The Shape of Velvet; Guest Post.

A friend very dear to me, who I’ve worked with and become quite close to over the past two years, has used her (amazing and genius) creativity to share with the world her story and her life. I implore you, whoever you are, to read and share this blog. Talk about it with your friends, family, children and colleagues. This is a story heard too often and too often those who cause the scars and pain are able to walk away as if it never happened. And it has to stop.

Onwards and upwards 

Updated: 1 day ago

Is it me? What I’m I doing… sometimes I feel like saying “well that’s a wrap”, maybe I should just thank people for their support and move on, but there’s a bigger picture than that. I was naive in thinking it would come to an end. Firstly with how many people are affected by this and how far it goes back… and when someone has gotten away with this for so long they just keep getting more and more dangerous and smug. I’ve been unable to talk about some of my feelings for the last year or so as there has been a police investigation going on, I’m still unable to share parts however what I can shine a light on I will. The investigation is over, unfortunately this is due to lack of evidence… but obviously we have no evidence it was years ago and my mother is being let’s say less than helpful. It’s frustrating, it’s upsetting but it’s not surprising.

Firstly before I start let’s run over a few points, a bit of a recap because I know friends, foes and ‘neutral’ parties will be reading this and I think it’s good to get some things out of the way firstly before I spill my feelings out once again. I’m aware I’m acting out of emotion they probably want this, it’s what narcissistic people do, they work on making us look crazy… I play into their hands, yep I’m self aware of that, but I have my reasons and I’m using my voice and my outlet because I’m an adult and that’s my prerogative.

If you have read all my other blogs then you can probably skip this part… if you haven’t read The shape of my art then none of this will make sense.

  • Yeah I tried to rebuild a relationship with my mum. She was ill I was naive, I tried way to hard and I regret it, now people are using this against all the facts.
  • Abusive people don’t show their true colours to everyone. They can be kind and charming when they need to be.
  • Kids often don’t realise what’s abusive or not, growing up in a toxic environment is confusing on many levels.
  • It doesn’t matter when you speak up or how much time has past, the truth is the truth end of.
  • All these people are not lying, in fact many are still staying quiet.
  • Yes when I was trying to make amends with my mother I let my daughter start to build a relationship with her too, this fills me with guilt and i’m gutted that I did this but I’m still a good mum.
  • It doesn’t matter if it ‘hasn’t happened to you’ I’m telling you now chances are if you live in Brecon you know someone even a friend of a friend who is somehow connected to this…
  • The reason I kicked off back last year about this was a younger family member came to me concerned about a few factors and as an adult I couldn’t stay quiet but I can’t get the authorities to listen.
  • Trust me, if I knew how bad some of it was there is no way I would have continued to play happy families for so long! Even I’m sickened and shocked by it all.
  • I don’t give a fuck that my old neighbours have seen me playing nice and taking part in the family for a brief part in my life, this was literally a fleeting moment, trust me now what happens behind closed doors is always a different story to people like that, totally get that it might seem odd to people that for a few years I try to forgive and forget. I was trying to do what I thought was right… remember I grew up in a abusive household where I wasn’t in control and my feelings never came first, so pushing aside my needs for the sake of others is engrained in me, also unfortunately we were very well trained at acting happy.
  • The people who read this, if you don’t believe me or the others ok, that’s up to you but If anything comes from this at all please, please, PLEASE let it be that you give this blog the benefit of the doubt and you stop anyone you know with a young daughter from going around that house or meeting up with him, being friends with him on social media. That is literally all that I ask, and that anyone who thinks they can help by sharing this blog does so, you don’t have to explain any of your experiences if you don’t want to, but by sharing we can spread some awareness but also show our support for each other and hopefully protect someone.
  • I got caught up in the romantic idea of having a ‘normal’ family and got carried away with having a mum while dismissing all my negative feelings that were damaging my mental health and having an effect on my judgment.
  • Why would any of us lie? What have we got to gain? I still have to walk around this town, think about that.
  • If someone came to you with disturbing information and you yourself had past experiences that were connected what would you do? Don’t begin to judge me if you have never been in my situation.
  • Some younger family members are saying i’m lying, I don’t blame them at all for any of their parts, they are children and they have a right to do what they feel is best. I want no negativity towards them at all.

Great, now that’s out the way… I don’t usually want loads of people reading my blogs, 30-40 views to me is always a comfortable number, however this one I want to be noticed more I guess. So again I’m asking if you can share please do.

