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Blog Tour – ‘The Dancing Girl and the Turtle’ by Karen Kao

It’s my turn on the blog tour for ‘The Dancing Girl and the Turtle’ (Shanghai Quartet 1) which was published by Linen Press in paperback and as an eBook on the 1st April 2017.  I have a guest post from the author for all of you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

A​ ​rape.​ ​A​ ​war.​ ​A​ ​society​ ​where​ ​women​ ​are​ ​bought​ ​and​ ​sold​ ​but​ ​no​ ​one​ ​can​ ​speak​ ​of shame.​ ​Shanghai​ ​1937.​ ​Violence​ ​throbs​ ​at​ ​the​ ​heart​ ​of​ ​The​ ​Dancing​ ​Girl​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Turtle.

Song​ ​Anyi​ ​is​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road​ ​to​ ​Shanghai​ ​and​ ​freedom​ ​when​ ​she​ ​is​ ​raped​ ​and​ ​left​ ​for​ ​dead. The​ ​silence​ ​and​ ​shame that​ ​mark​ ​her​ ​courageous​ ​survival​ ​drive​ ​her​ ​to​ ​escalating​ ​self-harm​ ​and​ ​prostitution. From​ ​opium​ ​dens​ ​to​ ​high-​ ​class​ ​brothels,​ ​Anyi​ ​dances​ ​on​ ​the​ ​edge​ ​of​ ​destruction​ ​while China​ ​prepares​ ​for​ ​war​ ​with​ ​Japan.​ ​Hers​ ​is​ ​the​ ​voice​ ​of​ ​every​ ​woman​ ​who​ ​fights​ ​for independence​ ​against​ ​overwhelming​ ​odds.

The​ ​Dancing​ ​Girl​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Turtle​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​four​ ​interlocking​ ​novels​ ​set​ ​in​ ​Shanghai​ ​from 1929​ ​to​ ​1954.​ ​Through​ ​the​ ​eyes​ ​of​ ​the​ ​dancer,​ ​Song​ ​Anyi,​ ​and​ ​her​ ​brother​ ​Kang,​ ​the Shanghai​ ​Quartet​ ​spans​ ​a​ ​tumultuous​ ​time​ ​in​ ​Chinese​ ​history:​ ​war​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Japanese, the​ ​influx​ ​of​ ​stateless​ ​Jews​ ​into​ ​Shanghai,​ ​civil​ ​war​ ​and​ ​revolution.​ ​How​ ​does​ ​the​ ​love​ ​of a​ ​sister​ ​destroy​ ​her​ ​brother​ ​and​ ​all​ ​those​ ​around​ ​him?

 

Guest Post

Ghost Month

Ghost Month ended a few days ago. Throughout Asia, this is the moment to commemorate the dead. Today happens to be my birthday. Two good reasons to think about ghosts and why they appear in my novel, The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

ancestor worship

My novel takes place in Shanghai 1937. Think big band and the foxtrot, opium dens and ballroom dancing. All that jazz as China goes to war with Japan. It’s a dark look at Old Shanghai that I call Shanghai Noir.

My father grew up in Old Shanghai. When he was a kid, the family would visit the Old House where his grandparents lived. They would kowtow before the ancestor tablets that stood on a high table in a quiet niche. There were a half dozen of these wooden tablets, each of which displayed a pair of names. The family lit red candles and incense and left them to burn in heavy pewter holders.

On festive days, the rituals became ornate. The family brought food and wine and money to the ancestor niche. The money was burned but since it was fake, no one minded. The food and wine didn’t go to waste either. Apparently, the idea of food was enough for the dead.

grave-sweeping

There’s another holiday in China devoted to the dead. Qingming is the day to sweep family graves and show your filial piety. In China, it’s a three day national holiday and one of the busiest times of the year to travel within China.

My father’s ancestors were once buried in a hillside cemetery overlooking West Lake in Hangzhou. The family hired sedan chairs to bring them to the dozen grave sites scattered about the cemetery. In the 1950s, the Communists had the place bulldozed and made into a public park.

There’s a cemetery in Chongqing reserved exclusively for the veterans of the Cultural Revolution. The locals call the aging custodian “the corpse commander”. He personally lay more than 280 people to rest. The cemetery, normally locked and protected by barbed wire, opens only at Qingming.

hungry ghosts

A corpse left unburied, a grave untended, an ancestor no longer remembered: these are the hungry ghosts of Chinese legend. They roam the earth. They can be dangerous. It’s a matter of self-preservation to go sweep family graves.

But Song Anyi doesn’t believe in that nonsense. She’s not the traditional type. Her ambition is to become a modern girl in the big city. After her parents die, Anyi sets off for Shanghai. But before she can reach her destination, she’s raped by soldiers and left for dead.

Those soldiers come to haunt Anyi. They tell her she’s the one who’s committed a crime.

You deserted the graves of your parents. Who will sweep their headstones now?

parental consent

In 1930s China, a girl would be independent, rebellious even, and still show filial piety. A mother might bind her daughter’s feet to raise the girl’s value on the marriage market. A father might sell his child out of spite or to settle a gambling debt. The daughter shows piety through obedience.

After the rape, Anyi loses none of her ambition. She can still glimpse a bright future for herself. But she’s crushed by guilt and a longing to atone. In her time of need, she turns to the ghosts of her dead parents for guidance and approval. Are their ghosts real? To Anyi, they are.

ghostly visits

Here is a glimpse of Anyi and her ghosts.

