seemed such a handsome hunk, and they had such fun together. However, the course of true love never runs smooth and the complicated processes of both of their lives means that there is always something, or someone, ready to thwart their plans.

The author has done a great job of creating believable characters who very quickly start to become people you really start to care about. And even though Gabby was a bit prickly from the start and it took me a little while to warm to her character, the author's gradual defrosting of Gabby made getting to know why she acted in the way that she does, all the more interesting and such a delight to read.

I loved everything about this story, from the 'will they, won't they' aspect of Gabby and Owen's complicated relationship, to getting to know the other characters who flit into and out of the story, especially Sidney, Hilda and young Zoe, who collectively add a real sense of warmth and wit to the story.

This is the second book in the Christmas Wishes series which started with A Little Christmas Faith however, it can easily be read as a standalone story. Filled with all the warmth and understanding that we have come to expect from this talented author, A Little Christmas Charm is the perfect antidote to Christmas Stress.

About the Author

A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero 

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

Twitter @KathrynFreeman1


Win a paperback copy of A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freeman (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Review ~ The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield

Allison & Busby

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Jamaica Inn, 1844: the talk is of witches. A boy has vanished in the woods of Trethevy on the North Cornish coast, and a reward is offered for his return. Shilly has had enough of such dark doings, but her new companion, the woman who calls herself Anna Drake, insists they investigate. Anna wants to open a detective agency, and the reward would fund it. They soon learn of a mysterious pair of strangers who have likely taken the boy, and of Saint Nectan who, legend has it, kept safe the people of the woods. As Shilly and Anna seek the missing child, the case takes another turn - murder. Something is stirring in the woods and old sins have come home to roost

My thoughts about it..

Sometimes books stay on my book shelves for far too long and such is the case with The Magpie Tree, which continues on from Falling Creatures, the first book in the Cornish Mysteries series.

The Magpie Tree is again set against the atmospheric background of Victorian Cornwall and continues the theme of mystery and adventure. In this latest adventure, Shilly and her new companion, Anna Drake investigate the mystery of a missing child who has seemingly  vanished in the woods of Trethevy. What the follows is a dark and brooding Cornish mystery, filled with all the atmospheric gloominess of a true Victorian melodrama.

I found much to enjoy in this atmospheric Victorian mystery. There is more than a nod towards the Cornwall of Daphne du Maurier and on many occasions I was reminded of the darkness of Jamaica Inn, there's that same sense of brooding loneliness which is so reminiscent of this time.

The Magpie Tree certainly continues this series in fine style and I look forward to seeing what's coming next in the Cornish Mysteries series.

About the Author

Katherine Stansfield is a novelist and poet. She grew up on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall - a place that inspires much of her writing. She moved to Wales to study at Aberystwyth University, and stayed there for quite some time, studying and then working as a lecturer, before moving to Cardiff.

Her latest book is The Magpie Tree, second in the Cornish Mysteries crime series published by Allison & Busby.

Monday 26 November 2018

Review and #Giveaway ~ The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

November 2018

My thanks to the author for my ecopy of this book

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy. 

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change. 

She’s not wrong. 

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves. 

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives. 

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

My thoughts about the book..

During a long, hot, Australian summer, Lindsay Townsend attracts the attention of the rather handsome surfer, Jon Halliwell. Lindsay thrives on his attention and before long their relationship develops into something rather more intimate, which complicates matters because Lindsay is only sixteen and Jon is her high school teacher.

The story that follows and Lindsay's journey from girlhood to womanhood embraces all that was wrong with the sexual revolution in the early 1970s. Forced to grow up way before her time, Lindsay realises that she is caught up in events which she really has no control over, and that's where the heart of the story lies and where the writing becomes really compelling.

The author describes what happens to Lindsay, and I'm not about to spoil the story by giving the plot away, but safe to say that a great deal of research has gone into describing a situation which happened to so many girls. and as the story progresses it really makes you stop and consider just how lucky we are that times have changed.

The Swooping Magpie is an emotional story, with some sections so realistic that it's quite hard to read without feeling enormous sympathy for Lindsay and what she endured. Time and place come alive so beautifully that I felt like I walked every step of Lindsay's emotional journey alongside her. The hedonistic days of a 1970s summer which seemed to go on forever, combined with the pain and passion of first love, and the evocative scent of sea and salt which lingers in the air will remain with me for a long time.

The Swooping Magpie is the second book in the Australian series which is set in the 1970s and the author has, once again, delivered an emotional and thought-provoking story, which is both compelling and desperately sad in equal measure.

