I’m making room in my new office to create a video studio (well, at least a humble camera / tripod etc.) So, why I am telling you this? I need some space so I’ll be sending these amazing books to my lucky subscribers!


You can win a fantastic fiction book by my friends Joynell Schultz or L M Valiram.


Continue reading “QUICK ‘END OF YEAR’ BOOK GIVEAWAY!!”

My Favourite Five Fiction Books to Take Travelling

…whilst pushing your travel boundaries, push your literary ones too!

If you’ve ever been travelling you probably know that one way to survive long flights, bus trips or delays is to carry a good book.

These are just a few of my favourites, after all I love books and often read one a day if I’m on a beach day!

1. The Motorcycle Diaries – Che Guevara

One of my favourite books, short, easy to read and essential reading before any trip to South America or Cuba.

My Goodreads review

2. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury


This will make you question how you judge a people and a place, so whilst pushing your travel boundaries, push your literary ones too.

My Goodreads review
Continue reading “My Favourite Five Fiction Books to Take Travelling”

The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel

Fiction writers, especially new ones, sometimes fight the idea of conforming to a genre or sticking with a formula. They think it may suppress their creativity, but this isn’t the case.

The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel

You will be familiar with The Hero’s Journey, even if you haven’t heard of it by name.

Star Wars, Matrix and Jane Eyre are just a few of the classic stories that follow The Hero’s Journey formula.

One vital component of the correctly applied formula is that at the beginning of the story, the protagonist can not possibly imagine how much their life is to change. They’ll go on a journey, their ‘character arc.’ As the plot moves along, so does their transformation.

In Star Wars Luke Skywalker has his dreams but in the wildest of those dreams he couldn’t contemplate his vital role in the fight against Darth Vader (No spoilers here just in case you happen to be the one person on the planet who isn’t aware of the storyline.)

Jane Eyre travels through her life and against all odds survives and ends up in a life she too couldn’t possibly have dreamt of. (Again, I won’t spoil your enjoyment of my favourite book, please read it, it’s beautiful.)

Fiction writers, especially new ones, sometimes fight the idea of conforming to a genre or sticking with a formula. They think it may suppress their creativity, but this isn’t the case.

If I use this formula won’t my story be predictable?

By being formulaic it doesn’t mean it will be boring or predictable. It will however be written in a way that your fans know what to expect. Fiction book readers like a story they can expect to a certain extent. This is why publishers usually give you clues. In the blurb or reviews on a book cover it will often say things like ‘If you like Harry Potter…’ or ‘This writer is the new Baldacci…’ these pointers help your fans find your book in the mass market that is the modern day bookshelf, whether that be in a physical book store or a digital one.

Continue reading “The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel”

Joynell Schultz – FREE FICTION BOOK GIVEAWAY – Win two awesome paperback books!

WIN TWO PAPERBACK BOOKS – Add to your book collection with two books by the wonderful Joynell Schultz

WINNERS NOTIFIED! Not a winner? It’s a great book anyway – follow the links to buy it for the beach now!

Add to your book collection with two books by the wonderful Joynell Schultz

Yes, you can win two fantastic fiction books by my friend Joynell Schultz. Joynell shares my love of travel and of course writing and is working hard to build her growing portfolio.

I’m thrilled to support her in my own small way by offering not one but two of her paperback books in my FREE draw.

Continue reading “Joynell Schultz – FREE FICTION BOOK GIVEAWAY – Win two awesome paperback books!”

No Spoiler Book Review – where my heart used to beat, Sebastian Faulks

I imagined him in a slightly mucky rain coat, hair a bit unbrushed, a bit of dandruff on his collar. In his youth, an army uniform well pressed but also well worn.

No Spoiler Book Review – where my heart used to beat, Sebastian Faulks

Title: where my heart used to beat

Author: Sebastian Faulks

Copyright: Sebastian Faulks 2015


Audio Book


On a small island off the south coast of France, Robert Hendricks – an English doctor who has seen the best and the worst the twentieth century had to offer – is forced to confront the events that made up his life. His host is Alexander Pereira, a man who seems to know more about his guest than Hendricks himself does.

The search for the past takes us through the war in Italy in 1944, a passionate love that seems to hold out hope, the great days of idealistic work in the 1960s and finally – unforgettably – back into the trenches of the Western Front.

This moving novel casts a long, baleful light over the century we have left behind but may never fully understand. Daring, ambitious and in the end profoundly moving, this is Faulks’s most remarkable book yet.