Once upon a time, we too had a winter garden. It was my favourite place with its view of the flowers and the orchards beyond. When Mother was still well, we would sit there together to sew and talk. Later, when she grew too ill to leave her bed, I would go there to dance with my reflection in the glass, dreaming of the day when I would follow Kang to Shanghai.

I curtsy to a row of bamboo seedlings. Smile at the sunflower who leans his handsome head down to greet me. I sit at the wrought iron table and eat cakes with Baba and Mama. Their ghosts need no chairs though they do like food. Mama licks her fingers then disappears into the ferns. Baba soon follows.

When Mama died, I locked the door to our winter garden and let everything that was once green die too.

New ghosts crowd into the winter garden. Mama and Baba huddle behind the ferns. They don’t like to watch. The soldiers line up beside the kumquat tree. I get down on the floor, cold and stony, and let them come. It hardly hurts any more.

 

About Karen Kao

Karen Kao is the child of Chinese immigrants who settled in the US in the 1950s. Her debut novel has been praised by critics from London to Hong Kong for its sensitive portrayal of violence against women and the damage silence can do.

 

Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Goodreads | Instagram

 

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Guest Post by Sara Alexi

I would like to introduce you all to Sara Alexi.  Sara has written a very interesting guest post about the inspiration behind her new story.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

 

The Village Idiots

My latest story, a trio of novellas set in Greece, as with all my books, is based on true events.

This one was catalysed by two cousins I know who inherited a yacht when their uncle died. One of the cousins lived in Greece and the other had moved abroad, despairing of the complication of running a business within the Greek system.

A storm came up and the yacht broke free of its moorings, and damaged the boat next door. The cousin who lived in Greece could not move the boat to a safer harbour as probate had not completed and so it was not his yet, but despite this fact the port police insist that he make the situation safe.

In short he could not comply with the law unless he broke the law. Eventually he gained permission to take it out of the water and keep it on the pier for some months. But probate is a process that takes time in any country and after a while the port police started getting impatient.

The probate reached its final stage and the cousin who lived abroad realised that once the boat was in his name he would be obliged to file a tax return in Greece, and he really didn’t want to get into the Greek system again, not for a half share in an old boat!

So he tried to revoke his right to the inheritance, but he had left it too late (there is a four month period in Greece, after which the inheritance passes to the heirs automatically), and so the legal process ground to a halt. The port police demanded that the boat be moved as it had overstayed its welcome, the lawyers refused to do any more until the two cousins found an agreement, and the insurance company refused to cover the vessel because it was not in a location they considered secure.

The cousin in Greece was tearing his hair out, but finally the cousin abroad agreed to let the process complete, on condition that his share would be transferred immediately that probate completed; he wanted nothing to do with the boat and the Greek system.

It worked out well for my friend in Greece, who eventually (more than a year later) inherited the whole boat and sold it for over €30,000, at which the second cousin demanded his half which of course he was no longer entitled to.

I have tried to simplify the tale to make it clearly understandable here. The whole business was a great deal more convoluted in reality. It was easy to see how these two men, both of whom were intelligent, became flummoxed by the Greek system.

I naturally wondered what would have happened if the men were not so smart and that was how the story began to crystallise.

The story, obviously, pivots around a boat but as I am more interested in people I steered the story in many directions to add interest, mostly for myself in the writing, but without losing the theme.

It was great fun to write. The two protagonists forever fall foul of the law and try to find sneaky ways to get around what they should be doing and eventually, and I think inevitably, they fall out with each other.

The book is light hearted but as is the way with the stories I write I do love a good character and I love a character to develop through the novel, so naturally there is a very human side to this tale.

I broke the story into three parts to ensure it remained light but mostly because I have some very dedicated fans who are insatiable readers and this was a way to provide them with a story a month for three months.

 

About Sara Alexi

Sara Alexi is one of the top 150 most successful, self-published authors of all time; a prolific writer, she has written 15 books (and counting) in just four years, with book sales reaching well over half a million copies.

Remarkably, Sara is dyslexic. At school English lessons were a time of confusion, she found that books were indecipherable hieroglyphics and she was unable to enjoy reading and writing; growing up in a time when dyslexia was not well understood and little or no support was available. And so her artistic nature was confined to painting, an art form that she loved and would take her travelling around the world.

Despite her dyslexia Sara qualified as a psychotherapist and ran her own practice in Yorkshire for many years. In a casual conversation with a client, she discovered that Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen were all dyslexic, and Sara’s perspective changed. The world of fiction opened to her with this shift in perception.

Sara now spends much of her time in a tiny rural village in the Peloponnese, in Greece, where she is (very slowly) renovating a ruined stone farmhouse, whilst observing the Greek way of life and absorbing the culture, enriching her vision for both writing and painting.

Sara’s ‘Greek Village Series’ is inspired by the people she has met travelling, her time spent in Greece alongside her career as a psychotherapist; her writing provides a keenly observed, compassionate insight into people, culture, and the human condition, and is set around a charming rural Greek village

Predating the current refugee crisis in Greece by some three years, Sara’s debut novel, The Illegal Gardener, focuses on the immigration problems in Greece, and the clash of cultures that accompanies those seeking a better life in the West.

