I Know My Name by CJ Cooke #giveaway @fictionpubteam

I have a fantastic giveaway for you to enter today courtesy of Harper Collins Publishers. They have very generously offered me three proof copies of psychological suspense novel I Know My Name by CJ Cooke to giveaway. Although it is available in e-book format just now, it won’t be published in paperback until 15th June so this is your chance to get your hands on a physical copy early. To enter, click the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions. It’s UK only (sorry to my overseas followers, it’s because of the postage costs!) and you can enter up to midnight on Friday 26th May. I’ll contact the winner within 24 hours and your prize will be sent directly from the publisher.

Click here to enter the giveaway

Here’s what the book is about:

Komméno Island, Greece: I don’t know where I am, who I am. Help me.

A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.

Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Eloïse Shelley is officially missing.

Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie…

Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Eloïse missing? Why did she forget?

The truth is found in these pages…

The Panda Pantser #guestpost by @SarahPBroadley


I’m really pleased to welcome Sarah Broadley to the blog today. Sarah lives in Edinburgh where she co-chairs the South East Scotland network of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), she also reviews middle grade (8-12) books for http://www.mybookcorner.com.au/ and was a Story Shopper at Edinburgh International Book Festival last year. Sarah splits her time between writing picture books and middle grade stories and working part-time at the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity. I think she deserves a prize for the most unusual guest post title I’ve featured so far! Read on for an explanation.

The Panda Pantser by Sarah Broadley

Are you a meticulous planner of chapters, characters and plot? A master of post-its and spreadsheets that map out every miniscule detail? Or are you like me, a ‘let’s just see where it takes me’ kind of writer?

I am a very organised person. I don’t like mess or clutter, especially in the immediate area of where I happen to be jotting down words in the hope they resemble something passable as literature. I’m also known as the ‘spreadsheet queen’ by my family, as everything I do is planned within an inch of its life.

So why do I not use this trait when it comes to my writing process?

I tell you why. Pandas.

Pandas are my favourite animals. As most of you are aware, Edinburgh Zoo now have two pandas. I’ve been to see them many times and I am still convinced to this day that the male, Yang Guang, is really a human wearing a panda suit. I must have stood for hours watching him as he lolled about his straw bed, arm over his head, chilled out as if he’s about to crack open a beer. So laid-back, so ‘I’ll get round to that tomorrow’. I have been obsessed with pandas ever since. They are very human-like in their movements and expressions and I love their ‘meh’ kind of attitude. Sometimes life can be pretty hectic so when it’s all getting a bit much, I ask myself ‘what would a panda do?’and I know exactly what to do. I relax in my non-bamboo filled sofa and breathe.

You may wonder what pandas have to do with the way I write but here’s the thing – I am a pantser. A writer who never plans her stories. Flying by the seat of my proverbial literary pants. I am a panda in a writer’s suit. Sometimes I am relaxed to the point of napping but then that never gets you anywhere so I put the kettle on and get back to it.

I usually start with the title, odd I know, but that’s what normally pops into my head first. Then the main character makes an appearance, a bit like a late-comer to a party but always welcome and I secretly hope they stay late and don’t head off in a taxi when the sun comes up. The setting then says hello, usually after I start the first chapter.  It blinds me with weather patterns and street names as I start on my journey but at least I now have a sense of where my characters belong, where they might call home.

I will normally hit a junction. I join Dorothy as she walks along the yellow-brick road on her way to the wizard. Which way should I go? Left turn – the book is set in a fictitious land, right turn – the main character is 12, no… 10, no….agh or straight ahead – boy or girl? There is no wicked witch for me to fear but I really would love a pair of ruby slippers. They would go very well with my writer’s uniform (also known as jammies).

The questions I set myself as a writer certainly add to the tearing out of hair, the head in hands and the copious amounts of tea I drink. But they are needed, they are my conscience speaking to me, making me aware of pitfalls, constantly whispering ‘are you sure’, in my ear. I am also known for leaving a trail of half-finished cups of tea around the house as I go for a wander to solve plot holes. They are a necessary part of the process, just like athletes need water, I need tea.

I think whatever traits you have as a writer don’t really matter and to be honest shouldn’t matter, as long as I am able to write THE END at some point in the future then the literary world is my tea-drinking oyster.

What’s for you won’t pass you by. A motto I like to follow as it gives me hope that my witterings might actually turn into something good enough to submit. I sometimes feel sorry for the unsuspecting agent/publisher who thought they were outwith my radar, I mean well, I really do.

No pandas were harmed in the writing of this post. Tea anyone?

