This is a very lively memoir of the author’s younger years growing up with his three older brothers, his one older sister and his dad during the 1970s. Money is tight and times are hard but Paul not only survives but thrives, thanks to his eternal optimism and his ability to make the best of every situation. No new toys? Make up a game with smelly socks. Having to do the food shopping with his sister? Play bowling with tins of beans down the store’s aisles.
He inherits from his father a strong sense of right and wrong. It may not always tally exactly with everyone else’s but young Paul has strong principles and sticks to them. Whilst he does try to play by the rules, he decides that only God has the right to pass judgement. He therefore regularly wheels and deals with his Maker over “minor transgressions such as scrumping, thumping and the occasional fib” and firmly believes in a banana-filled heaven. This is just one example of how the irrepressible youngster navigates his way through his noisy, boisterous, deprived childhood.
Paul doesn’t dwell on the hardships in his life. They’re simply there and he has to carry on regardless. For example, when he and his brothers and sister suddenly find themselves in a children’s home, when their father temporarily can’t cope, there’s no upset, merely a quick adaptation to this new life. And when the children are returned home, then they all just pick up from where they left off with no questioning. It’s this pervasive inspiring, non-resentful attitude that makes this book such a gem.
Nostalgia publishing is currently hugely popular. (For example, there are lots of biographies of erstwhile stars about to hit the bookshops for this Christmas, and Ladybird books and Enid Blyton have been revamped for a new audience.) Books like Playing Out show why this is the case. When done well, as here, this genre evokes a past era that those who’ve lived through can recognise and enjoy reliving, and those who haven’t can get a real sense of what it was like to be there. It would do the Millennials and later generations good to read this book and see that you really can be happy with no phone, hardly any telly and a handful of simple toys and some oranges and chocolate biscuits in your Christmas stocking!
This is a truly enjoyable book written with a sharp eye for detail, lots of humour and an infectious happy-go-lucky zest for life. An absolute must-read.
The Sepherene Chronicles show a very different side to this talented indie author. Daniel Beazley’s previous books have been comical fantasy – Goblins Know Best and The Rotten Roots, both of which you really should read – and whilst we’re still in the reamlm of the paranormal with his new series, there is a serious, spiritual theme to these books. We’re in metaphysical and visionary territory.
Lucius is possessed by an angel, Sepherene, who is on a mission to find and destroy her fallen brethren. She is convinced she is on a righteous quest, but things are not always what they appear. She has chosen a somewhat flawed human to inhabit: Lucius has a very troubled past. They have a rather difficult and slightly dubious task ahead.
This book is one of contrasts and seeming contradictions. It unites sci-fi with Christian ideals, gives us a vengeful angel, an anti-hero, a future world that surely should have striven to be better but seems to have become more corrupt and divided than before. And yet somehow right and wrong, good and bad, become blurred.
Daniel Beazley is sharply observant and gives us plenty to think about in this novella, the first in a very promising series.
One of my resolutions this year is to get to grips properly with social media. I’m pretty good with Twitter and I’m a regular on FB now, but other platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest, had me scratching my head. I vaguely know what they’re about. I know they can be fun to use as well as good publiciity, but I wasn’t sure how to use them to my advantage.
So, I was very happy to stumble across Insta-Advantage. This is an extremely useful book, specifically written for the entrepreneur. I now understand Instagram and realise just how valuable a promotional tool it can be. I now know that 60 million photos are shared every day on Instagram, and that it has 200 million active users. That’s pretty impressive.
The author has a very clear, methodical approach, describing how it can be used and why we should be using it in these ways. Oblak gives six succinct steps to follow with all the details you need. As well as how to download and use the app, there’s info on hashtags, understanding your audience, what major companies are doing with Instagram, how comments and likes can help your promotion, and more.
It is an excellent, comprehensive guide that’s easy to understand and follow. It’s available at all Amazon stores.
A backlist title for you today – The Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders. This book was published in 2006 and is still going strong. I read it most years in the run-up to Christmas. It’s that sort of rereadable, totally enjoyable book.
Beth, our heroine, starts to plan Christmas in September. She’s agreed to organise the annual village Christmas Eve bash, which her husband’s former wife used to do. And always magnificently. Beth is also getting ready to welcome her difficult step-daughter over Christmas too.
