Dear Mr Darwin by guest author Stephanie Bretherton

It is a great pleasure to have my friend and fellow author Stephanie Bratherton visit my blog today to share the launch of her novel, Dear Mr Darwin, it is published by Unbound Books on 20.09. 2018 and sounds really exciting.

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In the present day, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of an important archaeological find. She is working at the cutting edge of contemporary science yet caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Dear Mr. Darwin is the story of two women separated by millennia but bound by the web of life. A timeless tale of love, survival and the quest for wisdom, it is a voyage through science and spirituality, nature and nurture, curiosity and courage.


Stephanie Bretherton

Reformed nomad, penitent PR, worrier of words, muddler of the middle way, peddlar of prose, thespian throwaway, secret tree-talker, animal intriguer, nearly nerd worthy, high-functioning hermit, exhausted optimist, mood juggler, beach botherer, cliff-hanger (outer), sun-supplicant, grateful partner, metaphysical rationalist, author-in-evolution, Homo sapiens (but none the wiser.)

Or, perhaps more sensibly: Stephanie is a restless Hong-Kong born Londoner, longing for more time at the coast, who misspent her youth in drama, media and marketing until returning to her first love, writing (inspired by a conflicting fascination for both science and spirituality.) This habit for words (and dichotomies) has taken many forms but now has been distilled into a debut novel, Dear Mr Darwin, unleashed by Unbound in September 2018.






My Writing Journey by guest author Andrew Marsh

Today, I am very pleased to welcome my friend and fellow crime writer Andrew Marsh to my blog to discuss his writing journey. Over to you, Andrew!

My writing journey begins in the 1990’s when, as a geologist, I was part of and heard of many funny things that happened on sites and in design offices. So, I kept a notebook with me and started writing these things down. This opened the floodgates of ideas and soon I began to put together a story based on a significant event and how people got to that event and what happened after it.

And so my first book was born. To be honest, I made a lot of mistakes on that book, it was a good story but I didn’t follow the “rules” of how to get the book ready for publication. With the winnings from my appearance on The Weakest Link I commissioned a printer and self-published it in 2004.

Since then I have been to many writing conferences and have learnt the craft of what and how to take a first draft to a completed manuscript.

the truth

My second novel, The Truth, is a crime thriller along the lines of Midsomer Murders meet Quentin Tarantino. I self-published this in 2014 and it is available on Amazon with the links below.



It has some 5 star reviews and is a hard hitting crime thriller with adult content.

The Author

I am 54 and spent 23 years as a geologist in the construction industry. Unfortunately, the credit crunch and chasing work took its toll and I became ill developing chronic fatigue syndrome and other ailments. I retrained in NLP and Hypnosis and this has helped me understand myself better and what I can do to help myself.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and this has made sense of my life and put many things about my past into perspective and given it an understanding. I have always known I was different and now I know why.

andrew marsh profile picUnderstanding my Asperger’s has opened up my writing to poetry and I have written several poems about my situation and my diagnosis. I find my poetry very cathartic and have presented my poems at events in Glasgow overt the last year.

I am also a speaker, and speak about my Asperger’s diagnosis to raise awareness of the condition and how people on the spectrum need more support to help them understand themselves and integrate with others and society as a whole.

Redneck’s Revenge by guest author Joan Livingston

I am delighted to be joined on the blog today by my friend and fellow crime writer Joan Livingston. Her first novel, Chasing the Case, featuring the protagonist Isabel Long is reviewed on this site at I enjoyed that book very much and am looking forward to reading Redneck’s Revenge. In the meantime, Joan kindly shares details of her novel now.chasing the Case

The Blurb

Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over, but no surprise there since his sister turned out to be the killer. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

Rednecks Revenge hi res cover

Fussing and Feuding in Redneck’s Revenge

Things can get mighty personal in a small town, where most everybody knows each other and their business. I mean a really small town, like around a thousand people, which is the setting for my Isabel Long mystery series. And a feud figures prominently in the latest, Redneck’s Revenge, which has a Sept. 26 release.

I’ve lived in those kinds of towns. They are the inspired setting for this mystery series and other fiction I’ve written. And, yes, I’ve seen feuds between newcomers and natives, among natives, and even among newcomers. As a reporter, I even covered them.

Feuds can be amusing as long as you’re not an active player in one.

So what sets people off? For neighbors, it’s usually dogs, noise, boundaries, and smells. For all of the others, it could be a deal gone bad, a relationship gone bad, or when somebody makes off with another’s lover. Then there are other forms of bad behavior usually involving extreme flirting or illicit sex.

