Blood Ties by Peter Taylor-Gooby

I am thrilled to be taking part in the book tour run by Love Book Group Tours for the launch of @PeterT_G Peter Taylor-Gooby’s third novel, Blood Ties published by Matador books @matadorbooks. Peter has taken time out at this busy time to chat with me. This is the result of our interview.

Thanks for joining me, today. What inspired you to write your book?

The belief that even silly, thoughtless people can do good things – in other words – hope!

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?

Ritchie, because he keeps screwing things up but he never lets it get him down. He doesn’t stop trying.

What was the first story you had published?

Apart from school magazine etc it’s my first novel “The Baby Auction”. I’ve wanted to write since I can remember but always been too nervous about the outcome to publish. Now I think “What the heck? The worst thing that can happen is no one reads it: win-win – they don’t waste their time and I’m not embarrassed!”

Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?

Yes – several! The one I’m working on at present is about the conflict between young and old and how love and care between generations cuts across it. Give me at least a year.

Who is your favourite author?

Sir Kazuo Ishiguro. “Never Let Me Go” still has the power to make me cry.

What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?

Walk in empty places, the Highlands, Dungeness, the Cumbrian coast.

When did you know you wanted to write novels?


Do you write novels in other genres?

Yes “The Baby Auction” is a science fiction fantasy with a contemporary edge. I’ve always really wanted to write what I call “Social Science Fiction” – novels that are fantasies but are rooted in real societies and the real issues that confront us in our everyday lives.

What do you like most about being an author?

Freedom! You can take your character anywhere. It’s exciting!

Do you have a specific routine for writing?  Is there a special place or particular tool you use?

No. I plan everything carefully over a period of months, then write in bursts as the ideas rush out and onto the page. Then I spend more months drafting and redrafting as I discover my original plan is now junk.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Write! Start out by imagining a character and then putting them in situations, especially conflict and tension (a job interview, meeting new people at a dinner party, discussing your novel will a potential publisher) and discovering how they develop. I’m sure they will surprise you and that’s what’s so exhilarating.

If your book were to be made into an Audiobook, who would you choose to read it?

Sir Ian McLellen, because he is so brilliant.

If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play main character’s name?

Ritchie Gervais – he makes me laugh.


Ritchie’s life is shadowed by the death of his wife, Cat, in a car accident twenty-two years previously. He was the driver. He loves his children – Nic, who is bi-polar and often impulsive, and Jack. Both are active in the campaign to welcome asylum-seekers and refugees to Britain. His life comes to a crisis as he realises how much his children despise his trade in advertising and how much the loss of Cat still means to them all.

Ritchie abandons his career but achieves new success in driving Britain’s treatment of refugees up the political agenda. This earns him the respect of his children but brings him to the attention of Makepeace, the populist Home Secretary. Nic, his daughter, strives to show she can overcome her disorder. She infiltrates a people-trafficking gang but is arrested as a criminal. Makepeace uses this to blackmail Ritchie to help him in his political schemes. Ritchie is horrified to discover that his task is to sell the reintroduction of forced labour, modern slavery, to the public. As a result he is once again rejected by his children.

Ritchie has reached rock bottom. He is desolate but believes he can outsmart Makepeace. Blood Ties shows how he finally resolves the situation, embraces the causes his children hold dear and reunites his family.


I enjoy talking to my children, holidays, hill-walking and riding my bike. I’ve worked on adventure playgrounds, as a teacher, as an antique dealer and in a social security office in Newcastle. Before that I spent a year on a Gandhian Ashram in Vijayawada, supporting myself as assistant editor on a local English-language newspaper. In my day job I’m an academic but I believe that you can only truly understand the issues that matter to people through your feelings, your imagination and your compassion.

That’s why I write novels. My first novel, The Baby Auction, 2017, is a love story set in a fantasy world where the only rule is the law of the market. That someone should help another because they care for them simply doesn’t make sense to the citizens of Market World, any more that auctioning babies might to us. My second, Ardent Justice, 2018, is a crime story set in the world of high finance and city fat-cats, where money rules, but greed can trip even the most successful. My third, Blood Ties, 2020, is about the ties of love in a troubled family, and the bonds of debt that chain illegal immigrants to people-traffickers, and how they can be broken through self-sacrifice. I hope you enjoy them.