 

Links

‘The Village Idiots: Part 1 – Inheritance’ is available to buy in paperback or as an eBook from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Village-Idiots-Part1-Inheritance-ebook/dp/B074JG11L3/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503513777&sr=1-3&keywords=sara+alexi

‘The Village Idiots: Part 2 – Fool’s Gold’ is out as an eBoo on the 1st September 2017 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Village-Idiots-Part-Fools-Gold-ebook/dp/B074T2YDKQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503513777&sr=1-1&keywords=sara+alexi

Sara Alexi’s Amazon Page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sara-Alexi/e/B008M6D60K/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1503513777&sr=1-2-ent

Website – http://www.saraalexi.com

Twitter – @SaraAlexi

 

Guest Post by Beverley Harvey

I am delighted to welcome Beverley Harvey to my blog.  Her debut novel, ‘Seeking Eden’ was published last month by Urbane Publications.  Beverley has written a guest post which I hope you all enjoy.

 

Are older women having a moment?

By Beverley Harvey, author of Seeking Eden, Urbane Publications, from July 2017

When I first wrote Seeking Eden in 2015 I contacted a well-known and hard-hitting female editor regarding a critique.  I badly needed a professional and external view as spending the best part of a year making stuff up and creating imaginary friends (otherwise known as creating plots and characters) can be an insular business and over time, one stops seeing the wood for the trees.

It was a sobering experience – and a body blow to my ego. One of the reasons my partial manuscript was deemed unviable was the age group of my main characters; a collection of forty and fifty somethings who converge on the brink of their respective midlife crises, in Home Counties suburbia.

Briefly I considered making my cast younger, but after seeking the opinion of friends and family, the general consensus (especially among my forty and fifty something friends) was that they loved Seeking Eden because of the age group of the characters, not in spite of it.

So I pressed on, looking for a publisher and to my joy found Urbane Publications which specialises in breaking new authors and exploring new genres; its founder had no such reservations and was supportive of the depth and realism of my characters and their plotlines.

And no wonder. According to *ONS figures from 2015, there are around 4.6 million women in the UK, aged between 45 and 55.  That’s a lot of ladies!

Baby boomers and those bubbling just beneath that age group tend to be voracious readers, hailing from a pre-social media era – in short, we like technology but we love books.  So it stands to reason that we want relatable heroes and heroines, doing stuff we do ourselves – which is much the same things as people do in their twenties and thirties; fall in love, fall out of love, have children, make and lose friends, change jobs and so on.  Our hair may turn grey but our lifestyles do not.

For authors, the lives of older people are a rich seam to mine. Seeking Eden tackles a range of dilemmas: whether to have children in middle age, empty nest syndrome, infidelity and materialism.

If we step sideways for a moment into telly land, British networks have already made the leap that older women are hot, hot, hot.  Who can resist Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson in The Fall, Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in the gritty and compelling Happy Valley, or gun-toting beat-pounding duo Scott and Bailey?

My money is on Kay Mellor’s forthcoming TV drama, Girlfriends, becoming the hottest must- see since Broadchurch.  Airing later this year, the series stars Phyllis Logan, Miranda Richardson and Zoe Wanamaker; all women of a certain age and British acting royalty.

More of it I say.  High octane drama, whether in literature or on screen is for everyone – and not just for people under forty.

 

[*Overview of the UK population: March 2017 ]

 

About Beverley Harvey

Beverley Harvey is a former PR professional, and is now a freelance writer and author who lives and works in Kent with her partner Mark and their naughty terrier, Brodie.  More at : www.beverleyharvey.co.uk

 

Links

‘Seeking Eden’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/seeking-eden/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seeking-Eden-Beverley-Harvey/dp/1911331892/

Website – http://www.beverleyharvey.co.uk

Twitter – @BevHarvey_

 

Guest Post by Renita D’Silva

I am delighted to welcome Renita D’Silva to my blog today.  Back in 2014 I reviewed her book, ‘The Stolen Girl’ which you can read here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/the-stolen-girl-by-renita-dsilva/

Renita continues to write amazing novels and her latest book, ‘A Daughter’s Courage’ was recently published as an eBook and in paperback at the end of May by Bookouture.  Renita has written a wonderful guest post for my blog which I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I did.

 

My Writing Journey

I love reading stories, writing stories, listening to stories.

I wrote my first ‘book’, a ten page poem titled ‘Mother’, when I was seven. Then life got in the way, as it does: growing up, work, marriage, children. When my daughter started nursery, and with my son already in school, I was free for a few hours to indulge my dream. I enrolled in an Adult Education Creative Writing Course and started writing stories that I actually shared with other people instead of just inventing them in the privacy of my head. I discovered that my stories were liked, a few of them got published in magazines and anthologies and won competitions and that gave me the encouragement to start writing a novel.

My debut, ‘Monsoon Memories’ is about journeys. The journey to forgiveness and acceptance. The journey of discovery, the unearthing of a secret that has been slumbering for more than a decade.

Monsoon Memories was rejected multiple times for a variety of reasons and sometimes for no discernible reason at all, as none accompanied the rejection letter. After each rejection, I would set the book aside, having decided to forgo writing. But after a few weeks, the urge to try one more time would assert itself and I would dig up my manuscript, work on it and send it off again. This pattern continued until the magical February morning when Bookouture said yes!

Since then I have published six books with Bookouture and I am currently working on my seventh. The stories themselves are made up, a product of my imagination, but the descriptions of places are gleaned from my memories of the village in India where I grew up and its surroundings.