Carol is a magazine editor but her publication’s sales are flagging. She’s a single mum and perpetually guilty about that so wants to organise the perfect Christmas in a country hideaway for her son.
But despite the fact both these women make careful, elaborate plans things don’t go quite how they should. However, help is at hand from unexpected sources and both our heroines get as close to their goal as it’s possible to get in this imperfect world of ours.
There is so much that’s very clever and imaginative in the book. A touch I love is that all the main characters have a Christmassy/biblical name – Holly, Joseph, Carol, Jacob, Elizabeth, Noel, Nicholas. The Xmas Factor combines festive fun and witty humour with a very sensitive and realistic look at the ups and downs of family life at Christmas. There are stresses, conflicts, guilt and optimism as the various characters trying to create a perfect yuletide. As one reviewer has said, “There are the ghosts of Christmas past,the pressures of Christmas Present and a promise of happy Christmasses yet to be.”
Annie Sanders is in fact Annie Ashworth and Meg Sanders, who have written eight novels and eight non-fiction books between them now. Here’s their website.
The book’s available as a paperback, Kindle version, audio book in all the usual places.
This book qualifies as a Christmas book since it would be a perfect Christmas present. There’s still time to buy it and get it delivered in time for the big day. I’ve just ordered my copy.
Imran Siddiq is a young adult fiction author that I’ve been lucky enough to work with in the past. He always struck me as a very organised writer and person, and my hunch has proved correct. He’s come up with this very useful-looking weekly organiser. This is how Imran describes it:
Whether you’re a student, a writer, a creative genius, an employee in a business, or a manager – it’s easy to overlook important tasks or struggle to manage your workload. Use the ‘My Plan’ Weekly Organiser to jot down your key tasks, and then organise them for each day of the week. ‘My Plan’ provides an initial section to store notes and telephone numbers. Use the ‘To Do’ section to list items for the week that require your attention. Use the ‘Appointments’ section to keep track of your meetings/occasions. Use the ‘Brainstorm’ section to let rip with scribbles, notes, and anything else that comes to mind. The perfect place to brings visual stimulus to your ideas. The ‘Week’ page allows you to jot down tasks per day, and gives space to plan your day from 8am to 8pm. Also on that page is a project planning section for the week; list key tasks and which days of the week you’ll be planning them. Be in control of your tasks. Be in control of your day. Be in control. This is your plan.
I’ve been looking for an organiser like this for a long time and I know it will come in very, very useful in 2015 which is going to see me busier than ever, what with launching my The Book Farmer and Markey-My-Book! sites and services to go with my current editing and proofreading. Being an author himself, I’m sure Imran has designed something that will be a very helpful tool for all writers.
Yes, I know it’s my book, but I think it deserves its place in my Advent Calendar of Christmas books. It’s fun, festive fiction for youngsters, but adults will enjoy it too.
Santa’s assistant, Teddy Bear Jake, is worried that Santa is overweight and unhealthy and needs to look after himself. It shouldn’t take him a whole year to get over each Christmas outing after all. So he puts Santa on his famous alphabet diet. Each week Santa can only eat three things beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. Healthy things, mind, so the C week doesn’t mean cupcakes with icing and chocolate and cookies but cabbage and carrots and cauliflower. And as for the X week? Santa will have to go hungry.
Reluctantly Santa starts to slim down. He starts an exercise regime too and it isn’t long before he’s sleek and slimline and full of energy. He’s a total convert to the healthy way. So when he starts getting requests from children for unhealthy gifts like candy floss makers or motorised microscooters, he ignores them and intends to dole out skipping ropes and vegetable steamers instead.
His helpers are in despair and Teddy Bear Jake realises he should have left Santa the way he was. Is it too late to save Christmas? Will it become as joyless as the North Pole now has? And what are those four snowmen doing at Santa’s door?
Have a chuckle as you get ready for Christmas with my book. Only 99p at all the various Amazons and 99 cents for any format on Smashwords here.