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah

I was thrilled to meet psychological thriller writer Sophie Hannah at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School last year. I bought a book for my sister and Hurting Distance for me. It has taken an international pandemic and lockdown for me to get my TBR pile down far enough to get to this excellent novel.

Hurting Distance is the second in Hannah’s Culver Valley Crime series. However, it works well as a stand alone. In this novel, something terrible happened to Naomi Jenkins three years ago. It was so terrible that she never told anybody. However, Naomi has another secret, her boyfriend is a married man. She has fallen passionately in love with a man who came to her rescue at a service station, unhappily married Robert Haworth.

When Robert vanishes without trace, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert’s wife insists he is not missing. Then, Naomi has an idea. If she cannot persuade the police that Robert is in danger, perhaps she can convince them that he is a danger to others. Then they will have to look for him.

Naomi knows how to describe in detail the actions of a psychopath. All she needs to do is dig up her own troubled past but police sergeant Charlie Zailler is amazed to find that she is part of the puzzle.

This is a chilling psychological thriller that is hard to read at times. However, it is a beautifully crafted story that comes to a gripping end.

The Author

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime fiction writer whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her crime novels have been translated into 49 languages and published in 51 countries. Her psychological thriller The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the 2013 UK National Book Awards. In 2014 and 2016, Sophie published The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, the first new Hercule Poirot mysteries since Agatha Christie’s death, both of which were national and international bestsellers. She went on to publish a third, The Mystery of Three Quarters in 2018 which was an instant bestseller, and her fourth Poirot novel, The Killings at Kingfisher Hill will be published in August 2020. Sophie helped to create a Master’s Degree in Crime and Thriller Writing at the University of Cambridge, for which she is the main teacher and Course Director. She is also the founder of the Dream Author Coaching Programme for writers which launched in September 2019.

Sophie is also an award-winning, bestselling poet, and her poetry is studied at GCSE level across the UK. She has co-written two murder mystery musicals with composer Annette Armitage: The Mystery of Mr. E and Work Experience. She has written a self-help book called How To Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life, and hosts the How to Hold a Grudge podcast.

Sophie lives with her husband, children and dog in Cambridge, where she is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College.

Val Penny

Interview with Sarah Davis

I am delighted to welcome American author, Sarah Davis to my blog. Her debut novel, Inside Voices, will be published by darkstroke this year. Over to you, Sarah.

My sincerest thanks to you for the interview opportunity. It really is an honor to chat with the author of the bestselling Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself? I grew up on a farm near a very small town in central North Dakota. I moved out of state for veterinary school and then on to Los Angeles Angeles more training in equine medicine and surgery. It was a bit far from home, which at first seemed like a good idea, but the wide open prairie called me back to my roots. I now live on a farm about half an hour from where I grew up. My hobbies are many – reading, writing, and rabbits are the top three.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author? Like the 80% or so of people that want to write a book, I toyed with the idea that one day I could whip up a children’s book. Years passed by without any concrete ideas until one day several years ago, I imagined a scenerio of a veterinarian and her telepathic twin daughters. I could picture what they looked like and where they lived. And over the next few days I continued to think about that same family – how the loss of the girls’ father would affect them. Inside Voices grew, with encouragement and support from my family, into the novel I can now share with interested readers.

3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author? Learning about new things while making stuff up. When writing a novel, any research done is “for my story” and not “to waste time.”

4 What is your writing routine like? I write whenever I have free time, which to be honest, isn’t very often. Usually I’ll scratch notes down and explore them at a later time. My husband gave me a pair of noise canceling headphones so I could listen to music while writing, although I’m pretty skilled at blocking everything out once I get in the zone.

5 How much time is spent on research? Time spent on research depends on the subject. If it is a highlight of the story, then I’ll spend hours reading and watching videos. For Inside Voices, I watched hours of videos of polar bear cubs, movies about Alaska and the people, called up friends who visited or lived there, and read books and research papers on polar bear studies. When incorporating tragic events, I was careful with what I searched on google – didn’t want to be flagged for looking up how to (insert bad thing here), so I watched more movies that had corresponding themes.

6 How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it? For Inside Voices, I knew the beginning and end and a few major scenes. Then I worked to tie it all together. My next story is thoroughly plotted as it is scifi/fantasy with worldbuilding.

7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc. All of them! Sometimes not in equal measure. I have read great books that focused on the characters with large blocks of dialogue telling the story and little in the way of setting.