Who ever says small towns are boring?

My favorite feud was between two neighbors, newcomers and a native, over pigs. One neighbor complained to the other over the smell. What did the pig owner do? He moved the pen closer to the boundary line. This went to a health board meeting I covered as a reporter. The board ruled in favor of the pig owner. I am sure that didn’t help neighborly relations.

So what kind of feud is in Redneck’s Revenge? Try one between two junkyard owners. Actually, Isabel Long, amateur P.I., is hired by a woman to find out how her father, Chet Waters, died. The official word is he was passed-out drunk when his house burned down. She says he was murdered. Chet Waters was a mean S.O.B. who ran a junkyard and garage. (Now his daughter does.) And guess what? One of the suspects in his death is Al Sinclair, who had a junkyard in the neighboring town.

Let’s just say their feud goes way, way back, as Isabel discovers, all the way to high school.

Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea. Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 92-year-old mother — interview Al Sinclair.

The Excerpt

Oh, I see where this is goin’. Did Chet piss me off?” His voice has got a tight kink in it. “Sure he did. I had my reasons but not because we both had junkyards. He was a mean son of a bitch.” He glances at my mother. “Sorry, ma’am.”

My mother nods in absolution.

You said you had reasons.”

It’s personal.” His chin juts forward. “It happened years ago. End of story.”

I’m remembering what Marsha said. Whatever it was involved somebody’s sister, but Al’s clammed up. I’m just a nosy newcomer to him. Chet’s just a mean son of a bitch.

I glance at my mother, who gives me the slightest shake of her head. She’s telling me to move onto something else. We both know we can find out what did happen elsewhere. I don’t want to lose this guy.

His eyes have a lock on me.

I will say one more thing, and then we’re done. Once in a while, we’d end up at the same place together. I wasn’t afraid of tellin’ that son of a bitch what I thought of him like the time he cheated my boys when they were playin’ cards. There’s other stuff like that.”

Your boys?”

Yeah, Junior and Roy.”

How much did they lose?”

More than they could afford. He even took my father’s gold watch Junior put up. Yeah, yeah, the kid shouldn’t have done that.” He leans over the desk. “The worse part is I think Chet enjoyed it.”


You’re right about that,” he said. “Eh, I got back at him for that. I told a dealership in the valley Chet was out of business.” He makes a head-shaking laugh. “Somebody new answered the phone, so I pretended I was Chet.” He laughs that way again. “Took Chet a coupla weeks to figure that out. Revenge is sweet.”

I ponder that statement. I’ve witnessed numerous cases where somebody managed to take it out on somebody else. The locals turned it into an art, against each other sometimes, and even against newcomers. Once, the guy who put in the cellar when we were building our house got pissed off because Sam didn’t hire him for a job. Sam wasn’t the general contractor, but Ed didn’t forgive him for that. Sam tried to make it up to the guy by having him do more work at our house. Ed strung us along for months. In the end, we both chalked it up to redneck’s revenge. I’d say Chet and Al were pros at it. As for Ed, we ended up getting somebody else to do the work for cheaper. I say so much for revenge.

I suppose,” I tell Al.

His daughter, Annette, thinks somebody killed her father. It could be true, but it wouldn’t have been me. If so, I would’ve done it years ago when I was young and hotheaded. I’ve got too much to lose now. I’ve got family and a business.”

Joan Livingston

The Author

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston on social media:



Twitter: @joanlivingston 



Book links to Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge:

My Writing and Me by guest author Clare E. Rhoden

Today, my friend and fellow author, Clare E. Rhoden stops by the blog to discuss the importance of her writing in her life. Thank you for visiting. Over to you, Clare.


Writing has been with me for a long time.

Naturally, it was preceded by reading. The first book I remember was the Ladybird classic Puppies and Kittens, which my mother bought for my third birthday and read aloud to me on the bus on the way home. She reports that I read it back to her flawlessly. I’m not querying that story, but I must have had a good memory for words and pictures.

puppies-and-kittens-vintage-ladybird-book-learning-to-read-series-563-dust-cover-1960-3574-pIn primary school I once received 100% for a creative essay. The task was to write a new story about characters from our favourite book. I can’t remember which book, but I know I was devouring Rosemary Sutcliffe at the time and that I used a lot of Roman words, so I suspect it was one of The Eagle of the Ninth series. That fan fiction idea has been around for a while!

