A Secure Heart by Charity Parkerson is a clever and entertaining series of four interwoven romantic stories. Not only does the Smith Security Services team of Shannon Smith, and twins Bob and Weave Sparks feature in each of the four vignettes, but the other characters that appear are connected in various ways. Gracie and Jacob are brother and sister, but they bump into Flower and Genie and Kera along the way. You look into different people’s lives on the way and see how they interconnect and influence each other. Each story is original, touching, funny, sexy and absorbing. You might think you can predict where it’s headed, but there’s always another twist waiting around the corner. The characters are complex and strong, yet also comfortingly flawed and human.

Flowers, Chocolate, Wishes and Sparks, the four stories in this book, might appear a little glib from their titles at first glance but touch very deep emotions and issues – Can you ditch a facade you’ve worn for years? What happens when two close friends and colleagues love the same woman? Can a relationship survive when a job separates you for long periods? Each one works brilliantly well and there is no drop in quality in the writing. Parkerson creates all her characters with equal care and affection and there is clearly no end to her imagination in the settings and situations they find themselves in. Sparks fly and wishes are fulfilled in this book which is like a bouquet of flowers with a few thorns included,  or a box of sweet and sour chocolates!

I’m always reviewing and promoting other people’s books. I decided it was time to promote my own! Heads Above Water is the account of our first couple of years living the expat life in France with a family, no income and an awful lot of work to do …

Here’s a review of the book from the wonderful Steve Bichard:

“This is a real life story warts and all, about a family moving to France from Ireland. If you really want to know how hard that it can be surviving the freezing cold winters without decent heating, having to deal with never ending paperwork, settling your kids into a whole new school environment and so much more, then ‘Heads Above Water’ is just the book for you. Full of first hand advice and many of the idiosyncrasies of French life explained, Stephanie has created the perfect novel for anyone thinking of moving to France.
To take on a dilapidated farm with 3 lakes and acres and acres of land, then turn it into a successful business with a gite, llama farm and wonderful fishing lakes was certainly some undertaking. But the Dagg’s did it with sheer hard work and a great deal of persistence. Luckily they managed to keep their sense of humour which comes across so well in the book and as I have said, one not to be missed by any budding or resident ex-pats.”
Thanks, Steve. So please, do grab yourselves a copy of Heads Above Water from the Kindle Store of your local Amazon and read about our adventures for yourself. And let me know what you think about it too.

This book is set in politically and socially turbulent 1960s America where women and ethnic minorities were beginning to emerge from under the oppressive discrimination they’d suffered until then. But the prejudices are still simmering. There are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. The after effects of both the Second World War and the Vietnam War are continuing to be felt too. The scene of the book’s action is Wicomico Corners in Maryland, a relatively stable and peaceful community, with few extremists. However, a handicapped white boy is beaten up by a gang of black youths, one of whom is later killed. The trial of a white man by a white jury soon has protests starting and tension mounts. Haddie is involved and shows great courage.

I had high expectations of this book and I wasn’t disappointed. Kathleen Russell is a versatile and talented author who always weaves a complex and fascinating tale with apparently diverse subplots that gradually intertwine. Alongside the strains on the life of the community, family life is also severely stressed and tested. My only slight criticism of Deed So is that the role of narrator occasionally means that Haddie has to be old beyond her years. She goes from talking about girly things, like a new outfit, to sketching out major social and political event, even if she doesn’t quite understand them. There are inevitable slight hints of To Kill a Mocking Bird, given the trial at the centre, but generally this is an original, ambitious and impressive novel .

David S Grant is the author of ten books, including Corporate Porn, Bleach|Blackout, Hollywood Ending, and Rock Stars. He also writes weekly rock, travel, and NBA columns from New York City.

Blood: The New Red really started with Corporate Porn since that featured a model, named Mickey, who worked in the adult movie industry. Now he gets to be the lead, the anti-hero.

Blood: The New Red is a quirky, almost surreal novel. It explores what might appear to be the glittering side of life in New York City but which actually turns out to be dark and almost dystopian. It’s set in a world of models and fashion designers where frightening amounts of alcohol and drugs are consumed at every party. Mickey spends a lot of his time either passing out or recovering from the night before. You have to wonder how he keeps his looks. His associates – you can’t really call them friends, even Juanita his girlfriend – all seem as self-obsessed as Mickey. This is a world where there is little loyalty or trustworthiness. There isn’t any real emotion since these characters are incapable of it. There’s sex but not love. There’s hate but it’s only surface deep although destructively violent none the less. No one really knows anyone else.