8 What is your latest book about? Inside Voices is about a young women with extaordinary gifts who struggles with anxiety and depression. She wants to move past the tragedies she endured but finds herself facing new nightmares.

9 What inspired it? I think I answered this in #2 🙂

10 Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in? A wise friend encouraged me to write a book that I would read. Made perfect sense so I wrote some fantasy elements into Inside Voices.

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal? I pitched to agents and publishing houses off and on throughout the last few years without success. In fact, I had polished Inside Voices to the point I was ready to self-publish. Then a Twitter pitch contest caught my eye. And following an intensive training, I honed three pitches for #PitMad. Lo and behold I received some interest, one of which was Darkstroke Books. The supporting community into which I was welcomed has been refreshing and amazing.

12 Any new books or plans for the future? My current work in progress is entirely scifi/fantasy – no polar bears or dogs, but very large flying horse-like creatures and cats.

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing? Not sure I can say they influenced, but I enjoy reading anything by Neil Gaimen, Terry Pratchett, Terry Brooks, Christopher Paolini, Patrick Rothfuss, Holly Black, James Rollins…ah, I could go on for much longer and into other genres.

14 What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started? Don’t give up. Take a break. Be patient. All the things that work in life.

15 What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block? Do your research but don’t lose sight of your goal. Write every day. Find someone to edit your work.

16 What has been your favourite book so far this year? That question is too hard to answer! I started my way through some current Darkstroke books, and have thoroughly enjoyed each one.

17 What is your all-time favourite book and why? The Last Unicorn. It requires no answer to the “why.”

18 What genre do you read most often? Scifi/fantasy

19 What are you currently reading? As of June 19 – The Southern Book Club Guide to Slaying Vampiresby Grady Hendrix. Listening to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Contact Details 


IG @sarahdavisdvm



Living Off The Land by Lorraine Turnbull

It is a joy to be part of the blog tour arranged by Love Book Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours  for the new book, Living Off The Land by Lorraine Turnbull @LorraineAuthor. Enjoy the tour.

The Blurb

To make her dream come true Lorraine Turnbull dragged her new husband and reluctant children away from Glasgow to live the ‘Good Life’ on a smallholding in Cornwall. Sheep wrestling, making cider, dealing with maggots and a demented mother and all under the pressure of the dreaded Agricultural Occupancy Condition. Lorraine shares the story of the delights and disasters of living off the land in Cornwall and how she finally triumphed over adversity. 

The Excerpt

A Desperate Thirst

In my head I’ve been a farmer since I was five years old. I started with a vast amount of Britain’s toy farm animals on a large painted board with green fields and blue ponds. I had flocks of sheep, a small herd of cows (these were more expensive to buy with my very meagre weekly pocket money), some poultry and a few ‘human’ helpers; a plastic girl with outstretched arm and a farmer who got a bit chewed up by my careless mother’s vacuum cleaner.

I would spend hours and hours daily, moving the animals around on a green painted board, projecting my personality into the small plastic figure of the girl with the ponytail and outstretched arm feeding all the animals in turn. The fact that I can still vividly remember all the pieces even now will tell you how much I cherished them and my little childish farming fantasy.

Because we lived in a run-down suburb near Paisley where social deprivation was the ‘norm’ and school-age pregnancy becoming more and more common, my parents, having a car, took us on endless trips to the countryside. Strawberry picking, fishing, watching pheasants whilst collecting brambles (blackberries) and walking ensured we never made friends with the wrong sort of people. When I look back, I only have vague recollection of people from that time in my life. I can only vaguely remember the 1960’s; not because of drugs but because my mother controlled every single thing in life. So, we went to church and Sunday School because my mother was living in a Doris Day fantasy life.

Determined to raise our socio-economic status, she forced my dad to accept a job working abroad in the oil industry and secured a crippling mortgage on a newly built semi-detached house in a fashionable south-side suburb of Glasgow. We inherited a large rectangular bare earth plot from the builders; which by no stretch of the imagination could you call a garden, and my mother had no idea what to do with it. However, I was delighted; packed away my farm animals and discovered gardening.