This story follows the life, as told by the main character to another, so very much from his view point.

Continue reading “No Spoiler Book Review – where my heart used to beat, Sebastian Faulks”

Book Review – The Missing, C L Taylor

I’ve always thought it is horrific when a child goes missing, never to be seen. No funeral, no mourning, no moving on.

The Missing C L TaylorBook Review – The Missing, C L Taylor

Book Review

Title: The Missing

Author: C L Taylor

Copyright: C L Taylor 2016


Blurb: When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinsons are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it?

Continue reading “Book Review – The Missing, C L Taylor”

Book Review – The Girl In The Spider’s Web, David Lagercrantz

Lisbeth has quite a few really good reasons to hate men and I believe Mr Larsson’s writing shows he was a true feminist

The Girl In The Spider's Web

Book Review – The Girl In The Spider’s Web, David Lagercrantz

Title: The Girl In The Spider’s Web

Author: David Lagercrantz

Translation: George Goulding

Copyright: 2015 – Multiple – please see your own language print publication


Blurb:  The girl with the dragon tattoo is back. Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have not been in touch for some time.

Then Blomkvist is contacted by renowned Swedish scientist Professor Balder. Warned that his life is in danger, but more concerned for his son’s well-being, Balder wants Millennium to publish his story – and it is a terrifying one.

More interesting to Blomkvist than Balder’s world-leading advances in Artificial Intelligence, is his connection with a certain female superhacker.

It seems that Salander, like Balder, is a target of ruthless cyber gangsters – and a violent criminal conspiracy that will very soon bring terror to the snowbound streets of Stockholm, to the Millennium team, and to Blomkvist and Salander themselves.

Plot: I bought it, read it and am now sharing my thoughts. I don’t write spoilers so if you want a detailed breakdown you’ll need to look elsewhere.

The main witness to a crime is a small boy with communication issues, a clever way to highlight Lisbeth’s own personality and to add suspense. Lisbeth does show her soft side in this book, with a cleverly written relationship with the child. A meeting of minds, maybe a bit predictable but a nice development.

You can expect violence, suspense, numerous plot twists and turns, computer hackery (if that isn’t a word yet it should be) and the more than slightly damaged Lisbeth being frustratingly but understandably independent.

Lisbeth as ever is quirky, self reliant, violent, misunderstood and under threat. She must have more scars than, well, than most people! I just hope her dragon remains forever intact.

Characters: This book won’t really make much sense to you, or you won’t get much out of it, if you haven’t already got to know the characters.

The usual suspects are all mentioned in one way or another. You even get a handy list reminder at the start telling you who everyone is. I’m not sure if that’s in the hope that you’ll read it as a stand alone, I found it a handy reminder since it’s been some time since I read the first three books.

The highly dysfunctional Salander family is given more depth, with Lisbeth’s sister making an appearance.

I never liked the philandering Blomkvist and his actions in this book doesn’t change my opinion. The sexual tension between the two leads bugs me, I’ve just never thought it’s needed. Maybe he’s a father figure, I’ve not really decided.

In years to come Lisbeth and Blomkvist could settle down with baby girls running round chasing wasps but I don’t think he’s her Mr Right, she deserves someone stronger on her side, and most probably a woman.

Conclusion: If you are, like me, a Lisbeth Salander fan you won’t be able to resist this book. It was commissioned, not sure who by, as the author of the original three books, the Millenium series, died before he made his fortune from his excellent writing.

Cue a massive dispute over the fiction rights and subsequent fortune.

Anyway, back to the book. I had to buy it, I felt obliged to support the cause, which is ridiculous as the dead author, Mr Stieg Larsson, is not around to appreciate my loyalty and it’s not even his work.

I did enjoy reading it but didn’t devour it like the first two, or finish the trek as enthusiastically as I had with the third slighty less easy to read book in the trilogy.

Recommended: Yes, just to keep up with Lisbeth. If you haven’t read the first three please do, they are truly modern classics. They also spawned a whole new genre.

The Swedish title for the original novel was Men Who Hate Women. I read (can’t recall where) that originally the author wanted the book called The Woman Who Hates Men. This meant he apparently couldn’t get published. If that’s true it’s a shame because Lisbeth has quite a few really good reasons to hate men and I believe Mr Larsson’s writing shows he was a true feminist. Either way, they switched to the tattoo theme for the English market and that seems to have done just fine.