My counsellor asked me again what I got from my blog. She asked what I wanted to achieve from sharing them. That question has been on my mind the last few days. It’s tricky, I’m still not sure, I think I want justice, I think I want awareness, I think I want to be heard, or I just need to do them perhaps. This one has been a long time coming well over a year in fact. I’ve been writing bits of this blog as I’ve been going through the police process, it also coincided with a stressful pregnancy and complicated birth (which is now done and Lunar is thriving). It’s been wild and life’s had ups and downs but as I’ve learnt over the past year or so story’s get told and life moves on. The phrase “it is what it is” is one I find myself using a lot in conversations. So here are a few of my diary entries for the last year that i’ve edited to make this blog-

The Blog

It was early hours of the morning, an unknown number was ringing me, that’s never good is it?!? It was the police, my life had always been hectic so the police ringing between the hours of 2am-5am wasn’t all that much of a shock unfortunately. My brother had almost died by suicide, I could hear him crying while the police spoke to me. Processing that kind of phone call is tricky, triggering and will really ruin a nights sleep.

The next day after he was released from the hospital I sat in a jail cell with him, he was confused and hurt, we were both exhausted. His mental health was extremely worrying, my anger growing. Why was I so angry? I was angry because I was sitting in a cell with my brother, I was thinking he doesn’t belong here. He belongs somewhere, but it’s not here… it was a battle, phone calls, police, I was almost begging for him to be sectioned to give me time to think of a more permanent solution, to get him help. I knew that the state he was in he would harm himself given the chance. I wasn’t going to let that happen, he is my family. I received a text from a number I’ve never had saved in my phone. It was from my mother, she was as cold as ever, “don’t let him home with you, he needs help”. There was no, ‘tell him I love him’, there was no ‘I want to help you, this is what we are going to do’, or no ‘what can I do to help’ … nothing, it reminded me how I used to feel as a child when she would do nothing when we needed her.

When she got ill I put aside all my hate, all my anger, all my frustrations and so much more. Because I thought that’s what I should do, she had cancer and I wanted to be a good person. After receiving that cold, inpersonal text from her it became apparent that she was still the same unloving, unsupportive cold person who’s first priority would always be herself.

I felt like I was going to pass out, I’d been at the police station for hours finally I’d got my brother into a unit where firstly he could detox in a safe environment and his mental health could be assessed while myself and other family members tried to get him into a rehab. I got home and had a shower where I cried. I took some deep breaths as the water washed away the day.

Some of my family members and myself spent the next few weeks sorting out a rehab while my brother waited for us to help. We love him, so we helped him, because that’s what family are meant to do! The NHS unfortunately don’t offer much help, and it’s all very tricky.

It was after this I decided enough was enough, we needed to open up about our childhood. It’s been difficult, from police interviews, to emails, to meetings and phone calls it’s all exhausting. I’ve unfortunately had police interviews before as a teenager, I’m open about this because I can admit my own wrong doings and can see that I was in no ways an easy adolescent. However I never deserved to get treated the way I did in my own home, the same with my siblings.

The police investigation was in many ways positive, my interview was filmed, it was sensitive, dignified and safe. That side of the process came with exhausting challenges however also relief in being believed. I wish I could share more details. I didn’t go to work the day after my interview because I was just so tired and I was throwing up. I was also pregnant at the time, I’ve been very open with my management and work colleagues through this process, which has been helpful on many levels. I also understand that this isn’t always the case for some people so I’m grateful for my support system.

I had a counselling session and I remember thinking after, “fuck do I have PTSD”… I grew up to afraid to sleep some nights and I have long lasting effects from those experiences. (FYI I also know some of my problems are down to my nerodivergent traits I believe i’ve mentioned that before in some past blogs). Counselling has helped me become much more self aware, it’s expensive though!

I used to live right across from my mother, that was tricky there was a time when I wouldn’t talk to her at all so living across from her was awkward! Then she started to creep back into my life and her illness got to my empathetic side. I regret this, I always see post on social media like “don’t hold grudges, you will regret not speaking to family members when they are gone” and all that blah, blah. This is toxic and a harmful message to push on people. So now I take my pills, I do my counselling, I create art and write to help regulate my emotions and intrusive thoughts… while they walk around calling me all sorts and get a sympathetic ear from people who don’t ask too many questions. But that’s fine, we all get freedom of speech right…

We live in a world where the people who come forward are more likely to get a backlash for speaking the truth than the perpetrators who committed the crimes are! It’s easier to pass off the truth as “causing a fuss”… we get told “be a voice, speak out” but then we get told to “be careful what information you share”. It’s frustrating too because you can tell that the police generally believe you when it comes to historical investigations, but they did make it very clear from the start “they are almost impossible to prove” I get it, but do I think they did enough? It’s tricky. It’s a difficult job, I get it, they were actually lovely at some points, the communication wasn’t amazing, but it’s clear to see that it’s the system that doesn’t do enough. We live in a world built up by angry men, for angry men to live in. And I know many people will disagree with that view, but think about… really think, imagine how hard it is to be in a scenario where you have to go up against someone who has constantly got away with disgusting misogynist behaviour in a world with a system run by misogynistic men. Fuck it’s frustrating, there are so many hoops I feel like a show pony from all the jumping!