Here’s a review of it to tempt you further:
Oh, Santa! By Stephanie Dagg Illustrated by Kim Shaw Mentor Books. €5.00 Ages 5 to 8 Stephanie Dagg’s book Oh, Santa! is that very rare thing for younger readers, a very funny story tied to a very relevant issue. The funny story has to do with the fact that Santa has become obese from too much junk food. The solution, provided by Teddy Bear Jake, is a sturdy regime of correct diet and exercise. As often happens in such cases, Santa Claus becomes a slave to getting fit and healthy until he is no longer recognisable or, indeed , acceptable to all who know and love him. What’s to be? The solution might raise one or two adult eyebrows but the kids will stand up and cheer. After all who wants to have a slim-line Santa?
This book originally came out in paperback, published by Mentor Press and illustrated by the wonderful Kim Shaw, but after the rights reverted back to me I republished it as an ebook. Since I didn’t own the illustrations, and I never heard back from Mentor when I contacted them to ask if I could use the pictures they commissioned, I got a new cover drawn by the equally wonderful Roger Fereday. I have some print copies if you want one of those, at €2 plus p&p, so give me a shout.
Oh dear, my Advent Calendar of Christmas books is proving to be somewhat sporadic. I’m in the middle of moving house, so bear with me.
Today’s Christmassy book is A Very Coco Christmas by Robert Bryndza. It’s a prequella (i.e. a prequel novella) to Robert’s wonderful Coco Pinchard series. If you haven’ts discovered Coco yet, then you’re missing out. She’s brilliant! (Follow her adventures in The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard, Coco Pinchard’s Big Fat Tipsy Wedding and Coco Pinchard, the Consequences of Love and Sex – all feel-good rom-coms but meat to their bones).
In A Very Coco Christmas, we meet the young Coco (Karen) Pinchard in the early days of her relationship with musician Danny. She has to part with him to head home for a family Christmas – and what a family, and what a Christmas! Those of you who have come across Coco will know that she has the most challenging of mother-in-laws in Ethel, but we discover in this novel that she had some good training for dealing with her through having to cope with her own rather awful mother.
Anything that can go wrong pretty much does, but it’s not over-the-top, just a typical less-than-perfect Christmas with the people you’re un/fortunate enough to be related to, perhaps a tad more action-packed than normal.
The story is set in 1985 and it’s like stepping back in time for any of us who were there during what has to be one of the most lively, quirky and happening decades. There’s clouds of hairspray and cigarette smoke, punks, shoulder pads, Laura Ashley fabrics and wallpaper, Joan Collins… it’s fabulous. As ever, the author’s powers of observation and attention to detail are razor-sharp and he takes us through the full gamut of our emotions.
This is Christmas book that is hilarious, touching, riveting and totally absorbing.
Rob together with Jan Bryndza has also written Lost in Crazytown, which is a humorous yet edgy novel set in Hollywood and has a wonderful, rounded, empathetic hero, Filip, whom I’d love to see in more novels. Hint!
You’ll find Rob’s books at all Amazon stores. Go on – treat yourself!
A little bit late (I’ve been moving office), I’m starting my Advent Calendar of Christmas books.
Today’s festive book is a paranormal adult romance, I’ll Be Undead for Christmas by Fawn Atondo.
Nikki, a reporter, witnesses something she shouldn’t have, and as a result the sexy vampire Sebastian has to turn her. She’ll be a vampire by Christmas. To complicate things further, for the third year running the so-called Silent Night Killer is claiming his twelve annual victims. Nikki is reporting on the murders, and who should she come across doing this work but… Sebastian, who’s… well, I won’t tell you more because this is a very clever little story with an unexpected twist.
Well written, imaginative and sexy, you’ll love this!
It’s available in Kindle format and as a paperback. Here’s the link to Amazon.com and you’ll find it at all the other Amazon stores.
And check out Fawn’s other books too. She’s a very creative, lively writer. Here’s her website.
Today I’m taking part in the virtual book tour organised by France Book Tours for The Shiro Project by David Khara. This is the second book in the Consortium Thriller series.
This book follows on from The Bleiberg Project, but works well as a standalone thriller. The plot is excellent. The historical background comes from Shiro Ishii, the Japanese General who was in charge of the notorious Unit 731. Named Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department, also the Special Research Unit, the unit was given the job of developing chemical and biological weapons for the Imperial Japanese Army. After the war the US Government gave Ishii amnesty in return for the unit’s secrets and never brought him to trial for his horrific crimes.