Thanks Sarah for that really entertaining insight into your writing process. You can keep up with Sarah by following her on Twitter @SarahPBroadley or reading her blog Great Big Jar



Sunday 21st May – Day 3 @CoastWordFest @pascalebientot @cath_simpson13

Dunbar Writing Mums with Karen Dietz

Sunday was the third and final day for CoastWord and Kelly (from LoveBooksGroup) and I headed back to Dunbar for the first of the afternoon sessions. (There had been a morning session but we couldn’t make that.) The title was The Places Between Them and featured the Dunbar Writing Mums, pictured above, DunbarSings Community Choir and Catherine Simpson, writer in residence.

I have to say that this was my favourite session out of everything I’d seen this weekend. The Dunbar Mums started the session reading work from their anthology Nourish Me, Sister. Each woman stepped forward to share their work which was interspersed with evocative unaccompanied singing from Karen Dietz. Some of the poems and stories made me laugh, some made me think and at least one moved me to tears (Deborah Ritchie’s Reattachment). These were all deeply personal stories and poems of now and then, often with a strong family theme. I was so impressed that I bought a copy of their anthology and am looking forward to reading all the work the women had to share.

Catherine Simpson

Next was Catherine Simpson who was also launching her work, a pamphlet containing words inspired by her time as writer in residence. I am rather jealous that she was allowed access to the town archives. That’s the kind of thing I would love to have a good look at. Much of her work was inspired by the absence of women in the archives or with just a fleeting mention such as the scribbled ‘Mrs Carlyle had many lovers’, also the title of the pamphlet. I also bought this and have enjoyed reading the often thought-provoking, sometimes nostalgic work within its pages.

DunbarSings Community Choir

This session was rounded off by the wonderful DunbarSings Community Choir. The choir comprised around 24 men and women who sang in at least four parts, treating us to Happy Together, Lonesome Road and This Land. They produced such a rich sound, with wonderful harmonies all led by Karen Dietz who, as I mentioned yesterday, will be songwriter in residence for CoastWord over this coming year.


The next session was called True Stories and Confessions reflecting the titles of the debut novels from Catherine Simpson and Shelley Day. The two ladies had a good chat about how they had come to writing fiction later in life and how their books had begun – both arose from exercises at creative writing courses. Both authors have based their works firmly in places and times they were very familiar with. They started with what they knew then took it from there. Shelley said that quite often she would write something and wonder ‘where did that come from?’. She feels that her head is full of thoughts just dying to get out! Being a novelist came as a surprise and she still finds it a bit terrifying and difficult. Both women said that getting your novel published is only the start – then comes the publicity and the selling yourself, the fear that people will read your work and hate it, the fear that no-one will read it! I can tell you that I have read and enjoyed both their books and highly recommend them. You can read my reviews by clicking here: Truestory by Catherine Simpson and The Confession of Stella Moon by Shelley Day

Val McDermid talking with Lorna Hill

Although there was again a CoastWord Nights on Sunday unfortunately, after a busy weekend, we couldn’t stay for that so our final event was listening to the wonderful Val McDermid chatting with Lorna Hill, whose PhD thesis looks at the role of women in contemporary crime fiction. If you haven’t heard Val McDermid speak at an event before, you really must try to go to one. She is terrifically entertaining as she speaks about her work and peppers her talks with very funny anecdotes. I find it very amusing that this writer renowned for her rather dark crime fiction was inspired to write when reading The Chalet School books as a young girl. She spoke about the various series she has written and how she hadn’t really intended to write series but that she kept having ideas for her characters. Just the previous evening she had finished her latest novel, the 10th Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novel, which is due out in August and will be called Insidious Intent. Before it comes out she will be taking part in many festivals over summer, is making some documentaries for Radio 4, is writing a play for Oran Mor then will get down to writing next year’s novel. She’s clearly a very busy lady and I could understand when she said that while having ideas for novels wasn’t a problem, finding time to develop them into books was a problem!

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend at CoastWord and would like to express my thanks again to Hannah Lavery and Catherine Simpson for asking Kelly and I to come along and blog about the events. If there is one thing I have taken from the festival, it is the strong sense of community in Dunbar. It’s a community based festival which really shows the power of words and music to connect people from all walks of life.

#Obsession #review & Five Things about Amanda Robson @avonbooksUK

Obsession: A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly by [Robson, Amanda]

Obsession is the story of what happens to two couples when a seemingly light-hearted question – “Who would you go for if you could?” – sends their lives spiralling out of control. Carly asks husband Rob this question one evening and although he doesn’t initially want to answer, she persists and he gives the name of her friend, Jenni. Carly becomes obsessed with this affair that doesn’t exist and quickly relationships between Carly, Rob, Jenni and Craig take a dark turn, as the obsessions threaten to destroy their friendships and marriages.