I am riveted by the interactions, feuds, secrets, lies and intense bonds prevalent among families. The complex ties between family members seem rife with hurt, hate, so many seething emotions, so much love and angst and anger and grudges nurtured over the years. This is what I explore in my books.

I think India is such a melting pot of cultures, prejudices and attitudes, a place where narrow mindedness and superstition mingle with generosity and kindness – that you cannot show one side without showing the other. The people are as warm as they are bigoted, as small minded as they are caring. I aim to depict India in all its glory-with all its faults as well as its virtues, but all the same, I try never to forget that my main aim is to tell a story.

I write about Indian women and explore how they face the constrictions of a restrictive culture while at the same time stretching their wings, how they define themselves in a world that tends to impose stifling limitations upon them, how they try and find themselves, constraints notwithstanding.

The complicated dynamics of relationships, whether within families or cultures or religions or states or countries – that is what all the stories I love share in common.

What I love about writing is how a bud of an idea, a spark overheard from somewhere, a snippet of a news item on TV, will take root in my mind and over time germinate and grow into a story that wants to be told.

My stories are all fictitious as are the places I set them in – although the descriptions of these places are drawn from my own memories of India. When reading back what I have written, sometimes I do find an echo of a childhood memory, make the odd connection, but my characters’ stories are distinct from my own.

I love words and the English language. I am constantly amazed by how twenty six letters can combine to produce stark and stunning prose that spellbinds a reader.

I love epistolary novels and each of my books has contained some form of epistolary narrative. I love how a story emerges through letters and how letters allow for the outpouring of feelings that wouldn’t necessarily be spoken out loud.

Modern day life is such that we are continually questing – for the meaning of our existence, for happiness, for material things. We are on a pursuit of peace, on the hunt for spiritual fulfilment. I try to explore that in my stories. Also, as a displaced person myself, having been brought up in India and now living in the UK, in my books, I like to explore the idea of roots, what they mean to individuals and to people as a whole.

In my books, I want there to be an element of mystery but I try not to let it overpower the book, take it over. I want it, not to detract from the story, but to complement it, adding flavour to the book. Like the food that is such an integral part of my books, I try to work them to this recipe: a soupcon of mystery, a dash of action, a touch of adventure, a tablespoon of forgiveness and a teaspoon of racial tension, a pinch of romance and a sprinkling of laughter, seasoned liberally with emotion and a good helping of love.

I think a little bit of every author is in every story he or she tells.

In my books, I explore themes of duty, forgiveness and identity, the conflict between generations, the pressure of a closed society and what ‘going home’ entails – themes that are close to my heart.

 

About Renita D’Silva

Renita D’Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in ‘The View from Here’, ‘Bartleby Snopes’, ‘this zine’, ‘Platinum Page’, ‘Paragraph Planet’ among others and have been nominated for the ‘Pushcart’ prize and the ‘Best of the Net’ anthology. She is the author of ‘Monsoon Memories’,’The Forgotten Daughter’, ‘The Stolen Girl’, ‘A Sister’s Promise’, ‘A Mother’s Secret’ and ‘A Daughter’s Courage’.

 

Links

Sign up to be the first to hear about Renita’s new releases here: http://bit.ly/RdSilvabooks

(Just cut and paste the link into your browser. Renita promises not to share your e-mail and she’ll only contact you when a new book is out!)

‘A Daughter’s Courage’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughters-Courage-utterly-heartbreaking-secrets-ebook/dp/B06XCZ9B4P/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1502045788&sr=1-5

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RenitaDSilvaBooks

Twitter: @RenitaDSilva

Website: http://renitadsilva.com/

Email: Renitadsilvabooks@gmail.com

Guest Post by Imogen Matthews

I have the lovely Imogen Matthews on my blog today with a guest post.  Imogen recently had her novel, ‘The Hidden Village’ published by Amsterdam Publishers.

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I’ve been writing novels and stories for the past 15 years after trying my hand at a couple of creative writing courses. My first course was in memoir writing, because I didn’t believe I had it in me to write fiction. I soon learnt that writing is writing and that even when you put down your own experiences you embellish the facts. It’s not possible to remember events and conversations accurately from years ago. Reimagining brings history alive.

With this realisation, I tentatively moved onto short stories and was soon gripped by characters, plot, story arc etc. There was one particular story I’d written that I began to wonder, “what happens next?” So I continued writing and writing until I had a novel. After lots of edits and critiquing I published Run Away on Amazon. I was an author!

Once again, I was left with the feeling that there was another story to be told, so I wrote the sequel to Run Away, called The Perfume Muse.

However, simmering away in the recesses of my mind was the idea for a new book, one that would be quite different from the romantic fiction I’d published.

It started when I was on holiday with my family in the Veluwe woods in Holland. We were cycling down a favourite route when I noticed a memorial stone I hadn’t seen before. It described how in these very woods at this spot, a village had been built consisting of huts, many underground, to provide shelter for Jews in hiding from the Germans. It had only been possible because of the goodwill of certain individuals living in the local community who oversaw its construction and selflessly provided provisions, medicines etc to the many persecuted living there. Three huts had been reconstructed and were almost invisible to passers-by. They were dark, dank and pokey. I found it almost impossible to imagine how so many had remained undetected for so long -what could the conditions have been like for them living in such gloomy underground dwellings?