I won’t give this fourth tale a massive hype as I found it less compulsive than the originals. I’m not sure why, maybe the voice wasn’t strong enough. The dark deeds not quite dark enough. The characters a little off kilter. It just generally felt lacking, maybe it would be best to let Lisbeth walk away into the sunset. I’ve no doubt Mr Lagercrantz is an excellent author and I can only imagine how daunting it was to take on this classic sequel, but in some ways I wish it had been left alone.

Let me know what you think, should true classics have sequels or prequels by different authors?

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Book Review – Midnight Sun, Jo Nesbo / Translation, Neil Smith


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5 Creative Writing Prompts To Help You Banish The Blank Page – People Related

Speak to other writers, ask friends, watch people. Please always be professional, don’t stereotype, do your research

5 Creative Writing Prompts To Help You Banish The Blank Page- People Related

I really hope these creative writing prompts will help you get some words onto that huge white space, once you start the words will flow, I promise.

Change the sex of character

What! I can’t do that, my character is fundamental to the plot. I love them as they are! If so, great, go with it. However if for some reason your character is not sounding honest, if they don’t quite fit in as well as you’d hoped, try switching their sex. If this is your main character it could involve some serious editing, but you are reading this because you are stuck aren’t you? It’s worth a try then. If you can’t face killing your darling [William Faulkner] or at least tweaking them a bit, then try with another minor character who isn’t so dear to you. How about the murder victim, the street urchin, even the narrator. A male friend has recently written as a female narrator, the change in perspective this gave him was inspiring.

Add 20 years onto the character’s age

The memories and history of the character will be opened up by the alteration. If you find ageing your character doesn’t work for you, then try deducting years. A lack of life experience or naivety may be just what you need to explain why the character was so easily drawn into a particular action. I have a calendar spreadsheet, I add in to it key events e.g. Vietnam war, death of dictators, major political or sporting events. I then use this as a resource when building the back story for my characters.

Include an illicit relationship, it doesn’t have to be sexual

The ‘other woman’ has been so many times it’s difficult to get a new angle on it. An illicit connection can be much less obvious, the hints at the unseen connections are often the fun part for a writer. Barriers exist everywhere, between gangs, cultures and religions, old family grudges, the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ or even different planets so investigate some options. Think of someone you know, slightly, the barista, the bank teller, the nurse at the ER who treated your injury, a distant family in-law. Then imagine that you knew them already but from another place or time, you receive a text from them, why? If you enjoy people watching, I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t, imagine the people in the queue at the coffee shop know each other, they meet in the rest room, why? Be imaginative, outrageously so if you like, have fun, then build your ideas into your story.

Your characters have a fight

Fist fight or verbal sparring, a good argument shakes things up. Fights hurt, noses get broken, they get bloody. They hurt emotionally. Watch people out in shopping malls, arguments are often quiet, spoken in hushed tones, watch the body language. Be honest about how you deal with aggression, do you diffuse it or rise to it? Do you easily make up again or bear a lifelong grudge? What would your character do, and why?

Think about a fight you had, with your partner, family, friend or colleague, dig deep and recall your feelings. Those feelings can be raw, personal, it can be difficult to write down but that is exactly why you should record them honestly. By using real memories it will enable your reader’s to empathise, to feel your character’s pain, it will draw them in. It can be what gives your story depth.

Give your character a ‘barrier’ to overcome

This ‘barrier’ technique is often used in drama at the end of any chase scene, a high wire fence to stop a keen detective or a set of roadworks or large truck to thwart a car chase. You can be more subtle, it doesn’t need to be a major plot line, just a way of adding another dimension if you like, a deeper characterisation. There could be a woman needs to get into a ‘men only’ private club. I recently visited a church in Greece where only women can enter which made a refreshing change from the norm. How about Ironside, a TV detective who used a wheelchair? Language is a common barrier, it can cause misunderstanding with humourous or tragic consequences. I always laugh at the bar scene in Star Wars with aliens of all descriptions shouting at each other. Phobias are another good way of introducing a barrier, it also adds a weakness to a strong character, another dimension, allows the reader to empathise with them, remember Mr T and his fear of flying?

Read books in your genre to see if they use any of these ideas to enhance their work. Watch films or TV, if they use one of these ideas did it work or was it too predictable or cliche?

Speak to other writers, ask friends, watch people. Please always be professional, don’t stereotype, do your research. I look forward to reading your work…

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Book review – A Boy of Good Breeding – Miriam Toews

Well, the blurb just about covers it, it’s a quirky tale of small town life with all its glorious triviality and complication.