I have to say that I did not find any of the characters particularly likeable. Even those who initially seemed to be the injured parties soon came to show their own dark sides. It’s a slow burner of a read with the story really developing more for me in the second half of the book. There are plenty of dark themes explored such as extreme jealousy, obsession of course, depression, alcoholism, religious zeal and mental health. There are plenty of twists throughout the story and with the short snappy chapters told from all the characters’ points of view, it’s a book where you may be tempted to keep reading  ‘just one more chapter’. But which of these characters could you actually trust to be telling the truth? I really didn’t know and with all four of the main characters so completely absorbed in their own interests, I really couldn’t predict how things would end. And what dramatic and completely unexpected events take place in the latter stages of the book. That one little question at the beginning of the story was only the start of a downward path that would lead to disastrous consequences.

I did find the story a bit slow to begin with and the fact that I didn’t really like any of the characters made it difficult to engage with them, but it was worth persisting with for the closing stages of the book which were cleverly and shockingly written.

If you have been following the blogtour, you will already have read five things you didn’t know about the characters in the book. Now read on to find out five things about author Amanda Robson.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

  1. I would have liked to be an actress in another life. The skills of acting and writing seem to overlap, as in both cases we imagine what it is like to be someone else. When I write I act out each scene in my mind. It takes me back to my teenage roots when I loved amateur dramatics. My first great passion. My passion for writing came later. As a teenager I never imagined the hours I spent at Formby Theatre Club would prove useful for the rest of my life.
  2. Sitting in a bar on an Austrian ski-slope, dance music pounding out, I recently discovered that I like house music. Until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know what it was. It is influenced by 1970’s disco music. I was a teenager in the 7O’s, a child of the sixties. Maybe that is why it appeals to me so much. House music’s pounding beat is soulful and relaxing. Sitting listening to it makes me feel that I am having fun, and having fun is what life is about. Fun here and now. Here in this moment. 
  3. Even though I write psychological thrillers, I like reading literary fiction. Writers whose work I particularly admire include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Christos Tsiolkas, John Updike, and Sebastian Faulkes, although in truth the list is endless. It probably depends which day of the week it is whose work I pick. When I am on holiday I like nothing better than to sit on a beach and read a book a day. If you are a read-a-holic, there really isn’t enough time in one lifetime to read everything you want.  I prefer contemporary work by a long way to classics. Writing style and use of language has tightened up and moved forwards. It’s good where we are right now.
  4. I have sailed across the Atlantic on a clipper ship. We had freak good weather. Wall to wall sunshine.
  5. Writing to me is not a chore, but a pleasure, a way of life. I find writing relaxing because it takes me to another world. Every morning when I step into my study and close the door, I press a button in my mind and go wherever I want. Such freedom. Such peace.

Thanks to Helena at Avon Books for my copy of the book. At the time of writing it is on offer at only 99P for the Kindle edition which you can order here. You can also buy in paperback from any good bookshop. 

From the back of the book

One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could?

It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life.

Carly and Rob are a perfect couple. They share happy lives with their children and their close friends Craig and Jenni. They’re lucky. But beneath the surface, no relationship is simple: can another woman’s husband and another man’s wife ever just be good friends?

Little by little, Carly’s question sends her life spiralling out of control, as she begins to doubt everything she thought was true. Who can she trust? The man she has promised to stick by forever, or the best friend she has known for years? And is Carly being entirely honest with either of them?

Obsession is a dark, twisting thriller about how quickly our lives can fall apart when we act on our desires.

Saturday 20th May: Day 2 @coastwordfest


Saturday was a very full day at the CoastWord Festival with events from 11 in the morning, not finishing till just after 11 at night! As you can see from the photos above though, we managed to stretch our legs during a break before the evening event (the rain had stopped!) and had a wander through Dunbar to the harbour.


Magi Gibson

The first event of the day saw Magi Gibson joined by four local poets Ruth Gilchrist, Jo Gibson, Pen Reid and Melissa Goodbourne. The themes of their poetry included the sea, food, illness, education and home. Some were deeply personal and moving such as Pen Reid’s poetry about her husband’s degenerative illness, some were nostalgic such as Jo Gibson’s Radiogram about her parents dancing to Jim Reeves songs and some very were funny such as Magi Gibson’s An Education.

