Thursday 30 November 2017

Hull Noir - Crime Fiction Festival @HullNoir #CrimeFiction

The weekend of 17 -19th November saw Martin and I pack our bags and take the M180 to Hull, for the first ever Hull Noir Crime Fiction Festival.

Along the way, we stopped at Humberside Airport to collect author Nic Parker who had flown in from Germany especially for the event.  We arrived at the Royal Hotel in the centre of Hull to find a hotel buzzing with authors, bloggers and publisher, along with lots of members of the public. The atmosphere was great, the weather was cold but bright ...  it was the start of a fabulous weekend.

Organised by authors Nick Quantrill and Nick Triplow, along with Nicky East; the Hull Noir Festival celebrated the best of British and international crime fiction. As part of  Tell The World, the fourth season of this year's UK City of Culture celebrations, Hull was proud to play host to Iceland Noir on their bi-annual travels from the festival's home, Hull's twin city of Reykjavik.

Nick was in conversation with novelist Cathi Unsworth, talking about Lewis, his life and work, and continued influence on crime writing.

Friday night was spent in the bar, no surprises there!  It was fabulous to catch up with Karen Sullivan and her authors, and also to spend time with fellow bloggers including the awesome, Queen of Crime Bloggers Noelle Holten from CrimeBookJunkie, Rachel Emms from Chillers, Killers & Thrillers, Jen from Jen Med Books Reviews and of course, my partner Blogger in Residence, Susan Heads from The Book Trail.

Saturday was a packed day of panels, and the anticipation for the first one was great. The room was buzzing as we settled down for Panel One: Sleeping With The Fishes : Hull v Iceland.

David Mark, Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates, chaired by Nick Quantrill. The panel looked at the style, influence and distinctions and conflicts of Hull and Iceland as locations and inspirations for crime writing.

I had to miss the second panel as Noelle and I were interviewing Martina Cole!  Yes, THE Martina Cole - Queen of Crime, who is celebrating twenty five years as a best selling author. She was amazing and my write up of the interview is coming very soon.

After the excitement and laughter of spending time with Martina Cole, we were back in the conference room for Panel Three; Into The Darkness - the new noir.
As eras come and go and each generation defines itself by the writing that came before, Jake Arnott, Emma Flint, Joseph Knox and Cathi Unsworth looked at the challenge of writing contemporary noir fiction and the power of historical setting.

The final panel of the evening, and taking star billing was the incredible Martina Cole. The audience were all a buzz as they waited for her to step onto the stage.
The most borrowed author in prison libraries; the most shoplifted from British bookshops; best-selling Queen of British crime fiction, Martina Cole celebrates the 25th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Dangerous Lady, in the company of critic, author and crime fiction aficionado, Barry Forshaw.
What an amazing woman she is; down to earth, so funny and she has so many stories to tell that span her career.  A fabulous way to end the first day of this fantastic festival.

Saturday night was another late one, there was a riotous dinner with Team Orenda, Tammy Cohen, David Young, Nic Parker and Jacky Collins, followed by drinks and plots to kidnap the hotel Christmas tree by certain crime authors that shouldn't be named ... they know just who they are though!

Sunday brought another packed day of panels, and we started with Getting Away With Murder; golden age vs digital age.  From wire messages, telegrams and Hansom cabs to new tech, dark web and the emergence of new formats, Abir Mukherjee, Rachel Rhys and Matt Wesolowski discussed the influence of technologies on crime writing and publishing with Ayo Onatade. There was much hilarity during this panel, a great way to start Sunday morning!

Next we found ourselves Behind Bars : freedom, oppression and control.  With a background of Hull's historical links to the slave trade abolitionist William Wilberforce and traditions of resistance, Eva Dolan, Kati Hiekkapelto, Stav Sherez and William Ryan explored ways in which crime fiction deals with characters living under oppression or imprisoned by circumstance.

After a quick lunch; well a doughnut and yet more coffee, we gathered back at the Hotel for Panel Three : Off The Beaten Track : exploring roads less takenDaniel Pembrey, Antti Tuomainen, Sarah Ward and David Young discussed the unfashionable and hitherto undiscovered landscapes, languages and settings for crime writing with Jacky Collins, and cast fresh light on where new territories for writing might be found.