Book Review

Title: A Boy of Good Breeding

Author: Miriam Toews

Copyright: Miriam Toews (apologies, unsure of the year)


Blurb: Life in Winnipeg hasn’t worked out so well for Knute and her daughter…Knute finds herself mixed up in Hosea’s attempts to achieve his dream of meeting the Prime Minister – even though that means keeping the town’s population at an even 1500. It’s not an easy task…

Plot: Well, the blurb just about covers it, it’s a quirky tale of small town life with all its glorious triviality and complication.

Characters: Miriam finds a tone that suits the small town characters, she draws them sympathetically and joyfully, each with their quirks and flaws but mainly good at heart.

She defies rules we writers are given about setting out conversations in a new line etc, and ignores numerous grammar rules that usually drive me to distraction, however it all added to the quirkiness and humour of the book.

If it hasn’t been made into a film yet, I’m sure it will be. Innocent and joyous!

Conclusion:  This was one of those books I’d probably not pick up in a bookstore, although I may give it a second glance as the cover gives social proofing by stating “A novel by the Governor General’s Award-winning author of A Complicated Kindness”

Now I admit I haven’t read that either, but somehow I am so shallow as to be swayed by this reassurance. That wasn’t the reason I picked it up, it was the only book written in English on the shelf at the hotel I was staying at when I finished my last read

Do I regret the decision to invest some serious beach time in such a book, hell no. It’s brilliant. I will be so bold as to say it’s one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. I must just give you one direct quote as I think it’s the best paragraph, and it made me smile at her skill and my good fortune at finding this little treasure.

“…Hosea peered around the countryside. Dirt everywhere and grey snow, dog sh*t, ugly cows, puffs of steam coming out of their snouts and their rear ends, the smell of wet hay, and the sky that brilliant blue of toilet bowl cleanser. Hosea heard a screen, a voice. “Hosea, stop, stop!” Mrs Cherniski the cafe owner was running down her long driveway wearing what looked like Shaquille O’Neal’s basketball shoes and waving a rake around her head. “Get him, Hosea, get that motherf*cking dog away from my Pat, Goldman it if he…that’s it, he’s mounting her, Hosea, get him, get him…”

Recommended: I will certainly be picking up her other work now, thanks Miriam, VERY HIGH UP, almost top of my current list of book recommendations.

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Goodreads – Miriam Toews

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Book Review -Time and Time again by Ben Elton

I had not read one of Ben Elton’s books, any regulars to my blog will now start to grasp a theme with my reading this year, I am trying new things, pushing boundaries ever so slightly. This book came highly recommended, so I dug in.

IMG_1831Book Review -Time and Time again by Ben Elton

c. Ben Elton 2014

For those unfamiliar with the author he was maybe more well known, in the UK at least, for his brilliant ‘Young Ones’ TV show and recently writing for the musical ‘We Will Rock You’ so he comes to me as a familiar name, if not for this format or genre.

I had not read one of Ben Elton’s books, any regulars to my blog will now start to grasp a theme with my reading this year, I am trying new things, pushing boundaries ever so slightly. This book came highly recommended, so I dug in. I admit to being curious the blurb drawing me in:

“If you had one chance to change history…Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you kill?…

A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century?…”

A great hook, although as an old school grammar freak, I can’t stand sentences that start with BUT! OK, so I let that go, phew, breathe, calm, start reading. The tale as you would expect is well written, the characters spring into view immediately, “…could see her still, standing before the fire, wearing an ancient military greatcoat, which she used as a dressing gown, vast arse placed firmly and unashamedly between the flames and the students…” You will gather Ben, like me, loves a comma, and is skilled at characterisation.

The story, in my view, had a fundamental fault, surely someone educated at Oxford or similar and reaching the dizzy heights of professor would have watched Star Trek or Doctor Who and know that whatever happens you shouldn’t mess with history, never ever!

Once I let go of my reservations about that I did enjoy this book, I trust the author who educated me in WW 1 history. It made me wonder if he knew it all off the top of his head, or if he or his team spent months digging through the dusty shelves of a library somewhere to find his information (a romantic view of what is probably done via the web so forgive me that one)

I won’t spoil it by sharing the surprises, there are a few very well positioned and described, or the end which I also thought was well worked. I enjoyed that satisfaction of closing a book I’d enjoyed that ends well.

In conclusion, I wasn’t convinced anyone would really believe the plan was a good one, however it’s an engaging and thought provoking read, which could easily be transferred to the film screen.