Trips to the local library ensured I had enough reference books on design and plants and my subsequent success creating a large lawn encouraged her to allow me to begin propagating plants and shrubs. My mother had no interest in gardening. She merely wanted it to look pretty and be somewhere to sit out on a nice day. A builder was found to construct a small patio area joining the house to the garden, edged with small narrow beds soon filled with flowers and shrubs that I had been busy propagating. I dug and planted a vegetable patch at the rear of the garden which produced beans, peas, raspberries and blackcurrants and a few leeks. An apple tree rescued from the local garden centre’s Cemetery Corner survived and once planted out was so grateful for the rescue that it went on to produce apples every autumn. My pocket money was meagre but I managed to save a little for the odd horticultural treat, when I wasn’t rescuing animals.

The Author

Lorraine Turnbull was born in Glasgow where she lived until 2015 when she and her family moved to a tired bungalow and an acre of land with an Agricultural Occupancy Condition on it in Cornwall. She started a smallholding from scratch, retrained as a horticultural tutor and also worked as a Skills Co-ordinator for The Rural Business School. She began commercial cider making in 2011 and until recently ran a profitable small craft cider business.

In 2014 she was recognised for her contribution to sustainable living by winning the Cornwall Sustainability Awards Best Individual category.

After removing the Agricultural Occupancy Condition on her home she relocated to a smallholding in France.

Buy Link: 

Dangerous Games by Gillian Godden

It is a pleasure to be involved with the launch of the novel, Dangerous Games run by Love Book Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours for one of my favourite authors, Gillian Godden,@GGodden. Enjoy the tour!

The Blurb

‘A gritty powerful story. A must read for fans of gangland crime.’

Kerry Kaya, Author

Annette Lambrianu is young, blonde, beautiful and bored. Life on the family vineyard with her husband and young son, Antonias, is not what she had expected. Yearning for excitement, she flees to London with her lover and the boy, only to find out the streets are not paved with gold.

Since being taken from his home by his mother in the middle of the night, fighting for survival is all Antonias Lambrianu has ever known. He soon learns that money is power and sets his sights on what he sees as a better future. When his past finally catches up with him, it unexpectedly opens up new opportunities, but new threats come hand-in-hand with them.

Antonias is determined that he will emerge triumphant, but there’s jeopardy everywhere and the stakes are high. Everyone, it seems, is playing dangerous games … Antonias most of all.

This is a tale of selfishness, cruelty, love and betrayal. But who will be the ultimate winner?

Dangerous Games is the origin story of gangster Tony Lambrianu. Book two in the series, Nasty Business, will be published in July 2019, and Francesca – available now – covers the next stage of his journey.

The Excerpt

Come on, Antonias, get up. Shush now, quickly.’ The bedroom was in darkness, only the moonlight shining through the blinds at the windows giving a little light to see by. Antonias yawned and rubbed his eyes.

‘Mummy, where are we going?’ The little boy, just five years old, looked up at his mother as she pulled back the bedclothes and began manoeuvring him out of his bed.

‘Shush, Antonias, we’re going to play a little game of hide and seek on Grandma and Granddad. Get up, now. Let’s be as quiet as mice.’

Little Antonias was still half asleep, and bleary eyed. It was the middle of the night. He stood while his mother dressed him in a T-shirt and trousers.

Annette was already dressed. She was being as quiet as she could, so she didn’t disturb the rest of the household, but even her breathing seemed to make a noise, and her heart was pounding in her ears.

Annette would be glad to see the back of this place. When she had met Marias on holiday, she had thought this was going to be la dolce vita, the sweet life. All she had got was life on a boring grape farm, owned by his parents.

She was nervous, but tried to hide it; she didn’t want to frighten her beautiful little boy. His mop of hair – golden, like her own – was a rarity, considering he was half-Italian, although his blue eyes were like his father’s – his, and that bitch, Miriam’s.

Smiling and hugging him close to her, Annette made it all seem like a little secret game they were going to play.

Antonias was still rubbing his eyes, and smiling and giggling with his mummy. Annette picked up the holdall containing the money she had taken from the safe. Miriam, her mother-in-law, had given her a cheque, but it wasn’t enough; she needed more if she was going to leave this place and start again.

Annette took Antonias’s hand and crept down the dark staircase, towards the front door. She opened it carefully, then turned and took one last look up the staircase and around the hallway, before stepping out into the darkness of the vineyard.

She winked at Antonias and put her finger to her lips, to indicate to him to be quiet. Slowly, they started to walk the long path that led up to the main road.

Annette had to carry Antonias half of the way. Although he was excited by the game, he was tired, and the night air made him shiver.