The penultimate panel of the day, and in fact, of the whole Festival was next. Brawlers And Bastards: the rise of the unlikeable hero.  From Bill Sykes through Jack Carter and beyond, Steph Broadribb, Mick Herron, Harry Brett and Craig Robertson looked at ways in which crime authors redeem them irredeemable and create antiheroes from the most unlikeable protagonists. There were some fabulous anti-heroes here, and guess which of the authors was last involved in a punch up? (Clue, she's female!)

And so, the Festival drew to a close on Sunday afternoon. The final panel was another much anticipated one from the audience; A Year in the Crime Writing Life: Mark Billingham and John Connolly with Jake Kerridge.
Bringing the Festival to a close, Mark Billingham and John Connolly took a look at their writing years with Daily Telegraph crime fiction critic, Jake Kerridge. The best, the worst; a year to remember, one to forget; the tears, tantrums and triumphs of a crime writing life.

The official Festival Read was Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir, published by Orenda Books. Snare is Lilja's first novel to be translated into English.

Festival partners, Hull Independent Cinema joined with Hull Noir to present a short series of Ted Lewis related crime films including gangster classic Get Carter (1971). E52 Theatre Company premiered a script-in-hand reading of a new production baed on David Mark's debut novel, Dark Winter.

Hull Noir was a resounding, fabulous, crime-filled SUCCESS!  Everyone that I spoke to; readers, authors, bloggers, publishers and presenters enjoyed it so much. Praise and hurrahs to the three Nicks who organised it so well, and brought some of the best and biggest names to Hull.

Amazing stuff guys, when can we do it all over again??

Twitter @HullNoir
Hull Noir website

Tuesday 28 November 2017

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp @Laurajanekemp @orionbooks #SurprisingKindness

Sometimes all it takes to make the world a better place is a small act of kindness...When Ceri Price arrives in the small seaside village of Dwynwen in West Wales, she only means to stay for a couple of nights - long enough to scatter her mother's ashes, and then go back to her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur. 

But a case of mistaken identities means she lands a job as the barmaid in the local pub,she unexpectedly finds friendship, and wonders if love might follow... But when the plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland under threat, she fears the way of life here could disappear.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village - a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere and someone provides paint to spruce up the houses on the seafront. Who is behind these acts of kindness and can they help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers...?

Welcome to Dwynwen: Village of Love. Where friendship flourishes and love blossoms... 

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp is published in paperback by Orion Books in January 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I have completely and utterly fallen in love with this book; with the characters, the setting and the wonderfully written story. On dark November evenings it has felt like a sprinkle of magic, cheering me up and making me smile. The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness is like the fizz of prosecco, it's infectious and addictive and pure indulgence.

Ceri Price is grieving for her mother. A single mum who brought up her daughters in a house full of laughter, and fashion and cheer. With no father, only a crumpled photograph and stories told by her mother, Ceri's world revolved around her.

She is determined to carry out her mother's last wishes and scatter her ashes in the small Welsh town of Dwynwen. Ceri has come a long way from the small house she grew up in. Her hand-made make up range, and her YouTube tutorials have brought her wealth and riches that she could never have imagined and when she arrives in Dwynwen she finds a town that feels like the land that people forgot. No wi-fi or designer coffee. No Social Media celebrities or gin bars; just an almost empty pub, a few houses and a run down shop-come-cafe.

Despite the bleak outlook and the sense of despair coming from the locals, Dwynwen is a community and Ceri is welcomed into its heart, and cherished and appreciated. Whilst she does feel guilty for keeping secrets from her new friends, she enjoys the genuine warmth and friendliness.
When Dwynwen is threatened by developers, the town really come into force; determined to fight to keep their legacy, and Ceri finds herself in the middle of it all. Willingly, and happily. She feels as though she's come home.

Laura Kemp has created a cast of character that will delight every reader, just when you think she can't possibly introduce more, she introduces her reader to yet one more, and another, and another. From eco-loving Rhodri to nine-year-old genius Henry; each and every one of these characters are wholesome and real and incredibly lovable.