I'm really excited to have the chance to offer 5 copies of The Swooping Magpie in this giveaway.Do enter ๐Ÿ˜Š

About The Author

Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for over twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is the author of the historical The Bone Angel series. The first, Spirit of Lost Angels, is set in 18th century revolutionary France. The second, Wolfsangel, is set during the WW2 Nazi Occupation and the French Resistance, and the third novel – Blood Rose Angel –– is set during the 14th century Black Plague years.

Twitter @LizaPerrat

By clicking here : You can read an interview with the author into the background to The Swooping Magpie and here's the chance to win an ecopy of the book ๐Ÿ˜Š

Guest Author ( and #Giveaway ) ~ Liza Perrat

❈ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome author, Liza Perrat to the blog ❈

Hi Liza, thank you for being our guest today and for giving us an insight into the story behind The Swooping Magpie

Following on from The Silent Kookaburra

Liza’s new release, The Swooping Magpie also reflects the social changes of 1970s Australia, in a chilling tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

Inspired by a true-life scandal that rocked Australia, here’s the story behind The Swooping Magpie.

It is difficult for any Australian born after the feminist movement to understand the plight of being sixteen, pregnant and unmarried in 1970. The sanctity of marriage was still the vital cornerstone of Australian society and it was impossible to envisage raising a child outside this union blessed by church and state. 

Rather than rejoicing at bringing forth this new life, these girls were shunted into a world of shame –– hidden at home or sent interstate to homes for unmarried mothers. 

But The Swooping Magpie doesn’t only evoke a society refusing support to mothers battling to raise an infant alone. It also exposes the brutal adoption industry practices that targeted healthy newborns for infertile couples.

Until the mid-70s it was common practice to adopt out the babies of unwed mothers. In the 1960s, Sydney’s Crown Street Women’s Hospital was one of largest sources of Australia’s adopted babies. Patient documents from Crown Street and other maternity hospitals show that from the moment most unmarried girls arrived, their records were marked “for adoption”.

They were given three days after the birth to sign consent, and then thirty days to change their minds. These laws were meant to give legal certainty to adoptive parents, while protecting relinquishing mothers’ rights. But in practice those rights were either denied or the women had no idea they existed. 

Many girls never even saw their child, and the original birth certificate was sealed. 

Approximately 250,000 girls had their newborns taken, many claiming they were coerced into signing paperwork whilst under postpartum sedation. Forced to pay this terrible price for pregnancy outside marriage, thousands of women harboured their grief, in silence, for decades.

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy. 

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change. 

She’s not wrong. 

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves. 

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives. 

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

And here's a tantalizing excerpt from Chapter 1:

wrinkle my nostrils against the caustic smell of cat piss as we pick our way across the filthy footpath to the black gate.

My mother steps aside as the high gate creaks open, nods at me to go through. I scowl, don’t move.

‘You heard what your father said, Lindsay.’

With a sigh, I push past her.

The storm flushed away, the humidity has seeped back into the air at this tail-end of another scalding Australian summer. There’s no warmth in me though, only ice-blocks freezing my insides so that I become so cold I can’t stop shivering.

It’s not just the fear that sets me quaking, but the helplessness too. Like when I was a kid about to launch myself down the slippery dip. I’d hesitate, knowing that once I slid off there was no turning back, even if the metal burned my bum raw, or that once I reached the bottom I’d tumble forwards and scrape my knees.

My mother nudges me ahead of her. I don’t realise it yet, and I won’t speak of the whole sorry tale for years to come, since every time I thought about it, the memories would leave me frustrated, sad and angry, but I would recall walking through those black iron gates as crossing the threshold into the darkest hell.

About the Author

Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for over twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is the author of the historical The Bone Angel series. The first, Spirit of Lost Angels, is set in 18th century revolutionary France. The second, Wolfsangel, is set during the WW2 Nazi Occupation and the French Resistance, and the third novel – Blood Rose Angel –– is set during the 14th century Black Plague years. 

The first book in Liza’s new series, The Silent Kookaburra, published in November, 2016, is a psychological suspense set in 1970s Australia. 

Liza is a co-founder and member of the writers’ collective Triskele Books and also reviews books for Bookmuse

Connect with Liza online: 

Sign up for her new book releases and receive a FREE copy of Ill-Fated Rose, short story that inspired The Bone Angel French historical series. 

Follow Liza on Bookbub

Purchase an e-book of The Swooping Magpie:

Paperback coming soon!