Chris Brookmyre

Next was Chris Brookmyre who read the very intriguing opening chapter to his latest Jack Parlabane novel Want You Gone. He talked about some of the themes of the novel in particular cyber-crime and with one question to the audience – what would your porn-star name be? – showed us how easy it could be for hackers to get the necessary information to hack into our accounts. He spoke of how he felt he was a bit like a stage magician when writing his novels, particularly when it came to twists. He said that he had to have everything in place to misdirect his reader and that if done properly, twists should mean that if you read a book a second time, it can be almost like reading a different book as you realise the clues were there all along. He revealed that later this year we can look forward to a band called The Fun Loving Crime-Writers taking part in various literary festivals!

Hannah Lavery

The third event of the day saw Janice Galloway and Marjorie Gill joined by CoastWord founder Hannah Lavery and Nadine Aisha. They were all sharing work on the theme of home and belonging and all had stories to tell about their own sense of belonging. Nadine Aisha’s unsettling poetry explored the kind of sexism and racism she experienced growing up. Marjorie Gill was poet in residence at Jupiter Artland, was born in New Orleans, spent some of her childhood in Iran and now lives in Edinburgh. She has the most warm and gentle voice and it was a pleasure to listen to her reading her poems. Hannah Lavery has recently been working on her debut show The Drift. I particularly enjoyed her poem Oak Table, written as though from the point of view of a kitchen table telling all the things which happen around and on it. Janice Galloway, although known for her poetry, said it would be far too hard to follow acts of such calibre so instead opted to read a short story from her collection Jellyfish.

Coastword Nights on Saturday saw us treated to music and poetry from a large number of performers only a few of whom are pictured above. There was music from Faith Eliott, Emilie Robson, Graham Cairns and Karen Dietz with Richard Klein. I particularly enjoyed the folk style music of the last two whose voices harmonised beautifully as they sang songs inspired by American short stories. Karen Dietz will be songwriter in residence for the next year at CoastWord. We were treated to poetry from Jenny Lindsay, whose humorous storytelling style was enthusiastically received by the audience, and Carey Douglas whose poem about her childhood experiences in North East England was excellent. Colin McGuire gave an energetic performance of his poems. It seems unfair to pick a highlight but I have to say that Scott Tyrell’s poetry was just brilliant. He won the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Poetry Slam in 2015. He was so funny and had the audience in stitches. His poem ‘Should Have Booked’ imagines the 1* review that Joseph might have left on TripAdvisor for the Inn at Bethlehem. You can watch him performing it here on YouTube – Should Have Booked

So Saturday was a very full, enjoyable day with a great variety of talent to enjoy. I am looking forward to the final day at CoastWord, in particular to hearing CoastWord Writer in Residence Catherine Simpson talking Confessions and True Stories with novelist Shelley Day. A conversation with crime writer Val McDermid also promises to be a highlight of the day. You can watch out for my report on the events of the last day of the 2017 CoastWord Festival tomorrow.

Coastword Nights with @TheJennaWatt and @KirstyLawMusic @CoastwordFest


Last night Kelly from LoveBooksGroup and I headed off on the train to Dunbar, about 30 miles outside Edinburgh, for the opening night of the fifth Coastword Festival. Coastword is a community festival featuring words, music and theatre.  Kelly and I were delighted to be asked to be the official bloggers for the festival and will be sharing our experiences of the weekend over the next few days. With a programme of events featuring among others Janice Galloway, Christopher Brookmyre, Shelley Day, Catherine Simpson and Val McDermid, we knew we were in for a busy, exciting and entertaining weekend. You can read Kelly’s take on things at LoveBooksGroup.blog

My weekend pass – a sparkly Coastword wristband 

There had been writing workshops on Friday afternoon led by Marjorie Gill and Janice Galloway but our first event of the weekend was the fabulous Coastword Nights featuring award-winning playwright Jenna Watt and singer-songwriter Kirsty Law. Most of the weekend’s events were taking place at the Dunmuir Hotel, just a short walk from the train station along a road which runs by the Firth of Forth, making it easy to see Dunbar’s strong connection to the sea.

Jenna Watt

In the first half of the evening, the audience watched Jenna Watt’s Faslane, a solo play which presents her personal view of the story and is very topical given the current debate about the Trident nuclear missile programme. Faslane is about 40 miles outside Glasgow and in the play Jenna explores her own relationship with the base. Her family had worked at the base and friends had protested against Trident so Jenna has a foot in both camps as it were. You can find out more about Jenna and her work at her website 


Jenna Watt gave an impassioned performance beginning with a plea for world leaders to explore peaceful solutions to world problems and highlighting just how dangerous nuclear weapons are. It was a surprise when she then explained this was actually from the Russell-Einstein Manifesto from 1955. It is just as relevant today. Jenna then took us through her journey to find out more about Faslane and Trident including a visit to the base where her cousin showed her round and answered her questions. For her family, working with Trident was just a job and one they did to the best of their ability. By way of contrast, she also visited the Peace Camp to speak to those living there.  She felt conflicted after both visits and through her performance, explored how she was feeling and how her understanding of Trident developed. 

