Coastword Nights with @TheJennaWatt and @KirstyLawMusic @CoastwordFest

CoastWord

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

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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?

Finding Alison by Deirdre Eustace #blogtour #review @bwpublishing

Today is publication day for Deirdre Eustace’s novel Finding Alison, a simply wonderful book which I loved. I was drawn to the eye-catching front cover as, living by the sea myself, I do love stories with a coastal setting. The book starts off in dramatic style with Alison being awoken in the night by the local priest who tells her that her husband Sean is missing at sea, after taking out his fishing boat on a stormy night. The story then moves forward three years where we find Alison still struggling to come to terms with her loss and having a turbulent relationship with her teenage daughter Hannah. Drifter and artist William comes to the small fishing village of Carniskey and the two strike up a friendship.

I don’t think that I have ever made so many notes about the beautiful writing in a book. As you will see from the striking front cover, the sea has a prominent role in this book. It is an ever-present character and Deirdre Eustace has employed some vivid and stunning imagery to describe it. “The sea cha-cha’d in to meet her, its petticoat held high. Alison noticed the ocean’s dark-brown underdress: how its rippled its grey surface, refusing the sun.”  Alison has a love-hate relationship with the sea. For all its wild beauty it has taken so much from her. She hates it since it took her husband and yet she cannot leave it as she feels tied to where they lived and loved.  There was another beautiful section of prose where Alison describes the sea as the ultimate mistress “I’ve witnessed her gentle seductions, her flirting and teasing. That hypnotic allure… With her gentle comforts, her whispers of adventure, freedom and danger”. I must also mention Alison’s poetry, which of course is really the author’s poetry, in particular the wonderfully atmospheric To The Sea. I’m not a huge poetry fan but I thought it was a very touching, beautifully crafted piece of writing.

The title of the novel hints at one of the main themes, which is Alison beginning to find herself again, after the grief and loss of the three years since Sean went missing. Over the course of the book, she finds the space to begin to be herself again, to rediscover her own self-worth and begin to redevelop her self-confidence. Alison has so much to cope with and I was rather taken aback at some very unexpected turns in the story. She proves herself to be a strong woman, coping with some difficult and demanding situations.

Another contender for my books-of-the-year list, Finding Alison is a book to savour as you take time to enjoy  the elegant, descriptive prose. There is a strong sense of place with the sea and watery imagery used to such great effect throughout the novel. It is incredibly moving and uplifting, particularly in the final chapters. Even when I had finished the book, I was still playing over some of the scenes in my mind and found it difficult to move onto my next read. (I believe this is known as a ‘book hangover’!) Finding Alison is a powerful, memorable story and one which I highly recommend.

Thanks to Lina Langlee at Black and White Publishing for my copy of the book. It is published today in both paperback and as an e-book. You will be able to buy it in good bookshops, order from the publisher’s online shop or order a Kindle copy here.

From the back of the book

In Carniskey, a small fishing village in Ireland, the community is divided, wracked by grief and guilt; love and resentment; despair and hope. Sean Delaney has been missing at sea for three years, and no one – least of all his grieving wife, Alison – knows what really happened to him. Having lost her husband, her financial security, and having grown distant from her daughter, Alison feels alone and estranged from the villagers. Sean’s mother has not spoken since her house was burgled after his disappearance, and Alison’s only friend, Kathleen, harbours secrets of her own.

Isolated by their stunning, yet often cruel, surroundings, the community is forced to look inwards. But when artist and lifelong nomad William comes to town, he offers Alison a new perspective on life – and love. What she doesn’t realise is that strangers have secrets of their own, and William’s arrival threatens to unearth the mysteries of the past.

A story of courage and humanity, we follow a community through their struggles and triumphs in love, loss and betrayal.As each of the characters strives to find their own sense of belonging, they are led to the realisation that it is only through the truth that they can truly find happiness.

Finding Alison blog tour

Annemarie Allan Guest post @aldhammer @cranachanbooks #pokeyhat

Annemarie

I’m really pleased to be joined by author Annemarie Allan today, who I met recently at a lunch for authors and bloggers in Edinburgh. She kindly gave me a copy of her book Charlie’s Promise to read so watch out for my review in the next few weeks. In the meantime, she has written a really great post on why setting is so important to her in her writing. 