Sunday 25 November 2018

Blog Tour ~ Within the Silence by Nicola Avery

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Within the Silence Blog Tour

Browne Raven Publishing
22 November 2018
My thanks to Midas PR for the invitation to this blog tour and for my copy of the book

Strangers are not all there is to fear. Danger can also come from someone close by, someone you’d never suspect…

Jon Stone is a revered psychiatrist, doting husband, loving father. But Jon has many secrets.

Maddy Stone, Jon’s daughter, has her own secrets. But she can’t tell anyone.

Zara, Maddy’s loving stepsister and best friend, faces a race against time. Can she unearth the family’s dark secrets before a tragic history repeats itself?

Two girls: one living and lost, the other scarred and silent, must join forces to prevent the unspeakable…

Within the Silence is a dark paranormal thriller which unpicks the ‘perfect family tapestry’, filled with mysterious twists, sinister discoveries, dangerous and terrifying intentions, heartbreaking confessions, and a love so powerful it crosses even death.

My thoughts about it..

At the heart of Within the Silence is a dark secret and as the family celebrate her step-sister's engagement, Maddy Stone is making plans for her own future happiness. What then follows is compelling story about dark family secrets which have been kept hidden for far too long, and of the horrific consequences of those secrets when all is finally revealed.

This is one of those stories which may, at first, seem a little fanciful, with a ghostly element which perhaps needs you to suspend belief, but, this is fiction after all, so go with it, as it all starts to make perfect sense as the story progresses. I'm not really at liberty to say too much about the plot as it is one of those which can be very easily spoiled and that's not fair, as Within the Silence is a story which must be read without any indication, from me, of where the plot is leading.

The author writes with real flair and keeps the momentum of the story alive, so much so,  I continued to read long after I should have put the book down as I really wanted to see how the story played out. There are distinct clues, scattered like gemstones, along the way, and I enjoyed, once the story was finished, going back to re-read certain sections again to check if I had picked up on the right vibe. I had ๐Ÿ˜‰

There are some lovely moments of light and shade, particularly around the relationships the family have with each other, however, running alongside, there are some truly evil moments which really give the story a dark and shadowy atmosphere.

Within the Silence is the first book I have read by this author, and I am delighted to learn that her debut novel, Whispered Memories, sounds every bit as good as this one...

About the Author

Nicola Avery was born in Surrey England, moving to Australia in her early twenties. With an artist and writer as a father and a ballet dancer for a mother, Nicola was destined to go back to her creative roots. Returning to the U.K. as a single parent, she continued a career within the corporate world of finance, finding time to launch her own costume design business, until her daughter finished full time education. At this stage in her life, fascinated about the concept of a past existence, Nicola studied and qualified as a past life therapist/hypnotherapist using these skills to further research the purpose and meaning of life. She channels these experiences, and her experience on Majorcan waters, in her two thrillers: Whispered Memories and Within the Silence.

Nicola lives now in Surrey England, with her partner and two cats, she has one daughter and a granddaughter. She is currently working on a children’s book and another thriller. “If there’s a genre I can cross and mix, I will do it” – she says…

Twitter @NicolaAveryAuthor #WithintheSilence


Saturday 24 November 2018

Blog Tour ~ None So Blind by Alis Hawkins

On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted 

 to host today's stop on the None So Blind Blog Tour and to welcome the author, Alis Hawkins

Hi Alis and a very warm welcome to Jaffreadstoo. 

Many thanks for hosting me at Jaffareadstoo, Jo – it’s such a pleasure to be here as part of None So Blind’s blog tour.

I write historical crime fiction because I’m fascinated by the nitty gritty of how people lived in the past. (And I’m talking about the real past, here, not the past as defined by Crime Writers Association rules. The CWA believes that any novel set more than thirty years before its publication date counts as historical which I find more than slightly alarming. How is 1988 suddenly history? But I digress.)

When you write historical fiction set well before the bounds of living memory, you have to be very aware of the constraints on your characters’ attitudes as well as their actions. You can’t just dress modern humans up in period clothes and move them about in the past; the people in your fiction have to reflect the actual experiences, world-view and understanding of their time.

I find that I’m constantly trying to distinguish between aspects of humanity that might be considered hard-wired (pesonality and emotional responses) and aspects that are simply circumstantial (attitudes and beliefs). It’s harder than it might sound, especially as current research in psychology suggests that very little is hard wired, that we’re all the product of the effects of our environment and our world view on our particular genetic makeup.

But one thing that does seem clear is that certain types of person have always existed. Warriors, dreamers, carers, tyrants, healers, poets, priests, peacemakers, disturbers of the peace... These archetypes are fundamentally human, they simply present themselves in different forms as the centuries go by.