I didn’t want to write a history book, but ideas for characters and plotlines began to build in my head. I needed to undertake research to ensure the accuracy of my story, even though it is a work of fiction. I found invaluable material in a book written by a Dutchman, who had been fortunate enough to interview survivors and gather photos and diagrams of the village. Meanwhile, I spent time with my mother, writing down her wartime stories, which provided such rich context.

It took me several years writing and editing my story. I wanted to publish this book under my real name as it’s so personal to me. Finding someone to publish it was the hard part and I experienced the usual rejections from agents and publishers, until I came across a publishing house based in the Netherlands. They immediately “got” my story and were incredibly enthusiastic about representing me because they believed it was a story that very few people would have known about.

The Hidden Village has become so much more than a work of fiction. For me, it’s about bringing alive stories from the past and introducing them to new generations so that they will never be forgotten.

 

About Imogen Matthews

Imogen lives in Oxford and is the author of two romantic fiction novels which she wrote under the pen name of Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is her first historical novel set in WW2 Holland. Imogen’s interest in Holland’s past has come through the vivid stories her Dutch mother used to recount about her experiences in WW2, when her family were reduced to eating tulip bulbs because there was no food left.

Since 1990, Imogen has regularly visited Holland with her family for cycling holidays and it was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village. Together with her mother’s experiences, this was a story Imogen felt compelled to tell.

 

‘The Hidden Village’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Village-Imogen-Matthews-ebook/dp/B071HY4RMC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499793955&sr=1-1&keywords=imogen+matthews

Follow Imogen on Twitter – @ImogenMatthews3

 

Guest Post by Dianne Noble

Dianne Noble’s new book, ‘Oppression’ was published as an eBook on the 14th June 2017 by Tirgearr Publishing.  The lovely Dianne is back on my blog with another wonderful guest post which I hope you all enjoy reading.

 

Oppression

The first time I saw Egypt I was seven years old and sitting on the deck of the troopship Dunera with my head buried in Enid Blyton’s Ring-o-Bells Mystery. I looked up as we docked in Port Said to see the gully gully man coming aboard. He was an Egyptian magician who fascinated everyone, young and old alike, and he accentuated the other world atmosphere of this exotic country. As we sailed down the Suez Canal – much narrower than I expected – Lawrence of Arabia figures seated on camels appeared on the desert banks. I can truly say Egypt was the first place interesting enough to get my head out of a book.

Three years later, in December 1957, the Canal had been closed and we flew back from Singapore in an RAF Hermes plane. The journey took almost three days, stopping in several countries to re-fuel and de-ice the wings. This time there were no hot and vibrant sights and I didn’t see Egypt again until I reached my early forties, when I travelled by train from Cairo to Aswan, glued to the windows as we passed by villages which looked like they’d come straight from the pages of the Bible. The Pyramids fascinated me, the River Nile, the Temple of Karnak at Luxor, the people, everything. My lifelong love affair with Egypt had begun and I’ve been back many times. The last time, I visited the City of the Dead in Cairo, a vast necropolis which features in Oppression and houses many poor people who would otherwise be on the streets.

This novel is the story of Beth who prevents the abduction of a young girl in a North Yorkshire town, but is powerless to stop her subsequent forced marriage. In time to come Beth travels to Egypt to search for the girl, Layla, and finds her living in the City of the Dead. Oppression is the tale of two very different women, both of whom are oppressed in their lives, and how they triumph despite the odds.

 

About Dianne Noble

I was born into a service family and brought up in Singapore in the 1950s, before it gained its independence, then Cyprus when the Turkish Navy sailed to the island for the first time to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots and we had to travel everywhere in a military convoy. I went on to marry a Civil Engineer and moved to the Arabian Gulf in the 1970s at the time of the construction boom. A hedonistic lifestyle with too much alcohol and partying which saw the demise of my, and many others’, marriages.

Since then, with sons grown and flown, I have continued to wander all over the world, keeping extensive journals of my experiences. Fifteen different schools and an employment history which includes The British Embassy Bahrain, radio presenter, café proprietor on Penzance seafront, and a goods picker in an Argos warehouse (complete with steel toe-capped boots) have resulted in rich seams to mine for inspiration.

I’ve always written, from editing the school magazine to short stories and letters to magazines, but it was only on retirement that I had the time for a novel. My writing is atmospheric, steeped in the smells, sights and sounds of exotic locations. I live – when not travelling – in a small, Leicestershire village. My favourite destinations – so far – have been India, Egypt and Russia, with Guatemala a close third.

 

Links

You can purchase ‘Oppression’ from:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071KY8BJ8

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071KY8BJ8

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/721501

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/oppression/id1231926575?mt=1

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/oppression-4

 

Website: www.dianneanoble.com

Twitter: @dianneanoble1

Facebook: facebook.com/dianneanoble

 

Blog Tour – ‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ by Paul Mathews

‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ was published on the 28th June 2017 as an eBook.  I originally took part in the cover reveal post for this book and you can read what it’s all about here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/cover-reveal-we-have-lost-the-coffee-by-paul-mathews/

I am one of a number of bloggers taking part in the blog tour celebrating ‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ and today it’s my turn along with the blogs Jessica’s Reading Room and Books From Dusk Till Dawn.  I have a guest post about publication day which I hope you’ll all enjoy.

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So, your book is being published!