Setting is always important and landscape often determines the nature of my characters, sometimes quite literally. My novel Ushig is an attempt to bring Scotland’s mythical creatures into the modern world and those creatures, the selkies and kelpies, the unseelie court and all the others are a direct product of Scotland’s mountains, its coasts, rivers, lochs and forests.

With my latest novel, ‘Charlie’s Promise’ the setting is deeply personal. Morison’s Haven, where Charlie lives, is the where place my mother grew up and the children’s journey through the haughty stateliness of the New Town and the overpopulated grubby warrens of the Old Town reflect the city of Edinburgh as I knew it, growing up in the 1950s.

                    Charlie's Promise by [Allan, Annemarie]        

The novel is set in 1938, a year before the start of the Second World War. Research was an essential component in terms of getting things right, but sometimes it’s simply not possible to find what you’re looking for. My story begins in Danzig, (modern-day Gdansk). After endless searching, I failed to track down any reliable information on how long it took a steamship to make the journey from Danzig to the Firth of Forth. In the end, I was forced to work it out based on average speed, distance travelled and some extreme guesswork about the weather conditions at sea in November. A lot of work for what in the end amounted to less than a sentence!

Onward Chritian Soldiers - Danzig

Oddly enough, another issue in terms of research is the possibility of being a little too thorough. Kristallnacht, which took place on 9-10 November 1938, was the night the Nazi government orchestrated a wave of attacks on Jews across Germany. However, the violence did not reach Danzig until 12-14 November. I spent a lot of time wondering whether readers might assume I’d got it wrong and in the end, I decided not to be too specific about the date.

There is no doubt that knowing the background makes for a better story. A good grasp of the world that fictional characters inhabit is an essential element in convincing the reader to engage with the plot and the characters. But for me and I guess for most writers of fiction, it’s the chance to let your imagination run free that triggers the irresistible urge to keep on writing!

Thanks Annemarie, great to hear more about the settings for Charlie’s Promise which I’m really looking forward to reading. You can find out more about Annemarie and her work from her website http://annemarieallan.com/

 

The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite #review @bcopperthwait @bookouture

The Darkest Lies: A gripping psychological thriller with a shocking twist by [Copperthwaite, Barbara]
Barbara Copperthwaite’s Flowers for the Dead was one of my top reads in 2015 when she achieved what you’d think would be impossible and created a serial killer the reader can feel sorry for. You can read my review of that hereI have to say that I did not have the same kind of sympathy for the culprit in this novel!
Melanie and Jacob face what must be every parent’s nightmare when their 13 year old daughter is found badly beaten and close to death on the marshes near their home. As the police begin to investigate, it soon becomes clear that Beth had been keeping secrets from her parents. With Beth lying in a coma and the police seemingly making no progress in the investigation into what happened, Melanie takes matters into her own hands and begins to try to find her daughter’s attacker herself.
The Darkest Lies is mostly told from the point of view of Melanie in the aftermath of the attack. It is hard not to feel sympathy for her as she becomes increasingly frustrated with what she sees as the lack of progress in the police investigation. She is convinced that in the small community, someone must know what happened to her daughter and has been telling lies. As the story progressed, it seemed that almost everyone had secrets and was lying, including Melanie and Jacob. As Melanie uncovered many possible leads, many of the residents seemed to potentially have been involved in some way. Some of the decisions she made as she became convinced of first one, then another person’s involvement were so bad and put her at such risk that I was almost despairing. Although when the police didn’t seem to be listening to her, I could understand her frustration.
The book is written with short chapters which made it a really fast-paced compulsive read for me. The story kept changing perspective just at the point when I NEEDED to know more, particularly in the later chapters. Interspersing Melanie’s account and chapters from Beth’s point of view in the lead up to the attack, were chapters from the perpetrator. These made for rather unpleasant and uncomfortable reading as they described the thrill that person got from killing animals and wanting to kill children. I had guessed (for once!) who the person behind these chapters was but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. And although I had guessed that part, Barbara Copperthwaite had plenty surprises and twists that I certainly hadn’t expected!
The Darkest Lies is a real page-turner of a read, full of dark secrets and lies. I found it unexpectedly emotional in places and a very compelling read. It’s a fast-paced thriller with plenty to keep the reader hooked right up until the final very dramatic chapters.
Thanks to Kim at Bookouture for my copy of this book. THE DARKEST LIES by was published in paperback and as an e-book on 12th April. It is available at good bookshops and you can order it online. At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is only 99p so grab yourself a bargain.
Amazon buying links: 
UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2nCtUvG 
 

From the back of the book

A mother desperate for the truth. A daughter hiding a terrible secret.

Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.

Nothing can shake her happiness – until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.

Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk? 

As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…

A completely gripping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister and Before I Let You In will be captivated.

 
Barbara Copperthwait
Barbara Copperthwaite – About The Author
 

The people behind the crime, from the perpetrator to the victim and beyond, are what intrigue Barbara Copperthwaite.

She was raised by the sea and in the countryside, where she became a lover of both nature and the written word – the latter leading to a successful career as a journalist. For over twenty years people have kindly and bravely shared with her their real experiences of being victims of crime. Now, through fiction, Barbara continues to explore the emotional repercussions.

www.barbaracopperthwaite.com

 

Victoria Cornwall Author in the Spotlight @VickieCornwall @ChocLitUK

Victoria Cornwall. Profile Picture JPG

I’m really pleased to be joined by an author published by one of my favourite publishers ChocLit. ChocLit publish women’s fiction and edgy thrillers all with romance at their heart. Victoria Cornwall’s debut novel, The Thief’s Daughter, was published as an e-book in January this year and is historical fiction: you can order a copy online by clicking here.

Thanks for joining me Victoria. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me on your blog.  I’m delighted to be here.  I grew up on a farm in Cornwall and still live in the county today.  Although I have always wanted to write a book, my first career choice was nursing. I worked in intensive care for many years and then later in a minor injury unit. Eventually, I moved out of the acute setting into the community. After 25 years, I gave up nursing. The change in my career finally gave me the time to write.

What inspired you to start writing?

When I was a child I was an avid reader and I always felt that there was something very special about creating a book and having your name on it.  I used to love writing stories at school and it was the only homework where I felt I was in my comfort zone. As an adult I went through a spell of feeling that I could do better than some of the books I was reading.  I think we have all had a spell of picking the wrong books to read and feeling disappointed in our purchases. I had always wanted to write a book, so thought it was time I stopped moaning and try doing it myself. I am glad to say that my grumpy phase is now over and that I am reading some amazing books again.  However, I am glad I went through that phase, as it gave me the impetus to try and achieve my dream.

Tell me about your journey to publication

After completing my first manuscript I submitted it to agents. The rejections hurt. I now know how hard it is for a debut author to secure an agent and how best to present your manuscript. I was very naïve at the time and knew very little about the book trade.  I had no writing background and had never been on a creative writing course. I entered the first three chapters of my second manuscript to the Festival of Romantic Fiction and it was shortlisted for the New Talent Award. At the award ceremony I learned about the Romantic Novelists’ Association and their New Writers’ Scheme. I submitted my third manuscript to their scheme. After it was assessed, I was encouraged to submit it to agents and publishers. This time I had learnt a lot from the RNA and my submission was successful. The Thief’s Daughter was accepted by Choc Lit and published in January.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

The Thief's Daughter by [Cornwall, Victoria]

The Thief’s Daughter is an 18th century story of Cornish smuggling, love and betrayal. It tells the story of one woman’s struggle to reconcile her love for her brother and her employer, which challenges her moral integrity, her loyalty and ultimately, her trust in both.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Jenna is a good woman who was brought up in a family of thieves. She tries to distance herself from her family’s bad reputation, but it taints her life. The Thief’s Daughter seemed to sum up her plight. The story is about her, but her family’s “profession” still effects her and she is judged by it.

How did you celebrate publication day?

I always imagined publication day would be about popping champagne. The reality was very different. I spent the day glued to the laptop sharing the news on social media and responding to all the lovely messages I received. At the end of the day, I was exhausted, although I had not moved from my chair. My husband and I ended the evening by sharing a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate. I think I was still in a bit of shock as I couldn’t quite believe that my book was actually published.

Do you have a work in progress just now?

Yes, I am writing something at the moment. I am pleased to say that Choc Lit has acquired my previous two books and another one which I have written since; making The Thief’s Daughter the first in a Cornish based series. Therefore, I do not feel too pressured to produce another book quickly as three are waiting to be published.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

I have been reading a lot of Choc Lit books over the past year.  I normally read historical novels, however Choc Lit has a wide variety of romantic fiction and I have really enjoyed reading outside my comfort zone. I don’t want to choose one over the others as they are all amazing. I have learnt that reading outside your comfort zone can be an enjoyable experience. It is the writing and plot that matters, not the era that it is set in.