I admit that I feel ‘better’ after some time spent writing. What does ‘better’ mean? I Eagle_of_the_Ninth_coversuppose it’s satisfying. There is some need – like the need to read – that I must cater to if I’m to feel at my best. I can go for some days without writing, but I am probably devising scenes in my head.

During difficult times, writing has been a sanity saver for me. One of the stories I have tucked away is called ‘Things I Wish I Didn’t Know’. In there, I assume the persona of a grumpy old lady full of warnings and admonitions. That story grows longer every time I get upset by something going on in the world.

I’m probably not the first writer to lack confidence in her own writing. My need for affirmation sent me jumping through as many academic hoops as I could find. However, studying creative writing at graduate level was a great help to me, because I received heaps of feedback and constructive criticism. Writing for academic journals was also good for my writerly development. Submitting papers to peer review, I was sent guidelines for improvement (EG ‘please revise along the lines suggested and resubmit’). I also had plenty of DEstructive or OBstructive criticism, and arguments in refutation, or else no feedback at all except ‘thanks but no thanks’. Perfect preparation for the rollercoaster experiences of submission, rejection, submission, rejection, and the occasional bliss of acceptance for publication.

ThePale_Cover copyThese days, I write science fiction. I write fantasy. I write historical fiction. I write about characters and their trials. Animals are characters too in my writing. I laugh and cry with my characters, and (of course) have private conversations with them. I’m not a planner as such, so although I have ideas mapped out in my head, I’m pretty flexible. If a character says to me “I wouldn’t say that!”, or “You can’t kill me off yet, I have another role to play!”, then I can adapt.

I love writing.

Clare’s website:

Clare’s facebook page: @clareelizabethrhoden

Clare’s Instagram: @aerynr

Clare’s twitter: @ ClareER

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Orchestrating Murder by guest author Heather Osborne

Today, I am really fortunate to have my friend and fellow author, Heather Osborne to visit my blog and tell me about her new novel, Orchestrating Murder. We find out what happens when the protege becomes the maestro.

Heather Osborne authorThe Blurb

By day, he wears a mask, concealing his true nature from the world. By night, he conducts his plans, carefully composing death for those deemed less worthy in his eyes of existence.

When bodies of convicted felons start turning up, Detective Gregory Shaw is called upon to investigate. His suspicions fall on a well-known attorney, but can he prove his hunch holds merit?Blog Tour banner (1)

The Extract

Lindsay approached the massive office building with some trepidation. The lunch invite had been on impulse, a subtle rebellion against Shaw’s unsubstantiated request not to see Edward. She had taken extra care with her appearance, for some unknown reason. She didn’t consider herself one to be overly bothered with what she wore. However, today, she had French braided her hair, allowing the gentle wisps to frame her face. She had even applied a scant layer of make-up. The beaded, flowing blue tunic top and skinny jeans were borrowed from her mother’s wardrobe, as well as the heeled sandals. It was an airy outfit, more than suitable for the warm weather.

She took the elevator to the designated floor, a whoosh of cool air hitting her as she stepped into the immaculate office. A woman behind a desk barely lifted her gaze. She was what Lindsay’s mother might describe as exotically beautiful. Lindsay immediately found her pretentious.

“Excuse me, I’m meeting Edward…um, Mr. Haversham for lunch.”

“Your name?” The woman took her in with glittering brown eyes.

Miffed by the abrupt and frigid reception, Lindsay opted to do what she always did when people judged her based on appearance—use her full title. “Dr. Lindsay Young.”

The woman’s immaculately groomed eyebrow arched, almost in surprise. “Sit over there. I will let him know you are here.”

Lindsay, satisfied to have evoked a mild reaction from the woman, nodded and moved to a set of carefully arranged chairs opposite the desk. She made sure not to fidget. There would be no way that woman would see any nerves from her. The woman made a soft call on an intercom system.

Footsteps on the carpeted floor had her lifting her head a few moments later as Edward emerged from a hallway, all bright smiles and shining eyes. She stood and he swiftly descended on her, brushing his lips against her cheek, murmuring, “Divine,” out of earshot of the watching secretary.

Lindsay felt herself blush. “Thank you.”

“I would like to introduce you to my partner, if you do not mind?” Edward encompassed her hand in his and led her away before she could answer.