As Annette got closer to the main road, she looked around frantically. She was nearly out of breath. What with the holdall and little Antonias to carry, she was exhausted.

She looked around again and finally spotted the truck. It was parked in a lay-by, with its headlights on low beam. Carlos got out of the truck and smiled at her, and then he saw Antonias and the smile faded.

The Author

My name is Gillian Godden an Indie author and a full-time NHS Keyworker at a local inner-city medical centre in East Hull, East Yorkshire, England. My patients come from all sectors of society and no two days are ever the same. My duty of care is to my patients and during the recent pandemic, a lot of frightened and lonely people have relied upon us at the medical centre to offer guidance and support. This year is the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and we do everything we can to support outpatients when they need us.

When I come home I like to wind down and writing is my escape from the mental stresses of my day. My job is not a 9 to 5 job and I work to support my patients when they need me so my days can be long.

The medical team at the surgery work together to support all our patients during their time of worry and need.

On a more personal note, I grew up in a large family and am the youngest of 7 siblings. Over the years we have lost touch as life moves on. I lived in London for over 30 years and during this time I worked in various London stripper pubs and venues. I have a grown-up son who now lives and works in London as a haematology lab technician. He has been working on the COVID 19 testing and this has been a worrying time for us as a family.

Once he left for University 5 years ago I had more time on my hands I was encouraged to write a short story by a local library book competition. First prize was a P&O cruise and 2nd prize was £50, I lost to a pigeon fancier and an addicted crocheter.

My NHS colleagues supported my writing and encouraged me to continue to write, however being a little green and naive I went with a Vanity publisher, much to my cost. This experience did give me a platform to showcase my first book Francesca on Amazon and in the online book clubs. I was totally overwhelmed by the response and people messaged me via social media wanting to know more about the characters and how Tony Lambrianu grew up and became so successful in the London Gangland crime world.

To answer their questions I went backwards in time and wrote Dangerous games and Nasty business. These also were successfully received by my now increasing readership, so in order to complete the series, I wrote Dirty Dealings.

My readers are still interested in the characters throughout my books and asked for more information on the lives of Julie and Ralph Gold, so as I do everything I can to support my patients in my NHS job I wanted to do the same for my readers, so I am now writing Gold, the story of Julie and Ralph. Although this is standalone book readers who have read all my other books will soon be able to find out more about Julie and Ralphs life and how they met

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Heart of a Warrior Angel by Lali. A. Love

I am pleased to be involved in the blog tour for Heart of a Warrior Angel by Lali. A. Love @laliaristo put together by Love Book Tours. @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours 

The Blurb

Lilac Noble must face the traumatic experiences of her childhood before she can conquer the dark entities that have wreaked havoc on her family. On this epic journey, Lilac undergoes the destructive process of spiritual enlightenment in order to lift the veil of darkness and shame that has obscured her youth. As Lilac unlocks painful memories of abuse, suppressed in her subconscious from years of fear-based conditioning, she uncovers menacing secrets feeding the evil within her generational bloodline. In an attempt to vanquish the sinister energies, Lilac finds the courage to discover her inner truth, vulnerability, and authenticity, as she awakens her divine light and overcomes her debilitating fears of the past. Lilac’s unconditional love for her family guides her through her process of healing and transformation, fuelling her instinct for survival and her burning desire to illuminate the world.

Spanning two continents and three generations, this inspirational novel portrays the best and worst of humanity and shows how the “tiniest spark of light can overcome the darkness of any magnitude,” through forgiveness, compassion, and the most powerful force in the universe.

The Excerpt

Lilac intrinsically knew that she was about to be catapulted into an unknown event; however, she could not rationalize this instinct with her analytical mind. She was feeling discombobulated and confused, stuck between levels of consciousness and her perceived dimensional reality.”  
“Darkness had threatened to destroy her true essence at many points throughout her life, particularly at her weakest moments when she was most vulnerable. It would creep into her life in different forms, using various vessels to bare its gnawing teeth of devastation.”  

“Lilac fiercely battled and fought off the demons that were on a mission to diminish her inner light, to the point of exhaustion, preventing the negative energy from dragging her and her sister into the dark abyss.

The Contacts




The Buy Links





The Author

Award-winning Author, Lali A. Love provides a supernatural thriller of metaphysical and visionary fantasy with her own revolutionary philosophy and unique narrative skills to produce this heart-wrenching and gripping tale.