And just who exactly is ‘the manager’?

Blood: The New Red makes for an interesting read. It’s by no means a straightforward book and it’s definitely not predictable. There are moments of farcical comedy but it’s not a laugh out loud book. It’s too on the edge for that.

David is currently working on a novel titled The Devil Wears Black Leather as well as non-fiction works centered on rock bands.

David has a website at http://www.davidsgrant.com/

You can follow him on Twitter @david_s_grant.


There are two approaches to writing. One is to write for the sake of writing – to let free those ideas and stories that are whirling around in your head. The other is more pragmatic – write to sell and make money. That might seem an unidealistic and mercenary way to go about writing, but there’s a limit to art for art’s sake. A little – or, if you’re lucky, a lot – of extra income is always welcome.

Let’s stay with this second approach. Write to sell. You need to know what’s hot, what’s topping the sales charts. Here are the current most downloaded books on Smashwords.

1. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide

2. Short Erotic Tales by Carl East

3. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, Mark Coker again

4. 101 Degrees Fahrenheit by Eva Gale (erotica)

5. Zombie Nights by Tom Licttenburg  (sci-fi with a touch of paranormal)

6. Fryupdale by Mark Staniforth, fiction short story anthology

7. The Seduction of Gabriel Stewart by Eva Gale (erotica)

8. We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore by M David Blake (sci-fi)

9. A Letter to Justin Beiber’s Hair by German Alcala (poetry)

10. The Mating by Nicky Charles (adult rated paranormal)

We can ignore the two Mark Coker books since they’re what every Smashwords author has to have. So let’s another two to the list. We now have.

11. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson (historical romance)

12. A Bride for Tom by Ruth Ann Nordin (romance)

So what do we have? 3 erotica, 2 sci-fi, 1 paranormal, 1 general fiction, 2 romances, 1 poetry. Note: These books are all free apart from Justin Beiber’s Hair which is a relatively pricey $6.99 so that has done extremely well. Being free can skew results a little.



I guess we’d better start with erotica then. This isn’t for everyone. It might be you don’t approve of it or it may be that it just gives you the giggles. Possibly you’d love to write it but are embarrassed about your children finding out! Anyway, readers love it. Readers love sex so if you want readers, well, it’s something to think about. Here are a couple of good places to start: http://writing.helium.com/how-to/14484-how-to-write-an-erotic-romance and http://www.writesex.net/


Science Fiction

Alternate realities, the ultimate in escapism, always make for popular reading. Personally I feel you have to be quite methodical and analytical to write sci-fi. You need to have your new universe all mapped out – its inhabitants, politics, morals and so forth. So this is quite a challenge to write but, if you’re successful, there will always be demand for your writing. My own favourite science-fiction writer is self-published R Peter Ubtrent with his amazing Dark Pilgrim series. Read some of these to get a feel for this genre at its best.




I was frankly surprised that there weren’t more of this type of book in the top ten. This genre is so hot at the moment, in particular paranormal romance. The romance element frequently veers towards the erotic. It looks like we’re all interested in going to bed with vampires or other demons! Vampires are the most popular supernatural characters you’ll come across, but shapeshifters, werewolves and ghosts aren’t far behind. These books generally feature a very strong heroine and have a happy-for-now, if not a happy-ever-after, ending.

Here is a brilliant article about writing paranormal romance.



These books will ever go out of fashion. Everyone loves reading a heartwarming tale of the girl and guy, who usually hate each other at first sight, finally getting together, after overcoming various huge obstacles along the way. The romance can be set in any time period and feature straight or gay love, and, since paranormal is a subgenre of it, we’re not limited to just writing about humans either. A growing trend is for what I call homme-rom – romance from the man’s point of view. (I’m based in France which explains the ‘homme’ element – it’s French for man.) Mainstream publishers tended to fight shy of this but now that we have indie authors self-publishing, there are more and more examples of this subgenre around. It’s as enjoyable for women to read as men. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the excellent Song in the Wrong Key by Simon Lipson or The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Ericsson.

So a few handy tips for what to write if you’re wanting to sell well.

Welcome to Books Are Cool, the book related sister site to Blog in France. So yes, I’m taking part twice in my own blog hop! It wasn’t intentional. I needed to try out the linky tool when I was setting the blog hop up, since it’s my first go at organising one. So I signed this site up for it, intending to delete it later. Which I forgot to do!