Our hero, Eytan is a very engaging character. In this venture he collaborates with Elena, another product of the Bleiberg Project, and there is a lot of tension between the two. They travel from Prague to Tokyo looking for any connection between Unit 731 and a new group that is committing chemical attacks. There seems to be a link with the Shinje Company so it seems likely the terrorist acts are in revenge for the destruction that Japan suffered at the end of the war. The novel’s ending is certainly unexpected.
The author has an easy-to-read and clear style. This means that although the plot is quite complex, we don’t lose track. The action is fast-paced and there’s never a dull moment. However, that doesn’t meant that character development suffers. We get inside our protagonist and understand what drives all the people we meet. An original, eye-opening and entertaining read.
Here’s an excerpt:
The woman gave herself a few seconds to re?ect, adjusting the bun at the nape of her neck. She reinserted two pins in her blond hair and then spoke solemnly.
“We’re studying the reactions of test subjects injected with agents and creating the proper countermeasures. I don’t see how access to storage units with viral strains concerns us.”
“The company line, as usual. I’m convinced there’s a hidden agenda.”
“Then go complain to the authorities. I’m not stopping you. While you’re concocting your dark theories, I’ll be in the lab,” she said as she glanced at the clock on the wall. “Time for the daily log. The of?ce is all yours.”
“Say hi to the guinea pigs for me.”
Jane left the room and headed toward the elevators. She waved to the two military police of?cers patrolling the hallway. They always looked so creepy, more the punch-in-your-face sort than the type inclined to give a respectful salute. The elevator doors slid open, and she scurried inside. Neville’s skeptical nature was borderline eccentric. But he was right about life being too short. And working at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases had been weighing on her since her son Sean’s birth. Her husband supported her career and did his part at home. She felt privileged. Most other women were stuck being housewives, not because they had chosen the life, but because it was expected, and there were few alternatives. Jane hoped that she could serve as a role model for other women who yearned for more independence and opportunity. But she missed her son, and she could not wait for the workweek to end so that she could go home and enjoy those three days with her boy and her man.
About the author:
French author David Khara, a former reporter, top-level sportsman, and entrepreneur, has always been a writer.
After studying law, he stepped into journalism working for Agence France Press,
and then became creative director for several advertising companies.
He loves new technologies and started his own company at the age of twenty-four,
becoming an online business pioneer for French industries.
He then focused his life on writing fiction.
In 2010, he published The Blieberg Project, which became an immediate success in France.
David Khara is also an accomplished athlete in fencing and rubgy, and he even played football as a linebacker.
He acknowledges that his culture is a much American as it is French, since he spent a lot of time in West Virginia and Manhattan,
and is an avid fan of writers such as Dennis Lehane.
Buy the book
The book is available as an ebook from all the Amazon stores, and as a paperback, again from Amazon and other online bookstores, but from bookshops too.
Today I’m delighted to be taking part in Charles Gibson’s virtual book tour for his fabulous work of historical fiction, Taking the Cross. The Medieval period is sometimes the poor relation when it comes to literature and too many people dismiss it, thinking it was a time of general misery, intolerance and endless conflict. To an extent they’re right, but it’s easy to forget that behind all those actions that seem pointless and misguided to us today lay real conviction. And real people. What I especially liked about Charles Gibson’s novel was that we got into the skins of the characters and, even if we might not share their beliefs, we could see why they believed them.
We have two main characters to absorb us in Taking the Cross – Eva, a young woman in a religious order, and Andreas. a knight. They are both embroiled in the battles against non-adherents to Catholic orthodoxy, but also internal struggles as they strive to do what they believe is right.
I have a fascinating guest post from the author for you here which will you give you a real insight into the period and place in which this book is set. It gives you an excellent taste of both Charles Gibson’s passion for this period, and his clear, engaging style of writing which you will find in his novel.
When most Americans think of places in France, they of think Paris, Normandy, Provence. Few seem to know of the Languedoc. Yet, if they have journeyed there, it is a place not easily forgotten. It not only has the largest intact Medieval walled city in Europe, but is the realm of the troubadours, of courtship and romance, and of the first crusade that was targeted against lands in Europe. Taking the Cross is set in the Languedoc and Provence during the first summer of this Crusade, which came to be known as the Albigensian Crusade against heresy.