This is a book of secrets and reveals, of community and kindness. There's love, and betrayal, and discovery, it's a parcel of wonder that will delight the most cold-hearted of reader. It's warm, funny and shows the importance of finding a place that you belong in, and people that will love you.

Beautifully brilliant. I love this book.

Laura Kemp writes tender but hilarious romantic comedies which are unashamed love letters to the everywoman.
She is a journalist and has written for the Guardian, Daily Mail and the Sun among others.
Laura lives with her husband, son, their ancient cat and stupid dog in Cardiff, where she goes running so she can stuff her face with crisps.

Follow all her book news at

or on Twitter @Laurajanekemp 

Monday 27 November 2017

Twice The Speed of Dark by Lulu Allison @LRAllison77 @unbounders #BlogTour

A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence. Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths. Meanwhile Anna's daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the brutality. Anna's life is stifled by heartache; it is only through these acts of love for strangers that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world. Can Anna free herself from the bondage of grief and find a connection to her daughter once more?

Twice The Speed of Dark by Lulu Allison was published by Unbound on 24 November 2017.

I'm really happy to be part of the Blog Tour for Twice The Speed of Dark and delighted to welcome the author, Lulu Allison to Random Things today.  She's talking about the books that are special to her, and have inspired her in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books - Lulu Allison

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

I was given a copy of this by my bibliophile grandfather as a gift, the christmas after I was born. ‘A first instalment for your library, from a fond and affectionate Gran’pa.’ How could I not become a book lover after that? It is the version with illustrations by John Tenniel. It is still on my bookshelf, a little battered and faded, with some reckless, childhood marginalia, which at the time I thought was a good addition. I treasure it.

The Bald Twit Lion, by Spike Milligan, illustrations by Carol Barker

The colour and depth of the illustrations still seems so vivid, and though we needed an explanation from mum, we loved the daftness of the jokes - the lion paints rabbits on his head so that from a distance they would look like hares (perhaps it works better as a spoken rather than written gag!)

The World’s Greatest Wonders, Odhams Press

This is a book that was given to me by an elderly gentleman I was visiting as a child. It is 300 or so pages of black and white book plates, the kind of beautiful half-tone images of books from the forties or fifties (there is no date.) It is divided into regions and shows pictures of architectural and geographical features. I love the flatness of the tone. And a sense of wonder is a precious thing to cultivate.

Birdy, by William Wharton

I read this in my early teens and was captivated by the exploration of a strange and different life. I still recall the terrible compassion I felt which was both saddening and uplifting - a feeling I have always loved when reading - a sense that we are being given the chance to see the difficulty, the beauty, the otherness of lives outside of our own.

Where Angels Fear to Tread, by E. M. Forster

Forster seemed to be in a constant struggle between a loving hope for humanity and pessimism about our chances. It is such a familiar feeling to me now and I wonder if it was shaped by my reading and re-reading of Forster when I was in my teens. All his books seem to say that, though we may be trapped by pettiness, we can fly, if only we can find the courage. I think this book is also the source of a life-long romantic idea I have about Italy.

King Lear, by William Shakespeare

This was one of my A level texts. I still cry every time I get to the part when Kent dies. The wonderful thing about Shakespeare is there is always a new angle, new things to find in the text. I have recently been thinking about Lear as the old man, bedecked with flowers, wandering the heath. I wonder if he wasn’t close to a kind of peace in some of those moments.

The Sea, The Sea, by Iris Murdoch

When I was an art student I shared a flat with Pierre. We lost touch for a long time, but he is now is my husband. He remembers me banging on about this (the book lover’s disease, right?) and, because of that, he read it once our paths had parted. I re-read it once our paths rejoined. A strange and wonderful read, slightly absurd but brilliant. The story itself has nothing to do with our relationship (thank goodness!) but the endurance of caring, and the rediscovery of it perhaps does.

The Wrench, by Primo Levi

I have chosen this book because it was the first of Levi’s that I read. His writing is so human, so humane. His body of work, for all the appalling content, the worst of lived experiences that it is possible to encounter, somehow makes me feel uplifted. Levi does not shield the reader but nor does he invite hate, cynicism or bitterness. He shows the appalling reality and still imparts a sense of simple wonder at what we can be.