Woo hoo!!

The Day Before

For the first two novels, I secretly published them a day early. Then I purchased and read them, as a final check – so, the day before official publication, I was actually reading the books. On both occasions, I ended up making some last-minute edits, which was all very hectic. But this time round, it will be very different.

Firstly, I’m making We Have Lost the Coffee available for pre-order (at a discount price) and the final version must be uploaded to Amazon at least three days before publication day. That means I can focus on drafting and scheduling social media posts in the days before.

Secondly, due to a quirk of timing, the audiobook for my second novel, We Have Lost the Pelicans, is launching the day before We Have Lost The Coffee goes live. So, I’ll do a bit of publicity for that, as well.

On the Day

On the day itself, there are no balloons, party poppers or champagne corks being popped. It’s less excitement and more trepidation as you finally let go of your baby after months of careful nurturing.

For me, it will be a long day in front of the computer. For example, I’ll check my sales figures for books one and two, as well as my Amazon US ads, like I do every day when I’m at home. Then I’ll launch into Facebook and Twitter posts. My mailing list is only small at the moment, but I’ll alert subscribers.

There are lots of other things to do: updating Twitter and Facebook profiles with details of the new book; tweaking the book’s blurb (an ongoing process in a novel’s first few weeks); refreshing my website; and updating Amazon author profiles (annoyingly, you have to do this separately for each site). I also have a Facebook party lined up in the evening. I’m not entirely sure what that involves, as someone is organising it for me. But hopefully, it won’t just be me and my Mum …!

My wife will be at work during the day but I’ll have my trusty, four-legged feline assistant Lulu with me – she’ll doze off on the sofa while I’m doing all the hard work. I’ll probably have a drink in the evening, or go for a meal, or just crash out on the sofa in front of the TV. Probably the latter!

 

About Paul Mathews

Paul Mathews is a 40-something British guy who’s given up his 9-to-5 job in London to become a full-time comedy novelist. Why did he make this bold step? Well, he’d had enough of crazy managers and uncooperative printers. So one afternoon, after nearly 20 years working at the heart of the British Government, he shut down his computer, deleted all his emails and escaped the office – never to return. (Okay, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but he is a fiction writer, so please cut him a little slack.)

His two decades working as a Government press officer gave him an invaluable insight into all the key elements of modern government: bureaucracy, bungling, buffoonery, buck-passing and other things that don’t begin with the letter ‘b’ – such as politicians with huge egos and very little talent. He’s now putting that knowledge to use by writing about a British Government of the future – where, believe it or not, the politicians are even bigger idiots than the current lot.

Before becoming a PR guy, he was an accountant. But he doesn’t like to talk about that. And going back further, he went to Cambridge University and studied philosophy. Despite thousands of hours of thoughtful contemplation, he still hasn’t worked out how that happened. The highlight of his university years was receiving a £300 travel grant to visit Prague and ‘study philosophy’. It was a trip which ignited his love of Eastern Europe where he spends a lot of time writing and drinking black beer.

Other interests include wearing sunglasses and having his photograph taken. Visit his website for more info on this (allegedly) humorous man: http://www.iamthe.website

 

‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072MJXKNL/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496861102&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=we+have+lost+the+coffee+by+paul+matthews

 

Guest Post by Glenn McGoldrick

Gleen McGoldrick is a writer of short stories.  Today Glenn is on my blog with his very own story which I hope you enjoy reading.

 

My Story

Where to start? I liked writing as a kid. Yep. My stories at primary school. Tiger Man was one of them. I wrote and wrote, page after page. Can’t remember any of the story at all. I was probably around 7 years old. I just had the main character, Tiger Man. Total crap.

I won some kind of prize for it. Notepad? Jelly babies? Gold star? Something.

At secondary school I was The Man in English class; won the yearly prize plenty of times. I could spell. I was Mr Coleman’s favourite, when I wasn’t being a little bastard in class.

And I was a reader too. Oh, yes. I liked reading so much that I stole a nice collection from Mr Coleman’s shelves. All the classics, in really attractive covers. There were about ten copies of each book, so he didn’t really notice me skimming a book every couple of days.

And I was a reader. What did I read? Stephen King. Yeah, horror mostly; during my teens, I loved it. Westerns, too.

I kept a diary for a few years too. Found it helpful to write stuff down. But I stopped, in my early 20s. With my mother helping me, I tore up all my diaries, chucked them in the bin. Why? It felt like I was letting go. Of what? Moving on? From what? It felt therapeutic.

Now I have my writing ‘sessions’. Something bothers me, then I write about it, pages, free flow, let it rip. It’s personal, a conversation with me – that’s what I tell myself.

It’s a confessional, a chance to just get it all out, no editor, no censor, just throw it onto the page. Sometimes I’m scared of where it takes me.

Sometimes it takes me to dark places, upsetting places. Painful. Yeah. Sometimes. But I usually feel better afterwards. Lighter. Clearer of mind.

When did I start writing fiction? I had the idea in 2012. Read a ‘How To’ book and thought, this is something I can do.

I enrolled on a course: Creative Writing Flying Start. Different assignments and exercises. The last assignment was to write a story. So I wrote my first story. It was OK, good marks.

I moved to Argentina. I wrote some stories, but didn’t get much done, as my head was coming apart. Thousands of miles from home, and I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t really want to be with the woman I was with, but I struggled to just say it.