Edward rapped his knuckles against a closed office door and opened it when the voice inside gave him permission. The room was awe-inspiring, with degrees, awards, and other commendations covering the walls. The man behind the desk reminded her of the suave charmers on her mother’s soap operas.

“Ah, this must be the lovely doctor you were telling me about!” The man stood, extending his hand. “Bernard Wilks.”

Lindsay took it, not at all surprised when he kissed the back of her hand. “Dr. Lindsay Young.”

“Edward has said sterling things about you, my dear. I hope he is treating you well.”

“We’ve only been on one date, but so far, he’s been a perfect gentleman.” She caught Edward’s eye. He looked immensely pleased at the way the introduction was going. This was obviously very important to him, so she smiled at Mr. Wilks.

“Has he summed up the courage to ask you to our little charity ball in two weeks’ time?”

Blinking, Lindsay cast her eyes up to Edward. A ruddy color was expanding over his neck and he cleared his throat. “I was hoping to…at lunch.” She watched his masseter muscle contract in his jaw.

“Oh! I’ve stuck my foot in it, it seems. I am so very sorry. I shall say no more.” Wilks smiled easily, as if it would defuse the entire situation.

Lindsay tucked her hand back into Edward’s, giving it what she hoped was an encouraging squeeze. “I think we should get going. It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Wilks.”

“Likewise, my dear.”

There was something sinister to the man’s eyes that had her stomach turning over, but she kept her face placid. Edward nodded to his boss and guided her from the room.

“Take the rest of the afternoon off, too, Edward!” Wilks’ voice came from the office. “Treat your lady friend to a bit of fun.”

“I will just be a moment. I need to get my briefcase.”

Lindsay’s stomach twisted again, but she smiled at Edward. “Go on. I’ll wait by the elevator.”

The woman at the desk’s eyes passed over her again as she made her way over, but the odd exchange only lasted minutes, before Edward returned and offered her his arm.

“Shall we?”

Lindsay cast a final look back to the woman, who displayed two rows of white teeth in a smile that reminded her of a shark, as they entered the elevator.

Buy Link: murder ebook final cover.jpg

The Author 

Heather Osborne, an author of crime and historical novels, was born and raised in California. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Victimology. In 2009, she met her husband and moved to Scotland. Along with her novels and short stories, Heather also has written and directed several plays. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing (of course!), and theatre, as well as caring for her young son. Among her published titles are: The Soldier’s Secret, a historical romance set during the American Civil War; Bitter Bonds, a tale of black magic in the deep South in the 1840s, and the Rae Hatting Mysteries series.



Twitter: @hosborneauthor

Amazon Author Page: Murder header

Calculated Deception by my guest author K.T. Lee

I am delighted to have a visit from K.T.Lee today. Here she shares her new book Calculated Deception. It is so exciting to have an excerpt from this fine novel here. Thank you K.T. Lee.

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Book Blurb

Dr. Ree Ryland is a mechanical engineering professor who loves her job and plays by the rules. In fact, she is so focused on her research at Indiana Polytechnic that she doesn’t realize a criminal on campus is using her squeaky-clean reputation to hide his illegal activities. When the FBI traces shipments of military-grade hardware masquerading as custom test equipment to the university, all evidence points to Ree.

Agent Parker Landon and his FBI team begin surveilling Ree and Parker poses as her student to figure out what the professor might be hiding. When the FBI intercepts a shipment that puts Ree in the clear, they sabotage the contents before delivering them to their intended destination. And inadvertently put Ree in the crosshairs of the actual perpetrator.

Parker intends to keep Ree in the dark while keeping her safe. However, a surprise visitor outside of Ree’s office forces Parker to reveal his true identity and Ree is must come to terms with the fact that an enemy is hiding in plain sight at the university. When Parker offers Ree a protective detail and advises her to lay low, Ree informs him that she isn’t really suited to the role of damsel in distress. Instead, she insists on using her inside knowledge to help find the criminal hiding among her friends and colleagues.

While Parker is initially wary of bringing a civilian on to the team, he’s surprised at how much fun he has keeping Ree on her toes. In addition to her quick wit, his new ally has a few surprising skills. Not least of which includes good aim and a black belt in Karate. When Ree is transferred to a new lab for funding reasons, she moves closer to the criminal and the investigation takes a dangerous turn.