The Emperor’s Babe, by Bernadine Evaristo

This is the story of Zuleika, a girl of Somali heritage in Roman London. The writing is beautiful, the story gripping and tragic, and the history true (we have always been a wonderfully diverse country.) I loved it.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, by Viv Albertine

I am a huge fan of The Slits - a bands that for me as a teenager, made sense of the world. This autobiography by guitarist Viv Albertine was fascinating, firstly for the light it shed on those early, wildly pioneering days that lead to such wonderful and original music. But also fascinating for the later section when, as a woman in her fifties, having shed her musical past so that it was almost a secret, she rediscovers the urge to play and sing. There is such beautiful courage in starting again, struggling, feeling hopeless but persisting. A really great read.

Life and Fate, by Vasily Grossman

Like Shakespeare, Grossman dissects the good and the bad, the complex messy in-between of humanity in this sprawling, wonderfully moving novel. I have always felt profoundly grateful for books that show us how we are, without flattery, the good and the bad. Written in the sixties, through the lives of ordinary Russians experiencing the siege of Leningrad, the concentration camps, and the ordinary appalling events of war, it is a damning critique of both Fascism and Communism. it was smuggled out of Russia in the seventies and published in the 1980s. A wonderful book that counters these atrocities by showing small acts of kindness, the gentle love of families, acts of bravery and courage. All of these tiny, individual gestures seem to offer a way to resist the barbarism of the system.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, by Dorthe Nors

I don’t know anything about this because I haven’t read it yet, but my life in books has to include all the wonderful books to come, and this one is next on my pile!

Lulu Allison has spent most of her life as a visual artist. She attended Central St Martin’s School of Art then spent a number of years travelling and living abroad. Amongst the bar-tending and cleaning jobs, highlights of these years include: in New Zealand, playing drums for King Loser and bass for Dimmer. In Germany, making spectacle hinges in a small factory and nearly designing the new Smurfs. In Amsterdam painting a landmark mural on a four storey squat. In Fiji and California, teaching scuba diving.
After a decade of wandering, she returned to the UK, where she had two children and focused on art. She completed a fine art MA and exhibited her lens-based work and site-specific installations in group and solo shows.
In 2013 what began as an art project took her into writing and she unexpectedly discovered what she should have been doing all along.
Twice the Speed of Dark is her first book. She is currently writing a second, called Wetlands.

Follow her on Twitter @LRAllison72 

Sunday 26 November 2017

CWA Anthology of Short Stories #MysteryTour from @OrendaBooks - My Life in Books with @Anna_Mazz

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer's Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour.

Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn't so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you'll never forget.

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories - Mystery Tour, edited by Martin Edwards was published by Orenda Books on 15 November 2017
I love short stories and this collection is superb. I read and reviewed it here on Random Things a few weeks ago.

As part of the Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome Anna Mazzola, one of the contributing authors, to Random Things today.
Anna is the author of The Unseeing, published by Tinder Press in January this year. She joins us to talk about the books that are special to her, and have inspired her, in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Anna Mazzola

My life has been defined by books. They have been my joy, my inspiration, and sometimes my refuge.

Here, in chronological order (starting with me as a 5 year old), are the ten books that have had the biggest impression on me.

 I was obsessed with this book as a small child – its eccentric cast and defiant heroine. I spent several weeks dressed as Alice, drinking from small bottles marked ‘Drink Me’ and generally driving my parents to distraction. It may have been where my fascination with caves, tunnels and secret passages began, and it’s part of the reason that my second novel, The Story Keeper, is about dark fairy tales and things underground.

I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was 6. It was the first time I realised how magical the experience of reading could be – something that took you into an entirely new, snow-covered world. I then read as much fantasy as I could get my tiny hands on (Diana Wynne Jones was another great favourite), but Narnia was my first love. My little sister was born that year and, funnily enough, her middle name is Lucy.

I’ve read a lot of 19th century novels and decided I could only pick one for this list. It had to be Jane: the woman who insists on being heard, despite being ‘poor, obscure, plain, and little.’ As a girl, I was horrified and gripped by the episode in the Lowood School. Maybe that was where I first learnt that in order for us to be drawn into a story, we must put our protagonist through terrible things.