Lali A. Love lives in the capital city of Canada with her husband and two beautiful children who are her greatest source of pride, joy, and inspiration. As a debut author, Lali loves to write stimulating, character-based novels that invoke an emotional response in her readers. She has done extensive research into epistemology and metaphysics to further her understanding of the Universal Laws of Energy.

In her spare time, Lali is committed to writing her visionary fiction trilogy about spiritual transformation. These mystical novels are based on the journeys of three incarnated Angels that have been brought together in the third-dimensional existence, to realize their Divine Feminine soul purpose. Each of them must experience unique self-realization to overcome the dark demonic entities that are determined to destroy their inner light to derail their Soul mission.  

An Interview with Carmen Radtke

Today I am delighted to have author Carmen Radtke visit my blog and tell me a bit about her writing. Thank you for coming to chat, Carmen.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

That one is always tricky! I was born in Germany but decided to emigrate when I was six years old. Books and old tv series like Bonanza, Skippy the bush kangaroo might have had something to do with it … It took me a while to follow through with that idea though. After having a child, I had to decide between going back to full-time work as a staff reporter at a daily newspaper, with a midnight deadline, and resigning. I accepted a severance payment, packed my suitcases and took the family half-way around the world to New Zealand. When family reasons made the distance too hard to bridge, we came to live in the UK, in the beautiful North. A tuxedo cat named Holly makes sure I’m kept busy.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

I love books. Always have, always will. I taught myself to read before I started school, so becoming a reporter was the natural choice. From journalist to novelist was the next logical step. I sometimes quit writing novels, when I read something breathtaking like The Shadow of the Wind. That resolve usually lasts 48 hours.

3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author?

Several! It gives me an excuse to indulge in all kinds of research. It gets me in touch with other writers and readers who surely must be the nicest people in the world. But mostly, I get to walk in the shoes of all my characters and have the best adventures in the world. I can live out darker fantasies, fight injustice, solve crimes (and commit them). There is no limit to what I can do on the page!

 Nothing makes me happier than having a reader contact me and say that one of my books helped them escape reality when they most needed it. Well, hardly anything makes me happier.

4 What is your writing routine like?

I admire writers who rise at the crack of dawn and create a stream of beautifully crafted words. My writer brain rarely kicks in before ten in the morning, thanks to newsroom conditioning. To fire up the artist within, I switch from coffee to peppermint tea and read through what I’ve written during my last writing session – especially necessary when I had to interrupt my writing for work that I am actually being paid for. On a good day I manage 2000 words. On a bad day, a lot less, but I’m pushing myself to hit at least 500 words. Anything that’s written is fixable. Anything that isn’t written is the problem. Recently I’ve started working on two novels at the same time – the third Jack and Frances mystery, and a new contemporary one that hopefully will turn into a series. We’ll see how that goes. (Narrator: Little did Carmen know …)

5 How much time is spent on research?

That depends on the book. Usually a few weeks on the basic research – the time and life in general, specific moments, the location all have their challenges and fun parts. When I’m writing, there will always be gaps in my research I wasn’t aware of before. For Glittering Death, I had hoped to include dynamite, but it was invented five years too late for my timeline. Blast! Instead, I introduced the Henry rifle which also featured in the adventure novels of my childhood. Sometimes writing can bring you full circle.

6 How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?

The first one I wrote, Walking in the Shadow, was only outlined in my head. I had the opening, the important moments, and a tentative ending. The same applied to the next one, The Case of the Missing Bride. Considering Walking in the Shadow was longlisted for the Mslexia competition and The Case of the Missing Bride was a Malice Domestic finalist in a year without a winner and nominated for a CWA historical dagger, I can’t complain. But then both were inspired by true events which gave me a kind of inbuilt structure – in the case of the brides it was their journey, the locations and the fact that they all disappeared. All I had to do was flesh out the characters and save them. Or most of them. For Walking in the Shadow, I only needed to answer the question why a cured leprosy sufferer would return to an isolated camp and give up on his freedom. For the other novels, which are anchored by history but apart from that, complete figments of my imaginations, I worked out roughly what happened before I typed the first word. It’s not a detailed outline, more like one page of then his happens and because of that, that happens, but it’s good enough for me once I know the characters


7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc

Everything! Characters come first (and I consider my settings to be a character in themselves). The characters determine the plot – one more reason the writer really needs to have figured them out. If I have no idea what they want, what they fear, what they hide from the world (even if its only a secret stash of chocolate when they’ve supposedly given it up for Lent), and where they draw their personal lines, how can I know their reactions to anything?