I just kept it to myself, growing more miserable each day, drinking more. I’d sit in the garden until long after midnight, drinking, thinking about my family back home, staring at the tall trees in a neighbour’s garden. I looked into the dark tree tops silhouetted by moonlight, seeing strange shapes, big cats, snipers taking aim at me; I was just hoping to see the faces of friends.

Eventually it all went to hell, and I came home broken and confused. I didn’t know if I’d see her again, how big I’d screwed up, or what was coming next. A week later my mother died.

So, as well as seeing a therapist for depression, I started another writing course with Writer’s College. Somehow I got plenty of work done. How did I focus? Jesus. I don’t know.

But I got work done, happy to have something to throw myself into, and my marks were good. Eventually I started dating again, and felt a lot better about things.

Why writing? Short stories for now. It’s hard at times. Need discipline. Just sit down and write. Never mind the laundry, or making a curry, or going for a bike ride – sit your ass down and write. There’ll always be other stuff to do, so get to it after you write.

And criticism? Yeah, it sucks. I paid for critiques from a professional. Some of them got to me. Not his fault; it just hurt.

You’ve been working on something for a week or two, develop it, get it down, finish it off, sit back and think about how good it is. Then a stranger shows you all the holes in it and you think, Bloody hell! He’s right. It’s not so great.

So, initially it was rough, facing criticism of a story that I’d put a lot of work into. But I toughened up.

I can’t expect every story to be a success, every story to sell. If it does well, then great; if it doesn’t, then too bad. I just get the hell on with the next one.

I pay attention to all the critiques I receive, and try to take all the criticism constructively. If I don’t get too ruffled by some negative remarks, then I see it as a chance to improve, hopefully getting a little better with each story.

And when a story is accepted, it’s great. Relief. Joy. Satisfaction. Validation. I can do this. Show me the money.

So I’ve had some successes, sold some stories, won a competition or two. I’ve had plenty of rejections and disappointments too. So what. It’s all part of the game.

I published a collection of some of my stories on Amazon Kindle. Researched for a couple of months, did all the work, even the cover photo. I wanted to be able to say that I’d done absolutely every part of the process myself. It turned out quite well, I think; it was stressful at times, but very rewarding, and it’s great to see my book on Amazon.

I promote the book on social media, and I’m trying to spread the word, get reviews, all that jazz. I’ve sold some books already, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

But, to me, there’s no hurry. The sales will pick up, I think, as I learn how to better promote my work, and until then, well – I’ll just get the hell on with the next story.

 

About Glenn McGoldrick

I worked in land-based casinos for five years, living and working in such diverse places as Luton, Israel, Greece and Middlesbrough!

In 1996 I started to work on cruise ships, then travelled the world for the next 15 years. I saw many wonderful places, had some great times and met some real characters.

I finished working on cruise ships in 2011, and since then I’ve settled in England, making my home in the North East. Life is good, but I still miss a little bit of scuba diving…

 

Links

Website:       http://www.glennmcgoldrick.com/

Kindle:         http://amzn.to/2p1vU0k

Paperback:    http://amzn.to/2pddBFA

Twitter:         @G_T_McGoldrick

Facebook:      Glenn McGoldrick

Goodreads:    http://bit.ly/2pLDbES

 