I first read Lolita when I was about sixteen and remember thinking, ‘Oh, so this is what fiction can do’. Lolita is a tour de force of style and narrative. And it’s depraved. To make the reader not only persevere through, but to enjoy and marvel at such a terrible tale was a conservable achievement. First published in 1955, Lolita has lost none of its power to shock and awe.

Margaret Atwood is the writer who has had the biggest influence on me. Her writing is so astonishing and immaculate that I often find it difficult to write after reading her books. (Same with Mantel’s). It feels there is no point in even trying. Alias Grace – with its enigmatic heroine, its dark humour, and its clever patchwork structure – is my favourite. I first read it when I was in my 20s and I’ve read it 4 times since then, so it’s not very surprising, that my debut novel, The Unseeing, also happens to be about a real 19th century woman accused of a terrible crime.

‘Some things you forget. Other things you never do.’ Beloved was the first Toni Morrison book I read (while I was at university, studying English) and it’s the one that’s stayed with me the longest. A devastating retelling of a true story about slavery and obsession in 19th century Kentucky, Beloved is a horrifying masterpiece.

Du Maurier has been a significant influence, particularly in relation to my second novel, which is set on the Isle of Skye. I went back to her books recently because I wanted to capture that sense of foreboding and that idea of the house itself as a significant presence.

I’ve listed Rebecca, but I really can’t decide between Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Both are masterclasses in the art of storytelling. Du Maurier writes in a way that is both literary and accessible, and which leaves us with a sense of uncertainty and of things not being entirely resolved. I think that’s why, like Rebecca herself, they continue to haunt us after their ending.

I love all of Sarah Waters’ books, and The Little Stranger comes a close second, but Fingersmith remains my favourite, featuring a wonderful cast of villainous characters, brilliant use of 19th century slang (‘Pigeon, my arse!’) and the most marvellous twist.

It was the book that made me realise that this was what I wanted to write: literary crime fiction with a gripping plot.

I discovered Shirley Jackson fairly late, and quickly devoured everything she wrote. Deceptively simple, terribly effective. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is her final and best novel, but I also love her demented short stories. If you haven’t read her yet, you’re in for a real treat.

Such a clever, clever book. You are slowly drawn into the world of Scottish spinster Harriet Baxter and only gradually do you begin to realize what that world really is. I foist this book onto everyone, as it’s not just a guide to how to write an unreliable narrator; it’s also a lesson in how to read.

Anna lives in Camberwell, London, not far from where the murder at the heart of The Unseeing took place. The Unseeing is Anna's first novel. She is currently working on her second, which is about a collector of folk tales and fairy lore on the Isle of Skye who realises that girls are going missing.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She divides her time between writing, reading, lawyering, and child-wrangling. 

Social media links:

Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary @cass_oleary @rararesources #HeartNote

Love is like a fine perfume.  
The top note draws you in, an instant attraction, but the Heart Note is the true essence. Like true love – a great perfume should be a woman’s perfect match. At least, that’s what perfume counter manager, Lily Lucas, tells her customers in one of Australia’s largest department stores. It’s almost Christmas, the store is bedecked with baubles and Lily has about eleventy billion gifts to wrap and sell. She and her team of spritzer chicks are glamorous, professional and hoping they don’t have to wear the hideous red onesies and reindeer antlers the store manager has in mind. The high point of Lily’s work life is Christos Cyriakos, ex-cop, security guard, possible Greek god. He's a mystery box she’d love to unwrap. But can she trust him? All Lily wants for Christmas is to kiss Christos (and more), catch a band of thieves running amok in the store, and live happily ever after. Is that too much to wish for?

Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary was published on 6 November 2017, I'm happy to welcome Cassandra to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are important to her and have inspired her, in My Life In Books

My Life In Books - Cassandra O'Leary

Looking back on some of my favourite books from childhood and even later in life, a few stand out even though I haven’t re-read them for years. Some of them were simply fun, and some probably started to form my taste in books that I love even today.