Jenna Watt gave an impressive performance as she worked her way through her very personal response to Trident. It was a powerful piece of theatre to watch and very thought-provoking. Despite the subject matter, there were moments of dry humour which had the audience laughing, only to be swiftly followed by much more serious moments. The stark staging and subtle lighting of the performance area was enhanced with music and also audio-clips from tv and radio, both contemporary and from the past. I hadn’t really known what to expect from this play but found it fascinating and one which made me reflect on my own opinions.

Kirsty Law

The second half of the evening featured Kirsty Law, Coastword’s first songwriter in residence, who presented her work on the theme of Urban Seascape.  Her songs were inspired by the Firth of Forth and Dunbar’s relationship with the sea. I had heard her sing recently at an event at the National Museum of Scotland and was very impressed with her lovely singing voice. She creates her songs within the traditional Scottish music tradition and collaborates with poets and storytellers in her work. You can find out more about Kirsty and her music at her website.

Kirsty Law performed six songs on the evening, three of which had been written as part of her residency.  Before each song, she explained a bit of the background of how she came to write it, whether it was history or landscape or both which inspired her. I love that you can hear her accent come through so strongly as she sings. Listening to her singing reminds me how much I enjoy folk music, which somehow makes me feel connected to the traditions of the past. Along with the keyboard, she also played a shruti box, pictured below. Now if you haven’t heard one before, look it up on YouTube. Kirsty explained that it is actually an Indian instrument but as a drone instrument has a similar sound to bagpipes so works well with Scottish songs. I have to agree that it adds a beautiful haunting sound which really complements the words of the songs. I enjoyed Kirsty’s performance and think she is a very talented singer and songwriter. Her music is powerfully evocative and draws strongly on the Scottish folk music tradition while at the same time feeling contemporary and fresh.

Shruti box

Five Forget Mother’s Day by @bruno_vincent #review @quercusbooks

Five Forget Mother's Day (Enid Blyton for Grown Ups) by [Vincent, Bruno]


This review might be a little late for Mother’s Day no matter if you’re in the UK or USA/Canada but that’s entirely appropriate given the title. Also appropriate since my children gave me it for Mother’s Day but forgot they had it so gave me it a few days late! They did actually get me other gifts so they hadn’t forgotten entirely.

This Famous Five for grown-ups series continues to amuse me. Like many people, I loved The Famous Five books when I was young and it’s fun to read about the adults they might have turned into. In this book, the cousins are trying to find the perfect gift for Aunt Fanny to show her how much they appreciate her. George has managed to forget to buy gifts for her mother on several important occasions and is determined that this time she will remember.

This exchange between Anne and George made me laugh as they discuss Aunt Fanny’s parenting skills. It is exactly what you didn’t notice when reading The Famous Five as a child but do notice when reading to your own children!

Anne: “All those summers down there in Kirren, when she used to look after us. . .”

George: “But she left us alone the whole time, and just let us bugger off all over the place – getting into all sorts of trouble in the process.”

What I really enjoy about these stories is that Bruno Vincent has captured the essence of the original books while bringing them right up to date. I really can imagine that the Five would have turned out exactly as they are portrayed in the modern versions, with the different kinds of adventures and challenges that adults experience. Some of the chapter titles are enough to make me laugh in themselves: ‘Five Mess Up a Perfectly Easy Task’ or ‘Five Bugger Something Up Again, Despite it Appearing Objectively Quite Achievable’.

The original illustrations, along with quotations from the new story, are used to great comedic effect and add that bit something extra to the book. I am really enjoying catching up with the Famous Five. Now what one to choose next – Five Go Parenting (will they have the same lackadaisical approach as their own parents?) or Five Give Up the Booze (what, they drink something stronger than ginger beer?!)

Thanks to my children for my copy of the book! Five Forget Mother’s Day is available in hardback and as an e-book and was published by Quercus on 23 February 2017. It is available in all good bookshops or you can order a copy online here.

From the back of the book

Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new series of Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy are keen to show Aunt Fanny how much she means to them.

Join Julian, George, Dick, Anne and Timmy the dog as they try to celebrate Mother’s Day with Aunt Fanny. George has past form in forgetting – not least her mum’s birthday and Christmas presents – so tensions are running high even for the charged normality of their mother/daughter bond.

But things go from bad to worse when Fanny comes to stay, with relations strained almost to breaking point. Can the Five save the day, and will Uncle Quentin get involved?