What are you reading just now? 

Girl in Red Velvet: It all started in the sixties (Charton Minster Book 6) by [James, Margaret]

I am reading Margaret James’ book Girl in Red Velvet, which was published in April, 2017

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall 1788-1790 (Poldark Book 2) by [Graham, Winston]

I would take Winston Graham’s Poldark series. I love his writing and have read the series so many times.  If I had to choose only one of them, I would take Demelza.

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

I am on various social media sites and would love to connect with readers. I also have a newsletter which readers can sign up to. I only send out a newsletter every few months as I don’t like spam myself and would hate to spam others. They can also unsubscribe at anytime.

Website: www.victoriacornwall.com

Twitter: @VickieCornwall

Facebook: www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author

Instagram: www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx

Pinterest: uk.pinterest.com/vickiecornwall/

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cFrw0D 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I have enjoyed answering your questions. I really appreciate the blogging community and the support they give debut authors like me. This is a whole new world for me, and I am learning about it one page at a time.

My pleasure Victoria – that’s what bloggers are for!

Brave, Braver, Bravest: a #guestpost from Catherine Simpson @cath_simpson13

catherine simpson

I’m really delighted to share an inspiring guest post from Catherine Simpson. Catherine is the author of Truestory which I read a while back now and thought was excellent. You can read my review here. She is currently working on a family memoir. Her guest post is all about being a bit braver with writing, but being that bit braver could equally apply to many areas of life. Catherine says that we all need to be brave at times and I would definitely agree. Since beginning my blog a couple of years ago I’ve done things I never would have thought I was brave enough to do, such as organising get-togethers for authors and bloggers, taking part in a book event, becoming involved in my local book festival and next weekend I am going to be blogging from Coastword, a literary festival in Dunbar which Catherine mentions in her post. So go on, be brave – you never know where it may lead you!

Brave, Braver, Bravest.

As writers, fear is our enemy: We fear rejection, we fear failure, we fear finding out we are not as good as we hoped we were, we fear speaking up, we fear making fools of ourselves. The only answer is to be brave – so I urge you to Do a Brave Thing. Any Brave Thing.

Your ‘Brave Thing’ might be writing something in a different genre; if you are a short story writer try writing a poem, if you are a poet tackle some memoir. Give it a go. You have nothing to lose and potentially lots to gain.

Try a new poetic form – a villanelle or a concrete poem or an acrostic. Commit to writing a haiku every day about what you can see from your window.

Challenge yourself as a reader by reading in a new genre; read a graphic novel, a space opera, an epic poem. Visit the library and browse the shelves you’ve avoided. Read something translated from Arabic or Chinese. Read Ulysses.

Read that classic novel you’ve always meant to.

Join a book group and speak up.

If you’ve never sent your work out to a magazine or a competition give it a go. Then create a spreadsheet for all the other submissions you will make.

Attend a writing workshop. Go and see some spoken word then sign up for a slot at an open mic. Attend an author event and ask a question. Spend an entire weekend at a literary festival (I might be biased but Coastword Festival in Dunbar is wonderful!).

Spend a whole day alone in the library reading, researching, writing. Visit your local museum or archive and research your town and use this for inspiration. Visit an art gallery on your own and be inspired to write by the paintings.

Offer to write a guest blog on overcoming your writing fears. Write a letter to the paper. Write a love letter.

Post your first tweet.

Write a review of a book you’ve loved and send it to the author.

Interview elderly relatives and write up some of their stories. Write a letter to your younger self. Write a letter to your older self.  Write a list of all the brave things you plan to try and mail it to yourself in six months. Write your will. Write your own eulogy.

Learn a new word and use it.

Go people watching, listen to conversations on the bus and use your observations as inspiration.

If you’ve never done so before (or even if you have) ask for feedback on your work from trusted friends.

Seize the chance to do a brave writing thing. Fear leaves you trapped but bravery sets you free.   I’m sure you will not regret it – far from it – and who knows where this one brave thing may lead?

Thanks for that Catherine – food for thought for many I’m sure. If you are inspired to do a brave thing after reading Catherine’s post, be brave enough to let us know!