I have eclectic tastes! From children’s books, science fiction, fantasy, chick lit and romance, I have favourites in so many genres. Even now when people suggest I should write the kind of books I like to read, I sigh because means I have to write everything…

The Little Engine That Could, Little Golden Books
I had a big collection of Little Golden Books as a small child and even some that you listened to on vinyl records (yes, I’m that old). Tinkerbell waved her little wand in an illustration and a tinkling bell sound signalled it was time to turn the page. I followed along with these books and I think they helped me learn to read.
The Little Engine That Could stands out as a book I wanted read to me over and over again. I loved the message about trying your best, working hard and eventually succeeding. I like to think it’s stuck with me.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I first read this book at about age 10 and I absolutely loved it. Laugh out loud funny language, silly sci fi jokes (for a kid who was already a Star Trek fan, this was gold) and exciting adventures through space. I particularly loved Arthur Dent, the Englishman searching the universe for tea, Marvin the depressed robot and Trillian, a brilliant astro-physicist. I’ve re-read this book every few years and it’s still one of my all-time favourites.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
Probably the first romance I ever read, aged about 12. The small town perfection, the feisty redhead, Anne, the imaginative girl who loved books and acting, who went off on flights of fancy when people kept telling her to be sensible. How could I not love it? And Gilbert…sigh. I had such a crush on him.

Dune, Frank Herbert
Simply an amazing work of fiction. My uncle recommended this book to me when I was a teenager, maybe seventeen. I read it and was completely immersed in the otherworldly politics, magic, superstition and royal history of a planet that doesn’t even exist. I should have been studying for exams, but no. I had to keep reading.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I found Jane Austen when I was at university and supposedly studying statistics and accounting subjects (are you sensing a theme here?) but I got swept away in the Regency era and was surprised at how funny the writing was. I have a Jane Austen collection that I’ve read over and over, and I’ve kept it for over 20 years.

Watermelon, Marian Keyes
I love Marian Keyes’ humour, Irish outlook on life and stories about a group of sisters in a large, complex and slightly dysfunctional family. Watermelon was the first ‘chick lit’ novel I read and it certainly wasn’t the last! I glommed all of Marian’s books and found many others I enjoyed such as Sophie Kinsella, Maggie Alderson and many more.

Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
The big chick lit book, and one I devoured in a day. And the others in the series. I adore Bridget’s voice in this book and the stream of consciousness style of writing. This book, more than any other, is the reason I wanted to write fun books. I have no problem with people reading purely for entertainment and relaxation. In fact, that’s what I want my readers to feel.

Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
I came to Harry Potter as an adult and I was intrigued because a few of my work colleagues at the time raved about the books. Well, I bought one when I was on holidays and read it in a couple of days, and was itching to read the whole series from the start. These books capture a sense of wonder that I adore in books, especially children’s books. I’m now reading the series to my two little boys (I do all the voices!) and they love them too.

Play, Kylie Scott
One of the first super-sexy romcoms I read, by an Australian author. This is one of the Stage Dive series of books about the members of a fictional rock band, but the lead character in this
book, Mal, is my absolute favourite. His one liners are probably too dirty to quote here, but they are hilarious. This character just jumps off the page and it’s one of the most memorable romance books I’ve read in the last few years.

**Winner of the We Heart New Talent contest, HarperCollins UK. Nominated for BEST NEW AUTHOR in the 2016 AusRom Today Reader's Choice Awards for excellence in Australian romance fiction.** 

Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things. 
In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. Her debut romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, was published in July 2016. 
Cassandra was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia. 

Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. 
If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous. You’ll find Cassandra online, drinking coffee and possibly buying shoes. Oh, yes. And writing.

Social Media Links Facebook – 
Twitter – @cass_oleary 
Pinterest – 
Instagram – 
Goodreads -
Cassandra_O_Leary Website –

Saturday 25 November 2017

The Man In The Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald @LindaMac1 #BlogTour #GuestPost #NeedlecordJacket

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne. 

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved. 

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue. 

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.

The Man In The Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald was published in May 2017. I'm thrilled to welcome the author here to Random Things today with a guest post that she's written:

It’s all about Them: The Narcissist and Relationships

All personality problems are likely to create difficulties in relationships, but what of the trait known as narcissism? If you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist the chances are you didn’t come out of it unscathed.