Excerpt from Calculated Deception

Ree locked the door to her office, slipped into the large storage closet in her lab and locked that door for good measure, quickly changing into a modest but fashionable black gown. She hated galas, but the big donors expected the professors to come hobnob and talk about the research their donations were funding. Since helping the university acquire funding was part of the job, she kept a formal dress and a pair of shoes in the lab closet behind boxes of equipment. That way, when she inevitably forgot about an event until she was at work, she never had to rush home for an appropriate outfit. A longtime fan of superhero movies, Ree tried to convince herself that she was like a superhero changing in a phone booth, although she couldn’t recall a time when Superman had to wear a long dress and shake an endless stream of donor’s hands in impractical, sparkly high heels. It was a good thing she wasn’t planning on fighting crime tonight.

At least Joanna and Ivan would be there to ease the awkwardness. Skeezy Steve often showed up to represent his law firm, and she had to continue to be polite to him. Perhaps she could step on his toes, accidentally of course, if he asked her to dance. She let out a sigh. It was too bad she couldn’t even be “accidentally” rude without feeling horrible about it later. She exited the closet and wobbled a bit on one heel while trying to clasp her necklace and walk at the same time. She unlocked her outside door and gasped when she saw Parker Landon lifting his hand to knock.

We have to stop meeting like this,” Parker said, his eyes twinkling as she tried to make sense of why he was standing outside of her office in a suit.

Oh! My purse!” Ree turned on her heel and crossed the office to her desk. Parker had missed her class just an hour and a half earlier, which raised a prickle on the back of her neck. She grabbed her purse, and when she looked up, he had taken a few steps into her office. Ree was trapped behind her desk with Parker blocking her exit. It didn’t make sense that he would be in her office so late when he missed her class and the building was nearly empty. Something was definitely off.

Ree widened her stance for balance and slipped her hand into her purse. She had practiced unlocking her weapon quickly in case she was ever threatened, even though it seemed crazy at the time. But here she was, preparing herself in case she needed to use it. She pursed her lips for effect as if searching for lipstick and asked Parker, as casually as possible, “What are you all dressed up for?”

Parker looked at the floor before meeting her eyes. “Well, in addition to being a student,” he said, “my company made a large donation to IP and asked me to attend a gala tonight. I was stopping through the labs to turn in my homework before it starts. I apologize, I missed your class because the same company who asked me to attend the gala didn’t check to see if I had a suit. I had to do some last-minute shopping.”

Ree’s hand relaxed a fraction. The trigger was still unlocked but she released her gun. There was some scuffling in the hallway outside, which grew louder as the source of the noise came closer to her office. It was probably some college kids horsing around, but Parker whipped his head toward the door. He closed the remaining distance between them with three large steps, a fierce expression on his face. “Get down. Now,” he said. Ree didn’t move, and Parker raised his hand to gesture for Ree to crouch behind the desk.

Ree stood a little taller, her tone confident even as her hands shook. “Parker, you are making me extremely uncomfortable, and I am not afraid to scream for help or keep you from walking for the foreseeable future. So, I am going to ask you once to back the hell away from me and get out of my office. In exchange, I’ll pretend this little encounter never happened.”

Ree reached back into her purse and grabbed her weapon without extracting it. While she was hoping that this would all be a misunderstanding, her dad had always told her that the best way to scare off a bear was to make yourself as large and scary as possible. The theory also held true with bullies and criminals. Probably.

Parker didn’t miss the fear in Ree’s tone but compartmentalized it to address the more imminent threat outside. Parker kept himself between Dr. Ryland and the door for the second time that day as he tried to determine the source of the noise. He kept himself from fully facing the hallway, since he wasn’t willing to turn his back on a terrified woman with a loaded weapon. No one should be around this late, particularly since Ree’s office was off the main thoroughfare. It was time to make a snap decision.

As he turned to face Ree, the depth of her fear became clear. He forced himself to relax his features and put his hand on top of hers to calm her. Barely above a whisper, Parker said as quickly and calmly as possible, “Dr. Ryland. Look at me. I’m FBI, and I’m here to help. We may have a situation outside. I’m going to slowly turn around and figure out what is going on, and I would very much like it if you don’t shoot me in the back while I try to protect you. I know your weapon is unlocked and probably loaded. Reach inside my jacket in the inner pocket, and you’ll find my ID. This noise could be nothing, but I’m wearing a bulletproof vest, and I’m willing to bet that you aren’t.” Dr. Ryland’s eyes widened. She kept one hand in her purse while another reached inside Parker’s jacket. “Some trust, please. I would like your hand off your weapon, now, or I will be forced to treat you as a threat.”