8 What is your latest book about?

The latest one was a Jack and Frances mystery, Murder at the Races, set in 1931. Frances’s brother Rob has taken up a job as racecourse veterinarian, but there’s something wrong on the racecourses. When the man who publicly talked about fraud turns up dead, Rob is the only suspect. Frances, her boyfriend, the charming nightclub owner Jack, and their friends need to infiltrate the nightclub before it’s too late for Rob.

9 What inspired it?

As a child, I used to accompany my dad and my grandfather to the harness races. It was perfect! The smell of the horses, the sound of their hooves thundering over the turf, ice-cream and chocolate for me, and the excitement of placing my own bets with the bookies. I was five or six, and I’d go to the bookies’ desks with my well-studied racing programme. They were so nice, and because I had my dad with me, nobody would bat an eyelid. Because my dad taught me how to look for the horse’s form and how to minimise risks, most days I ended up with enough winnings to buy a new book or two!   In Murder at the Races I wanted to recreate that excitement and the sheer joy of watching beautiful horses compete under a deep blue sky. I’m also a huge fan of classic Hollywood movies, and Jack and Frances were originally inspired by Nick and Nora Charles in their movie version.

10 Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?

I’m not even sure I picked it consciously. As a journalist, I’m drawn to facts, and to history. What I love about cozies is that they’re multi-layered. If you look beneath the small-town charm and quirky characters, you can find all sorts of social issues and hidden nastiness. I like to give readers the choice how deep they want to dive into the stories. If they’re just along for the fun, that’s fine with me. If they want to think about the difference between something that’s legal and something that’s morally right, even better. Lately I’ve been branching out into contemporary novels. They save me the recreating bygone times.

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?

I originally approached agents and then a few publishers. Bloodhound Books signed me for The Case of the Missing Bride a few weeks before I signed with an agent. But as it happens, both relationships dissolved and I’m currently self-publishing.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

I’m working on the third Jack and Frances mystery and a new contemporary mystery. 

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

The ones that I’m aware of are Agatha Christie (naturally), Elizabeth Peters, Rhys Bowen, Alistair MacLean and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Subconsciously, probably hundreds more.

14 What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?

Remember that the first draft is only the beginning. Find like-minded people for feedback and mutual encouragement. Enjoy the ride …

15 What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?

Don’t despair when what sounded so marvellous in your head, falls flat on the page. First get it written, then get it right. Don’t compare yourself to others (and don’t forget, most great writers spent hundreds of hours rewriting, rewriting, rewriting). Don’t give up unless you really want to, and then allow yourself the freedom of knowing you haven’t failed. You’ve only decided on another path.

16 What has been your favourite book so far this year?

Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng (I finally read it!) and Murder Ahoy by Fiona Leitch

17 What is your all-time favourite book and why?

I can’t possibly narrow it down to one. For non-fiction, A Walk in the Woods and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum, Jingo, Feet of Clay and Night Watch. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express … I think I’ll stop now.

18 What genre do you read most often?

Mysteries and historical fiction.

19 What are you currently reading?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Thank you for having me as a guest, Val!

Happy reading, everyone.

The Author

Carmen Radtke is the author of the Alyssa Chalmers mysteries, The Case of the Missing Bride and Glittering Death; the Jack Sullivan short story False Play at the Christmas Party, the Jack and Frances mysteries A Matter of Love and Death and Murder at the Races; and the literary novel Walking in the Shadow. Several short stories have also appeared in anthologies.

Emma by Jane Austen

I had not read Emma by Jane Austen for many years, but some books, albeit only a few, are worth revisiting. Although the novel was first published in 1816 it is still reflective of people, their attitudes and actions.

Emma is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The story takes place in the fictional village of Highbury and the surrounding estates of Hartfield, Randalls, and Donwell Abbey and involves the relationships among individuals in those locations.

Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever and rich.” Addicted to meddling in the lives of her friends, Emma insists on playing matchmaker, even when it causes great harm to those involved. As Emma’s machinations cause greater and greater disturbances in her social circle, she is forced to examine the results of her actions. With help from a dear and honest friend, Emma is able to step back and allow romance to take its own way in the lives of her friends and within her own heart.