Identifying the Narcissist
“I could do that,” says the narcissist about most things. Narcissists lure the unsuspecting person into their world with their grandiose plans, their fantasies of success and their undoubted charisma. In the early stages of a relationship, they are able to create the belief that their wild schemes are possible. It’s only with time that the fantasies are exposed as nothing more than idle dreaming.
Narcissists are arrogant and consider themselves to be important and special. They always want to talk about themselves and require constant attention and admiration. Carly Simon’s song, “You’re so Vain” exemplifies the narcissist. It’s all about them and how wonderful they are.
They take advantage of people to get what they want and have unreasonable expectations. Consequently, they are good at dishing out criticism but can’t take it, becoming hostile if challenged. If you do something they don’t like, then you don’t understand them. If ever they tell stories of their own failure, it is always someone else’s fault. A lack of empathy is one of their most damaging traits. This means they don’t realise the hurt they cause to others. And a sense of entitlement makes them believe they should be able to do whatever they want regardless of how this affects the person they’re with.
Consequently, infidelity is likely. The narcissist adores conquest and also the boost to self-esteem of someone else finding them attractive.

Who are Narcissists?
Narcissism is believed to be a continuum where only at the extreme end of severe may a person be diagnosed as having a narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist may be very successful in the West where it is encouraged to display confidence and talk up achievements and they are frequently found in leadership roles. This, however, doesn’t necessarily make them good leaders. We only have to look around the world today to
find a few characters who appear to display an extreme level of narcissism and whose suitability for such a powerful role is questionable.
Approximately 1% of the general population is believed to have narcissistic personality disorder but it may be more than this. There are certainly many at the high end of the continuum who may have a serious negative impact on life and relationships. When I wrote The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, I deliberately chose a character who wouldn’t have been at the top end of the scale but who nonetheless displayed many of characteristics of narcissism and led a life of selfishness in his close relationships. I wanted to show how easy it is to become drawn to a narcissist type and also how an unsuspecting person may fall in love with one and find it difficult to let go.

Nature or Nurture?
While opinion generally highlights an environmental cause for narcissism, some heritability studies appear to indicate a genetic link too. But given that narcissistic parents are more likely to teach values and attitudes linked with narcissism, it is difficult to isolate the relative contribution of nature or nurture. There may be a predisposition towards narcissism and it is thought that a disturbed relationship with a parent may be the environmental trigger. Constant devaluing of the child is thought to be a possible contributor.
The environmental explanation for narcissism sits comfortably with the findings that more men than women are diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder. In many societies, women are taught to take a more selfless nurturing role and narcissistic attitudes are frowned upon. Conversely, in men, swagger and pushiness is tolerated – even applauded.

Dealing with Narcissism
Narcissism is an under-researched area in the field of personality disorders. Adults with tendencies towards narcissism are unlikely to seek treatment because they believe they are wonderful and it’s everyone else who is at fault rather than themselves. Only if someone significant leaves them might they realise they have a problem. While some report that narcissism may improve with age, more suggest the opposite, so hoping things will get better isn’t a very realistic strategy.
If you find yourself in a relationship with an extreme narcissist, experts believe there is little or no possibility of a happy, long-term relationship and the best advice is probably to cut and run before you become seriously involved. But if you are with a narcissist
displaying only some of the traits, there may be hope. Broadly, it is felt to be unhelpful to challenge the behaviour as this risks the unleashing of narcissistic rage. Also, withdrawing emotionally is detrimental to the relationship. One strategy with a high success rate is to try to explain in detail exactly how you feel when exposed to particular behaviours. If your partner can’t understand your pain, perhaps he or she never will, and then at least you will know where you stand. Understanding the condition gives power and becoming familiar with the wealth of available literature is strongly recommended.

Linda MacDonald - November 2017  

Linda MacDonald is the author of four novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket. All Linda's books are contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues. 

After studying psychology at Goldsmiths', Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. The first two novels took ten years in writing and publishing, using snatched moments in the evenings, weekends and holidays. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing. 

Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham in Kent.

Follow her on Twitter @LindaMac1