Anyway, here is a list of non-fiction books about expat life which I have really enjoyed reading, and which I’m sure you will too.

1. A Summer in Gascony by Martin Calder

2. Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott Bodrun

3. French Fried by Chris Dolley

4. One Year in Wonderland by Christopher Combe

5. Big Backpack, Little World by Donna Morang

6. C’est La Folie by Michael Wright

7. Expat Women: Confessions by Andrea Martins

8. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

9. Two Lipsticks and a Lover by Helen Frith Powell

10. A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence and Encore Provence by Peter Mayle

11. Older Man, Younger Man by Joseph Dispenza (taking part in this blog hop – see the table below). Not explicitly an expat life book, but it’s the moving personal account by an expat of a certain difficult period in his life.

11. Coming very soon to Kindle – Heads Above Water by me – Stephanie Dagg!

And a couple of very enjoyable fictional expat stories.

1. Vantastic France by Steve Bichard (taking part in this blog hop – see the list below)

2. Sunshine Soup by Jo Parfitt


And the expat blog hop freebie? A copy of my children’s ebook Oh Grandad! from Smashwords. Comment below and I’ll send you the code to obtain a copy for free in your preferred format. (There are lots of free books for grabs too on my Smashwords page here.)

Please visit the other blogs in the blog hop, not forgetting Blog in France. More freebies up for grabs!

It’s not easy being an indie author. The writing part is fun, but the rest – the platform-building, promoting, marketing and especially the selling – is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible and it’s easy to get discouraged. But we soldier on because we love writing. Indie authors don’t do impossible.

So to celebrate that, I’m organising a blog hop on St Rita’s day, 22nd May. Why then? Well, St Rita is the patron saint of the impossible. She did things that her contemporaries thought were impossible. And so do we, right?

Here’s the graphic to with it. Since St Rita was associated with roses and figs, I went with figs for the background.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil


Here’s the deal:
The blog hop takes place on 22nd May 2012. Please offer something free that day with your post which ideally should be about your experiences as an indie author and/or a sample of one your creations. You can either offer something to everyone who visits your blog – a list of writing tips, a free ebook, a bookmark etc – or a bigger prize to just one visitor whose name you’ll pick at random. This freebie/prize must be sent out to the claimants/winner by 29th May. Lay out what your rules are in your post so that readers know what’s going on. Put up the full list of participants on your site so that visitors can hop off to those blogs too. I’ll send the list out on the 21st May.

And here’s the linky:


Please join in and spread the word. Blog hops are fun and bring lots of new readers to your blog.

Disclaimer: Each author/blogger is responsible for his/her own contest. I am not and will not be responsible if freebies/prizes are not distributed to the claimants/winner in a timely manner.

Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement

by Peter Taylor and Jeremy Szteiter

Just another academic book on research and writing? Absolutely not. There is much this is innovative in this book. It’s also very well constructed, with an outline of the authors’ ten phases of research in the first part; a description of the various tools that will assist with the research in Part 2, and Part 3 presents practical illustrations of their use in a project involving theatre arts undertaken one of the authors. It’s about confidently finding your own voice, fully developing your own ideas and achieving your aspirations in the research that you formulate and write about. Other people’s ideas aren’t necessarily better than your own. They can provide a supporting framework for your own important thinking and investigation.

Another distinguishing feature is the ‘cycles and epicycles’ framework for research. This sounds a little daunting to non-academics like myself, but it really boils down to reflecting and rethinking the ideas you have. Give yourself time to visit and revisit your thoughts. You don’t have to put your head down and charge along. Reflect and develop.

The importance of dialogue is emphasised strongly. You must talk your ideas through and bounce them off other people. It’s also about understanding each other’s points of view. The wider you think around your idea, the more likely you are to identify and develop it clearly. Relationships with peers and instructors and their reactions to what you are doing are all-important too. You have to learn about learn, and think about thinking in order to successfully concentrate on the here and now of your research.

You need to develop creative habits so that you can find your voice and meet the challenge of carrying out and then writing up your research effectively.

It’s a book that you can both work methodically through and dip into and out of afterwards when looking for specific tools to help in your current work.