About the Author

K.T. Lee is a writer, mom and engineer who grew up on a steady diet of books from a wide variety of genres. When K.T. began to write the kind of books she wanted to read, she mixed clever women and the sciences with elements from thrillers (and a dash of romance) to create The Calculated Series.

Social Links: Twitter: @ktleewrites

Instagram: @ktleeauthor




The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

The View from Castle Rock was book of the month in my book group recently. It is a book of short stories by the Canadian author Alice Munro, which was published in 2006 by McClelland and Stewart. It is a collection of historical and autobiographical stories. Munro was recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.Alice Munro photo

Munro had a Scottish ancestor called Margaret Laidlaw Hogg, “famous locally for the number of verses she carried in her head”. Sir Walter Scott published some of her verses in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Munro has called on her celebrated powers of “making it up”, an activity that some of her forebears shared. Some left letters and diaries, which provide the spine of these stories on which she puts the flesh. Her most distinguished ancestor was James Hogg, the “Ettrick Shepherd” and author of The Confessions of a Justified Sinner: it was he who took Scott to meet Margaret Laidlaw Hogg. walter-scott

Alice Munro certainly has her ancestors story telling gene in her veins. The View from Castle Rock is fluidly organised. It tells of overlapping lives employs diffuse, wave-like narrative forms: delicate ripples of understatement, washes of implication, the lingering backwash of human interactions.

The View From Castle Rock by Alice Munro bookJust as there is no real division here between fiction and non-fiction, in The View from Castle Rock, neither is there any turning point at which the epic story of emigration gives way to observation of the nuance and detail of settled lives. It is a delightful book and I highly recommend it.

Val Penny


The False Men by Mhairead MacLeod

Mhairead MacLeodI am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the fine new novel by Mhairead MacLeod, The False Men, run by Love Books Group. I even have an excerpt from the novel to share with you.

The story is set in North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland in 1848. Jess MacKay has led a privileged life as the daughter of a local landowner, sheltered from the harsher aspects of life. Courted by the eligible Patrick Cooper, the Laird’s new commissioner, Jess’s future is mapped out, until Lachlan Macdonald arrives on North Uist, amid rumours of forced evictions on islands just to the south. As the uncompromising brutality of the Clearances reaches the islands, and Jess sees her friends ripped from their homes, she must decide where her heart, and her loyalties, truly lie.

This novel is set against the evocative backdrop of the Hebrides and inspired by the true story of Jessie Balranald, The False Men is a compelling tale of love in a turbulent past that resonates with the upheavals of the modern world.



Excerpt from The False Men


Summer – 1850- Inverness Castle, Scotland 

The crowd at the castle’s entrance was large by the time Jess arrived on foot. A bellow of both excitement and anger went up as they caught their first sight of her, forcing the sheriff’s officers to hold them back even more roughly. So she walked quickly, her head high, wearing the same blue silk dress she had worn only four months before at the wedding.

Two or three women acknowledged her with benign smiles, drawn into her drama for their own private reasons. She heard them murmur in Gaelic and English – ‘Tis such a shame;’ ‘I do not blame him – tha Seasidh bòidheach.’ But she did not feel herself a prize. There was a witnesses’ bench outside the Criminal Court room and she sat tentatively to one side of it. Behind the large oak door he was already there, in the dock, alone.

She was still out of breath from hurrying up the steep street with its tightly closed doors and white-trimmed windows. Once she had been used to the slopes of mountains. There was no one else in this hallway, and the sound of seagulls reached her from high on the sandstone turrets outside. It was a harsh echo with no turf or tree to soften it, a call familiar but not comforting. The sheriff’s clerk, dressed in wig and robes, opened the courtroom door just wide enough to identify her, gave a perfunctory nod and retired inside again.

Somewhere in the castle were prison cells. She had asked the lawyer what they were like, hoping he’d say there would be no need for her to know. He gave her a history lesson rather than hope. The prison stood beside Doomesdale Street as it was once the False Men Bookknown, because it formed a path from the old prison house and led up to the gallows on the mount. Down the hill from the previous gaol, flaunting its ornate steeple, was the church where a hundred years before, exhausted Jacobite rebels had sought shelter from the Duke of Cumberland and his government army. Farmers and sons, their shirts stiff with dried blood, were dragged to the manse yard and hanged, or lined up to be shot beside the graceful river – target practice for soldiers who took aim from the other side. The town’s prosperous citizens never spoke of that time now, their orderly streets resisted the past.