Guest Post by Carole McEntee-Taylor

I would like to introduce you all to the lovely Carole McEntee-Taylor.  Her latest book, ‘Obsession: The Deepening’, the third in a series of five, was published as an eBook on the 6th June 2017 by GWL Publishing.  Carole has written a really interesting guest post for my blog.  If like me you love historical fiction or like reading about military history then you must check her books out.

~~~~~

My parents both loved books, my father read detective, adventure and espionage stories while my mother read historical fiction and romance so I grew up with a passion for reading most genres and this is reflected in my novels which although set in the 20th Century are a mixture of all these. I write both military history and historical fiction and the inspiration behind my writing was my father in law, Ted Taylor.

Ted was conscripted into the Rifle Brigade in September 1939 and fought in the Defence of Calais in May 1940 after which he spent five years as a POW. Although he’d never spoken about it we finally managed to persuade him to talk on tape and received a very sanitised version of the fighting and his subsequent years in a POW camp. In 2008 Ted suffered a crippling stroke and ended up in a nursing home. To cheer him up I suggested writing up his war experiences as a book.

This was quite daunting as I had no background in military history. So I began the long process of reading everything I could about the Defence of Calais, which wasn’t much. The battle was totally eclipsed by the evacuation from Dunkirk and was rarely mentioned, even on the most recent documentaries. I knew even less about the treatment of the ordinary POW at the hands of their captors or their lives, having grown up on a diet of sanitised POW camp films and even one comedy set in a Stalag, none of which bore any reality to the truth. Like most authors I struggled to find a publisher but eventually, Ted’s story, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, was published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd.

I was now hooked on writing military history and have written several other books, but I also wanted to write fiction because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. I have always been a voracious reader. I’d save up my pocket money as a child, progressing from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie amongst others, disappear up into my bedroom and not come down again until they were finished. My Dad always used to say they were a waste of money because I could get through two or three books in a weekend but they weren’t. They were my escape from reality and the more I read the more it fuelled my imagination. As I grew older I read anything I could get my hands on, crime, thrillers, historical fiction, occasionally romance and science fiction and of course chic lit! I liked big books I could lose myself in, probably to escape my disastrous relationships. Having finally extradited myself from the last one two years later I met David. I no longer needed to escape my reality so I stopped reading. I found books by authors I’d always loved no longer held my attention so I decided to write something I wanted to read and I had the perfect idea.

Whist writing Ted’s story I learnt that Brenda, my mother in law, had been a nurse throughout the London Blitz, and she and Ted were engaged when he went to war. Five long years later he came home and they were married. Their story fascinated me. They did not have the benefit of hindsight. Brenda waited even though she had no idea how long it would be or even if Ted would ever come home. Ted had somehow held onto the belief that he would come home even though he had no idea how long that might be. I decided to write up Ted and Brenda’s story including an element of fiction to cover something Ted did in France.

I soon realised it was impossible to fictionalise my in laws because they were real people. I couldn’t have them doing things that weren’t in character nor did I want to alienate the family and have my husband not talking to me because I had made his mum do something she wouldn’t have! So I changed their names and although the story is inspired by them and based on something that did happen, all the characters are now 100% fiction. Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle is in 5 books and is available on kindle (5 books for under £5) or in paperback.

 

About Carol McEntee-Taylor

Carole McEntee-Taylor is the author of several military history books published by Pen and Sword, including Herbert Columbine VC, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, A Battle Too Far and The Battle of Bellewaarde 1915 with royalties donated to military charities. She also writes historical fiction, including the best-selling Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle and recently released Betrayed, published by GWL Publishing. Carole worked for several years in the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester culminating in a history of the establishment written in the words of those who were there. Specialising in military biographies and village and town heritage books, Carole is now a full time author and partner in Military Lives www.militarylives.co.uk

 

Links

Carole McEntee-Taylor’s books are all available to buy on Amazon UK.  Click on the links below:-

‘Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Separation-World-War-Chronicle-Book-ebook/dp/B00WXL7IHC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1493814166&sr=8-4&keywords=carole+mcentee-taylor

‘Betrayed’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Betrayed-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B01F7WBQY4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

‘Obsession: The Awakening’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsession-Awakening-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B01MYY0T21/ref=pd_sim_351_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=KEKRXNH84ESFF6K5PPQJ

‘Obsession: The Quickening’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsession-Quickening-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B06XGWFPBT/ref=la_B0034ND9TE_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497972901&sr=1-2

‘Obsession: The Deepening’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsession-Deepening-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B071JRT57Z/ref=la_B0034ND9TE_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497972901&sr=1-1

 

Website – www.carolemctbooks.info

Facebook – www.facebook.com/carolemctbooks.info

Twitter – @CaroleMcT

 

Blog Tour – ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by Lainy Malkani

‘Sugar, Sugar’ was published in paperback on the 25th May 2017 by HopeRoad Publishing, an independent publisher whose aim it is to support neglected voices by focusing on writings and writers from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  I was delighted when HopeRoad contacted me via my blog asking if I was interested in taking part in this blog tour.

Lainy Malkani has written a guest post for my blog about books that inspired ‘Sugar, Sugar’.  First though, here’s what Lainy’s book is all about.

 

Book Blurb

A fascinating web of honey-coloured threads linking Indian migrant workers, who first left the SubContinent more than a hundred and fifty years ago, and their descendants now living in contemporary Britain

Sugar, Sugar is a contemporary collection of short stories which reveals a rich and culturally diverse history behind India’s migrant workers and one of the most abundant and controversial commodities in the world.

Inspired by historical documents between 1838 and 1917, and the living memories of the descendants of indentured workers, Sugar, Sugar, spans five continents, travelling through time uncovering inspiring tales of courage and resilience.

With sugar at its heart, this collection unveils lives rarely exposed in modern British literature and adds a new dimension to the history of sugar, post emancipation, whilst sharing a previously untold strand in the story of the making of contemporary Britain.

 

Guest Post

Books that inspired this book 

When I decided to write Sugar, Sugar I submerged myself in the short story genre trying to find my voice as a writer. I particularly enjoyed and felt connected to the stories in ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her stories are steeped in African culture and also contain universal themes which make them accessible to all readers.  I read, ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez so many times I have lost count and the same goes for Satyajit Ray’s ‘Twenty Stories’, which I love for its haunting atmosphere. Clare Wigfall’s ‘Night after Night’ found in her debut collection of stories, ‘The Loudest Sound and Nothing’ was a master class in getting to the heart of a story in the first line and I read Anton Chekhov’s Selected Stories every night before I went to bed, just so I could wake up feeling inspired.

 

About Lainy Malkani

Lainy Malkani is a London born writer, broadcast journalist and presenter with Indo-Caribbean roots. In 2013 she set up the Social History Hub to bring the stories of ‘unsung heroes’ in society to life. Her critically acclaimed two-part radio documentary for BBC Radio 4, ‘Sugar, Saris and Green Bananas’, inspired her to create this collection of short stories. She has written for the British Library, the Commonwealth and the BBC. She is married with two children and lives in North West London. Her cross-cultural roots; from Britain, India and Guyana, in the Caribbean, has been a great source of her work, both as a writer and journalist.

 

Links

‘Sugar, Sugar’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sugar-Bitter-Indian-Migrant-Workers/dp/1908446609/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496069257&sr=1-1&keywords=sugar+sugar

HopeRoad Publishing – http://www.hoperoadpublishing.com/

 

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