The novel was first published in December 1815, with its title page listing a publication date of 1816. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian–Regency England; she also creates a lively comedy of manners among her characters and depicts issues of marriage, gender, age, and social status.

Emma is a truly classic novel and one of my all time favourite books. The way Jane Austen writes and her use of language is beautiful. It would be a perfect book group book. I am enchanted by the relationship between Emma and her beau. This is a sweet story that flows well. Austen is a profound observer of people and I her books provide a fine back drop for those scenes.

The Author

Few English novelists have commanded such popular affection and critical respect as the author of works including Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1816). Austen was a writer of refinement and charm, whose honesty and sense of irony helped shape some of the supreme masterpieces of nineteenth-century fiction. The daughter of a clergyman, she never married, and lived quietly with her family in Hampshire and later Bath. Her six main novels made ordinary domestic life a compelling subject for fiction, drawing on her own observations of genteel social relations, courtship, and the position of women during the Regency. Austen compared her writing to painting literary miniatures on ivory.

Hunter’s Secret reviewed by the Book Reviewing Mum

Good Morning Everyone, it’s the beginning of the week and I’m really excited to bring you an amazing crime novel! If you are a huge fan of LGBTQ books then this is one to add to your TBR especially if you feel passionately about it, understand the struggles this community face and also if you LOVE a crime book! This was something new for me and I really enjoyed it!

So what an amazing book this was! Straight away from reading this one I definitely want to read the others! It was an easy to follow storyline with a brilliant main character!

We start the book off by meeting 2 young brothers on their bikes, when they have an accident and discover a dead body. They go home to tell their parents but when the police arrive to the scene of the accident the dead body is gone!

30 years later 2 detectives discover a dead body while out on a run, but when neither of their phones are available they run to a nearby house and AGAIN when they arrive back at the scene with their colleagues the body has gone! Along with MIT can hunter and his team work out what has happened, are the 2 connected can they find the culprit or culprits?

Now… the main thing I LOVED about this book is how it included the LGBTQ community! I had no idea it was going to include this but I loved how it focused on the abuse, discrimination and so many other horrible things that this community have to face when actually it is so tough on them to make that choice to be themselves and be happy! For me it made this book so current!

It was a winner for me and so original where it wasn’t just your bog standard female killing murderer, there was so much more to this, so much involved, so much hate built up!

Even though this is book number 5 within a series it was perfect as a stand-alone to! I didn’t feel like there were any gaps or things that would be easier to understand if I had read the others first BUT I enjoyed this so much that I definitely think I would enjoy the others! I just found myself so sucked in to the authors writing, it was so interesting and well paced and some amazing characters!

The only thing I found myself a little confused with was just too many characters! Too many detectives and brothers and cousins involved that sometimes I wasn’t quite sure who was who! It took me a little time to work it out!

However for me this is still a fabulous read, one that I read so fast because it was fast paced, easy to read and a clear storyline to follow! I enjoyed the build up and the ending and I really do look forward to the next one in this series! I LOVE Hunter!

For all of those reasons above I’m so happy to give this book 4 ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️! It’s definitely a series where I will look out for future installments to get involved with and one where I’d love to start from number 1!

Thank you Valerie for an amazing crime book I LOVED IT!

The (D)Evolution of us by Morwenna Blackwood

I just finished the new book by Morwenna Blackwood. It is an intriguing title and I was interested to read the novel.

The Blurb

… the water was red and translucent, like when you rinse a paint brush in a jam jar. The deeper into the water, the darker the red got. No, the thicker it got. It wasn’t water, it was human. It was Cath.

Cath is dead, but how and why isn’t clear-cut to her best friend, Kayleigh.

As Kayleigh searches for answers, she is drawn deeper into Cath’s hidden world.

The (D)Evolution of Us questions where a story really begins, and whether the world in our heads is more real than reality.

The Review

The book is published by darkstroke and is very short and is written from three points of view: Catherine (mostly through her unfinished novel), Richard and Kayleigh. Because of this, a great deal of the story is echoed and reprised through the excerpts from Catherine’s unfinished novel.

The different points of view take the story forward gradually until the clever twist at the end reveals all to the reader. This unusual story made for an interesting read.

The Author

When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends. The story was about a frog. It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back.

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries. She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon. She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of. When she is not writing, she works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Val Penny