And I’d add another to that list, a type that’s of particular interest to the crime writer. The psychopath.

Though a certain type of crime fiction has tended to promote the misleading belief that psychopath = serial killer, I’m interested in fiction that presents a more nuanced view. Patricia Highsmith’s Tom [The Talented Mr] Ripley, for instance, is a much more fascinating (and realistic) example of psychopathy; a superficially charming and engaging young man who slides through life, his path lubricated by amorality, spontaneity and clever manipulation.

The Ripleys of the world are both more intriguing and more troubling than the fictional Broadmoor candidate because they actually exist all around us. If we believe current estimates, at least one in a hundred people is a psychopath which means that even the least well-connected amongst us probably knows at least one. And I’m far more interested in writing about characters we can all recognise than in creating the kind of serial killing anomaly with whom we are colossally unlikely ever to come into contact.

Evidently, many authors feel the same because crime fiction is full of ‘one percent’ psychpaths. Think about it - anybody who takes the time to plan a murder and carries it out in cold blood must be well on the way to full-blown psychopathy. Most of us would turn into a gibbering wreck if we’d so much as killed somebody by accident, or in the heat of the moment; we would, very swiftly, either give ourselves up or give ourselves away. Not so the cool-headed, pathologically dishonest psychopath who feels no remorse at removing inconvenient people from their path.

But why are such manipulative and unfeeling people so popular in fiction? Is it really just because our fictional detectives need a credible and elusive bad guy to investigate? Because we’re happy to see them brought to justice at the end of the book as we finally see what repellent characters they are under their easy charm?

Perhaps the real reason is more subtle and more disturbing. Because, if we’re honest, psychopaths flaunt personality traits that we may find just a little bit attractive. They demonstrate a hunger for spontaneity and excitement, have an ability to create and project an utterly convincing persona, show a capacity to act swiftly and decisively without being weighed down by thoughts of the emotional and moral consequences, and can lie fluently and persuasively in order to get what they want. But, of course, we only find these things engaging if we don’t have to live with them every day; in fiction, we can observe the psychopath at one remove, safe on the other side of the page.

I’m fairly sure that one of the characters in None So Blind would meet the psychiatric threshold for psychopathy. It wasn’t intentional on my part, that’s just the way they turned out. But, interestingly, I’m not sure that this character would have become so psychopathic if they hadn’t had the upbringing they did. Research seems to indicate that individuals are born with the potential for psychopathy but that environmental factors in childhood flick an epigenetic switch to bring the full syndrome online.

So, are psychopaths born or made?

I prefer to think they’re made; it makes for a much more interesting book (and a slightly less alarming world). But I’ll let you read None So Blind and decide for yourself.

The Dome Press
15 November 2018

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of the book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour
West Wales, 1850.

When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery. 

He knows exactly whose those bones they are. 

Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty, but the investigation turns up more questions than answers. 

The search for the truth will prove costly. Will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?

Here's what I thought about None So Blind

This well thought out historical crime story takes us back to Wales in the mid-nineteenth century and introduces us to Harry-Probert Jones who has returned to his Welsh childhood home after working as a London barrister. Harry's homecoming is complicated, for all sorts of reasons, but it is made worse when the remains of a young woman are found and Harry gets drawn into the investigation.

What then follows is a murder/mystery which threatens to shatter the small Welsh community, exposing secrets which have been buried for a long time and as Harry gets drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery he comes to rely heavily another local man, John Davies, for help as his clerk. The two men make a good partnership and it was fascinating to watch them peel back the layers of secrets, some of which go back to the time of the Rebecca Riots which were a series of protests led by local farmers against the use of toll roads in rural West Wales.

There’s a dark edginess to the story with lots of twists and turns and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to piece together the clues alongside Harry and John. Both men have their own secrets which are gradually revealed as the story progresses and it was fascinating to see how their personal stories would eventually play out within the wider scheme of the plot.

The author writes well and it's obvious that a great deal of research has been done which places everything nicely into historical context. I didn't know anything about the Rebecca Riots, so it was particularly interesting to discover more about why the farmers were so angry. I also found the brief Welsh glossary, at the start of the book, really useful.

None So Blind is the first book in the Teifi Valley Coroner series, so there was a certain amount of setting the scene and getting to know the central characters who, I’m sure, will feature strongly in future novels. The conclusion to the story lends itself nicely to a continuation of the series and I look forward to meeting up again with Harry Probert-Jones and John Davies in future stories.

Twitter  @Alis_Hawkins #NoneSoBlind