The Languedoc is named for the language which used to be predominantly spoken there, a tongue called Occitan. It was the language of the troubadours and of those who lived in Southern France and Northern Spain during most of the Middle Ages. Occitan as a language is much closer to Spanish than to French. Before the Albigensian Crusade, the nobles of the Languedoc aligned themselves with King Pedro of Aragon, whose throne was in Barcelona. The name Languedoc comes from Langue d’oc, or the “language of yes”.
In the early thirteenth century, at a time when so much of Europe was issuing an emphatic “no”, the Languedoc said “yes”. Yes to greater freedom of religion, yes to increased economic freedom, yes to more freedom for Jews and not persecution. In June, 1209, the Languedoc was likely the most free and the most wealthy realm in Europe. The size of its great cities such as Beziers, Carcassonne, and Toulouse, rivaled or surpassed London, Paris, and Rome itself. Albigensians and Waldensians, groups that thrived in the Languedoc under protection, groups that either did not believe or did not practice their faith in the way of the Catholic Church, were deemed to be heretics.
Pope Innocent III declared heretics to be more evil than Saracens and launched the Albigensian Crusade. It ravaged a free and prosperous land. It led to the oppression and brutality of the Inquisition. C.S. Lewis declared that if not for the Albigensian Crusade, the Renaissance would have begun in the Languedoc in the thirteenth century two-hundred years before it began in Italy.
The largest intact Medieval walled city in Europe is Carcassonne. It is the Chateau Comtal, the castle of the city of Carcassonne, that is pictured on the cover of Taking the Cross. When I traveled to the Languedoc, I was able to go inside the Chateau Comtal, the castle of Viscount Raimon Roger Trencavel I, who is a main character in Taking the Cross. From the Chateau Comtal, I went to the nearby Tower of Heretics. It is so named because heretics were hanged there after the Albigensian Crusade from the crossbeams of the roof of the tower.
It was in the Tower of the Heretics that the history of the Languedoc came alive for me. As I stared up at the broad crossbeams, it was as if I could hear the screams and feel the suffering of those who were hanged, feel the heat and smell the smoke from those burnt at the stake. Even though it took me many years to figure it out, it was then I knew I had a story to tell.
The first instalment of that story is Taking the Cross.
Taking the Cross is a historical novel by Charles Gibson about the little-known crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church against fellow Christians in France, a time of great religious turmoil and conflict.
In the Middle Ages not all crusades were fought in the Holy Land. A two-pronged threat to the Catholic Church was growing within Christendom itself and Pope Innocent III called for the crusade against heresy to eliminate both the Albigenses and Valdenses, two movements that did not adhere to Church orthodoxy.
Andreas, a knight who longs to go on crusade to the Holy Land, finds himself fighting against one in his French homeland. While Andreas wages war for the lives and religious freedom of his people, a battle rages within his soul.
Eva, a young woman of a new religious order, the Beguines, discovers a secret message within a letter about the death of her father in the Holy Land. As she learns more of her father, she is forced to confront the profound and perilous spiritual inheritance he has bequeathed to her. A legacy for which she must fight.
Hearing of the feats of Andreas, Eva senses her inheritance may lead her to him.
Filled with battles of the flesh and the spirit, Taking the Cross reveals a passionate aspect of Medieval times where some fought ardently for the freedom of others. [provided by the author]
About the author
Charles Gibson first started reading about history and geography when he was seven. He wrote his first short story at the age of nine. He continues to read and write whenever he can.
Charles has spent many years researching the Middle Ages and the Crusades, and has traveled to the Languedoc region in France. He has combined the passions of history and geography and prose to finish his first novel, Taking the Cross.
It takes place during the summer of 1209 in France.
Charles Gibson has previously written for the inspirational book series God Allows U-Turns as well as for a Minnesota newspaper.
He also works as a project manager for a medical device company. He also loves travel writing, and would like to start his own magazine some day about travel as a journey through life. The dominant theme of his writing is freedom. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
He lives in Minnesota with his lovely wife and energetic sons. He can be reached at [email protected]