The court door was opened again to allow someone to exit – a tall, slim man, his dark hair neat around a stern face. His only acknowledgement as he passed by her was a tightening of those lips which had kissed her just months before. Patrick Cooper, eminent witness for the prosecution.

Dread now settled in her chest, trapped there, wordless. 

Wrestling with the Octopus by guest author Susanna Beard

When my debut novel, Dare to Remember, a psychological thriller, was published in February 2017, my second book, called The Truth Waits, was well under way.

I’d started writing it in that nerve-racking period when I was waiting for responses about my first novel from agents, then from publishers, so, as all that takes quite a long time, I was some way down the line with book two when the excitement of actually having a book published (number one) kicked in and I was thoroughly distracted from my writing.

It’s often said in the publishing industry that the second book is hard to write, but after my efforts to finish the first and the inevitable ups and downs involved in getting it published, my reaction was: “how hard could it be?” Surely the biggest hurdle was behind me now, and the writing would flow. Now, having completed a highly regarded novel-writing course and learned my craft, I would have no problem churning them out.

How wrong I was.

I loved my storyline. I was delighted with the setting and had developed the characters I wanted. The Truth Waits was going to be a thriller, starting with the body of a young girl, Margryta, washed up on a remote beach in Lithuania. It would follow the journey of Anna, who finds the body and is forced to face her own secrets while uncovering those of the girl.

But I fell over the plot.

The Truth Waits cover design

My first novel had unfolded as I wrote it. I knew the bones of it, but didn’t know the ending, which revealed itself some time after the halfway point. I assumed the same would happen with the second story. But when I got to the half-way point, I had no idea where the plot was going and how the story would end. Then I made the mistake of changing the beginning, before I’d got to the end – which meant I had to edit the entire first half, more than once, before I was happy with it. When I got back to writing the second half, I seemed even further from reaching the end. Perhaps I was procrastinating, or perhaps I thought the denouement would become clear if I immersed myself in the first half of the story. When it didn’t I began to worry. Then the worry turned into panic.

I agonised over the options. Should my main character, Anna, a British businesswoman with interests in Lithuania, go all out to find the killer? This wasn’t ever going to be a police procedural – not my thing, and particularly not one set in Lithuania! Rather, I wanted the focus to be Anna’s growing self-awareness, caused by this external tragedy. How could she get involved with finding a killer, learn about herself along the way, and not get involved with the police? Should her partner, Will, who she met soon after she found the body, be somehow bound up with the death of the young girl? There were many options, but none of them wanted to reveal themselves in a flash of inspiration.

It was like wrestling with an octopus: the minute I managed to detach one sticky tentacle from my arm, another would come and clamp itself around my neck and I’d have to untangle myself all over again.

When I submitted the first manuscript to my editor, she liked it but felt it needed more work. I agreed. I took another hard look at it. I rewrote one of the characters and the majority of the second half, so that the outcome was completely different. I was pleased with the result.

But my editor wasn’t. She complimented my hard work but didn’t like the dramatic character change, or the new ending. My heart sank. But I’m nothing if not determined. I took a deep breath, decided I wasn’t going to waste all the hard work and noted her comments, dealing with them one at a time. I also gave myself a tight deadline to get it done, which spurred me on. By now I was beginning to hate this book, but with my jaw locked and my shoulders aching from the effort, I reworked the ending. At last I was satisfied with it.

Finally, almost three years after I’d started it, The Truth Waits was finished. To my enormous relief, my editor liked it, and there were only a few line edits to complete. I was overjoyed and I’m delighted that it will be published this November, in paperback and ebook form. Having had a break from it now (while writing my third novel) I’m falling back in love with it – especially now it has a stunning cover, evoking that wonderful beach in Lithuania, which I visited back in April 2016.

I learned a lot from this experience – like my main character, Anna, I needed to go through a difficult process to find out about myself. I thought I was a ‘pantser’ – writing a story by the seat of my pants, without knowing where it’s going – but I’m not. I’m definitely a planner now, and my third novel, carefully planned, is almost ready to go to my agent after only a year. I loved writing it and I loved the process. In the end, I learned my own truth from The Truth Waits.

I hope you are intrigued enough to want to read it now. It’s available to pre-order at

About The Truth Waits

Anna has everything worked out – a successful company, all the comforts she needs and no ties. But when she stumbles across the body of a young girl on a deserted beach in Lithuania, everything changes.