The authors are Peter Taylor, Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he directs the Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking and the undergraduate Program on Science, Technology and Values, and Jeremy Szteiter is a 2009 graduate of the Critical and Creative Thinking program and now serves as the Program’s Assistant Coordinator.




Published by The Pumping Station



Where to buy the book:

http://thepumpingstation.org/books or regular online retailers

It takes an excellent author to maintain a series successfully over four books but this is what R Peter Ubtrent does in this next novel in the absorbing and complex Dark Pilgrim series. And if anything, the quality goes up. The excitement continues with the Restoration now thrown into the broiling mix, working to bring down the Church of the Blessed Prophets which it sees as an “infection”. Lord Comte Mishi continues his rebellion against the tatters of the Imperium. The virus is still having a fiercely negative impact on humanity, as are the Drek and the Ynos. And Ailanthus is still fighting his fate, with an ever dwindling band of loyal supporters. He feels wholly inadequate for the responsibilities he will face as Emperor. All of the main characters reflect on what their status will be within the new order, if and when it finally comes.

This intricately constructed book has at its heart pain and relationships, and often the pain of relationships. There’s torture, both physical and emotional on a shocking scale. Trust too is an issue. It’s described as being nothing but exploitation at one point and this seems true. Alliances are brittle and self-interest is served. The galaxy seems to be wading forward into darker times. The truth concerning the history of the Dark Ages of Human Bondage emerges but as Ailanthus declares sarcastically, “Now that we’ve been enlightened, we all know better.” There seems to be no end to the darkness in sight. There is still a lot more to come in this astounding series.

Visit Peter’s website at ubtrentbooks.com.

Buy the book from Lulu.com here.

This is a fabulous book. It’s fun and a delight to read, yet packed full with sound, healthy advice and some delicious recipes. You couldn’t get a more qualified author. Beth Aldrich is a Certified Health Counsellor, Healthy Lifestyle and Nutrition Expert. She delivers health, nutrition and balanced living fundamentals through keynote addresses, presentations, lectures and as a media spokesperson – and now this wonderful book. She shares her wisdom, experience and knowledge about health and nutrition topics in an entertaining and engaging way. From food coaching, and living a balanced life to, the energetics of food and finding your passion, Beth delivers her message with charm and inspiration. She talks directly to her readers calling us ‘ladies’, ‘girls’, and ‘girlfriends’. It’s like having a conversation with a best friend who also has a wicked sense of humour.

The book offers a systematic and appealing approach to improving your diet. Beth suggests 5 steps to take each week towards improving your diet, and explains why they’re important. There are ten weeks’ worth of such tips and advice. For example, week three is all about cutting down on salt, fat and sugar. Beth does this, not by banning these products completely, which would be an unrealistic and totally impractical demand, but by suggesting healthier types of salt to use and alternative sweeteners. And you’re even encouraged to eat chocolate – a square of dark chocolate a day is positively good for you. Thank heavens for that!

Subsections within the book on food nostalgia, food the author is loving right now and interesting facts crop up about food items. There’s always a conversational tone and we can feel ourselves being gently won over by all this common sense persuasion. Once the advice is all given, we move on to putting the plan into practice.

Occasionally there are a few non-attainable ideals. For example, the author says how she may be tempted to eat a bagel for a quick energy boost, but knows that a plateful of quinoa and vegetables will set her up much better. That isn’t always something that’s feasible, or even desirable. The book is aimed at the American market and there are mentions of ingredients and snacks that Europeans haven’t heard of (granola, Raisinets) and also equipment. I’m still not entirely sure what a Vitamix is other than that it’s a robust bit of machinery!

There are lots of tempting recipes throughout the book but the majority are in the last section. There are still quick explanations, asides such as advice on sitting straight, so it never becomes a dusty recipe collection. There are day plans listing the meals for the day so you don’t even have to think. Personally I find this just a little too much, although in a very nice way, but such meal plans would be ideal for many people and you know you’re getting 24 hours of the best nutrition possible.

By the end of this book you have all the knowledge you need to create the diet that you love and which your body will thank you for. You will certainly be drinking more water, starting the day with a smoothie (I mean, how can resist the thought of a peanut butter chocolate green smoothie for breakfsast!) and avoiding the foods that don’t suit you.

And of course, you don’t have to be a mother to benefit from this book. Beth has target moms since they are the ones most likely to neglect their own diet and health when they are so busy looking after everyone else in the family, and generally have the most work on their plate. That doesn’t always leave space for healthy food there too.