Anna is compelled to uncover the story behind the tragedy, despite concern from her partner, Will. Everything points towards sex trafficking, but as she searches, her own deepest secrets start to surface.

When Will disappears without a trace, Anna is pulled further into the murky world of organised crime. Time is running out for them all, and there’s a killer out there who will stop at nothing.


About Susanna Beard

Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Despite the writer’s life, she has an adventurous streak and has swum with whale sharks in Australia, fallen down a crevasse in the French Alps and walked through the sewers of Brighton – not in that order.

Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything.

Susanna’s debut novel, Dare to Remember, was published in February 2017.

She aims to keep writing, and never to get old.

Visit Susanna at, email her on, like her page on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @SusannaBeard25 and you can buy her book on Amazon at

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I rarely re-read books but, occasionally, it is comforting to re-read an old favourite. I recall, as a child, being given a particularly beautifully bound copy of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens one Christmas. I have no idea what ever happened to that copy of the book but it was a joy to pick up the story again from the library recently.

Oliver Twist is the story of an orphan who is born in a workhouse in 1830s England. His mother, whose name no one knows, is found on the street and dies just after Oliver’s birth.

The child spends the first nine years of his life in a badly run home for young orphans and then is transferred to a workhouse for adults where the other boys bully Oliver into asking for more gruel at the end of a meal. This results in Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, offering five pounds to anyone who will take the boy away from the workhouse.Oliver asks for more

Oliver narrowly escapes being apprenticed to a brutish chimney sweep and is eventually apprenticed to a local undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. When the undertaker’s other apprentice, Noah Claypole, makes disparaging comments about Oliver’s mother, Oliver attacks him and incurs the Sowerberrys’ wrath. Desperate, Oliver runs away at dawn and travels toward London. Oliver, ends up starved and exhausted, just outside London where he meets Jack Dawkins, a boy his own age.

Jack offers Oliver shelter in the London house of his benefactor, Fagin. It turns out that Fagin is a career criminal who trains orphan boys to pick pockets for him. After a few days of training, Oliver is sent on a pickpocketing mission with two other boys. When he is seen swiping a handkerchief from an elderly gentleman, Oliver is horrified and runs off. He is caught but narrowly escapes being convicted of the theft. Mr. Brownlow, the victim, takes Oliver to his home. He is ill and feverish and Mr Brownlow nurses him back to health.

Mr. Brownlow is struck by Oliver’s resemblance to a portrait of a young woman that hangs in his house. Oliver thrives in Mr. Brownlow’s home, but two young adults in Fagin’s gang, Bill Sikes and his lover Nancy, capture Oliver and return him to Fagin and Fagin sends Oliver to assist Sikes in a burglary.

Oliver's fagan etcOliver is shot by a servant of the house and Sikes escapes. After this, Oliver is taken in by the women who live there, Mrs. Maylie and her beautiful adopted niece Rose. They grow fond of Oliver, and he spends an idyllic summer with them in the countryside. But Fagin and a mysterious man named Monks are set on recapturing Oliver.

Meanwhile, it is revealed that Oliver’s mother left behind a gold locket when she died. Monks obtains and destroys that locket. When the Maylies come to London, Nancy meets secretly with Rose and informs her of Fagin’s designs, but a member of Fagin’s gang overhears the conversation. When word of Nancy’s disclosure reaches Sikes, he brutally murders Nancy and flees London. Pursued by his guilty conscience and an angry mob, he inadvertently hangs himself while trying to escape.

Oliver Twist BookMr. Brownlow, with whom the Maylies have reunited Oliver, confronts Monks and wrings the truth about Oliver’s parentage from him. It is revealed that Monks is Oliver’s half brother. Their father, Mr. Leeford, was unhappily married to a wealthy woman and had an affair with Oliver’s mother, Agnes Fleming. Monks has been pursuing Oliver all along in the hopes of ensuring that his half-brother is deprived of his share of the family inheritance. Mr. Brownlow forces Monks to sign over Oliver’s share to Oliver. Moreover, it is discovered that Rose is Agnes’s younger sister, hence Oliver’s aunt. Fagin is hung for his crimes.

Finally, Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver, and they and the Maylies retire to a blissful existence in the countryside. The story is exciting and complex and offers a most interesting social commetary but also wends its way to a satisfying conclusion. If you have not read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, I highly recommend it.Charles Dickens

The Author

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England and lived from 7 February 1812 to 9 June 1870. He was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars who recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity even today.

Val Penny