When I posted my blog (The shape of my art) it got shared and commented as to be expected I guess, what wasn’t to be expected was the volume of messages and comments from people who had very creepy and dangerous experiences. I’m so glad I decided to write and share that blog! Yes there were times I thought maybe I’ve overshared, even though I held back. It’s a tricky one for sure right, how much is too much? How much isn’t enough? Why can’t we all just say what happened and be believed! I’m angry, but I’m also oddly at peace with some aspects of the last year, I feel more supported. When I got messages and I heard that people I knew and people I didn’t know had started talking about their experience because of the blog it was both as if a weight had been lifted because I knew people believed me but It was also triggering and distressing because I’m good at putting myself into how someone feels so my empathy became a little hard to navigate.

Some of the stories I was being told really got to me, I mean how can someone get away with all of that! Why is no one doing anything! And not just him, ALL MEN yes I said it, come at me. Firstly I know not all men are bad. Obviously but they have each other’s backs right?…Or they stay silent, FYI disapproving from a distance but keeping quiet isn’t helpful it’s harmful. We all need to speak up more, and trust me I get it I’ve been there we are the ones who get labelled as “difficult” or “starting trouble”. It’s funny right when men get caught out it’s always “oh she’s attention seeking” it’s like their ‘go to’.

It needs to be talked about more so lets say a ‘man’ hypothetically speaking (wink if you know you know right…) in a position of trust perhaps he’s a taxi driver, cadet volunteer, bouncer, personal trainer, fire fighter, or even an paramedic but he uses these roles to get away with harassing behaviour and goes for many years undetected. Then imagine it get’s even worse, he uses these jobs to make himself seam more and more trustworthy, safe, friendly, then he manages to get peoples personal details, such as addresses and phone numbers… hypothetically speaking…*winks again* sigh. This isn’t working, it’s hunting and young women and girls are the prey, how do you stop this?

So what’s a historical investigation? Again I can’t give all the information I’d like from my experiences, however talking on a much wider level anything that happened to someone as a child that is reported when they become an adult or after an amount of time has past is ‘historical’ and difficult to prove without, evidence, witnesses, physical evidence or photos etc. so yeah, it’s basically jumping through hoops hoping for some kind of miracle, and it takes years in some cases and unfortunately more than often gets dragged out so long that providing proof is difficult so a survivors feel as if their life’s are put on hold for so long they end up dropping the case. However, all crimes need to be reported when possible, big, small, historical or recent when something is logged at least it’s on file and can be used in connection with something one day if needed. I’m really not trying to put anyone off from seeking justice, or talk anyone into something they don’t want to do, I just want to be open about my feelings.

I found out the case had been dropped via a phone call, my heart sank when an unknown number rang me, it’s funny how you just know when bad news is coming isn’t it. I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the leading officer, again I can’t disclose too much information. She apologised for not being able to get us Justice, I thanked her for her time, and like that the phone call was over like the investigation. I lay my head on my bed and cried, thinking to myself ‘it’s all been for nothing’. I gave myself a little time, shortly after that my phone rang reminding me I had a meeting with some wedding clients. I had to snap out of my disappointment and carry on with my day, because in these situations that’s what we must do. We have no choice, it’s not fair and it’s hard, but such is life.

It’s gross and part of me would I love to share more details but that’s also unfair on others and that’s not me. Admittedly I wish more people would speak out more openly, speak, whisper, shout however you need to get your words out they matter, they are important, they will help others, invite people into your conversations, knowledge is power and we need to take our power back.

Ive grown from this, it hasn’t made me less of a person, it’s made me better, stronger, more empathetic, mindful, I know now that I have people…

Take a read at the blog that kicked it all off and if you feel you can help in any way please do. This is all true, in fact it’s not even the worst I could have written more, I could have got darker, this may seem like a rant however it’s the chaos I’ve lived. The shape of my art

It’s not a wrap though, let’s get that straight. Thank you everyone for your support and sticking with us.

My Art

So I also like to put some art into my blogs… after the case was dropped I decided to do some long exposures. Part of me wanted to lose my cool, to pick something and throw it, to scream loud and release my anger. BUT, that isn’t me now, I’m not that person. So instead I did a controlled long exposure of how I felt, this is all done in camera, I used a ring light. I basically just moved around really slowly with my shutter open, it was very therapeutic!

These are also long exposure, I really sympathise with anyone who has tried to get justice or awareness and has failed to do so, it’s tricky, it makes us feels small, but it’s when we feel small and lost that we can also become powerful, because that’s when we can find like minded people…

We had a night away last week, we stayed in a lovely B&B and visited the beach, we have two young children so of course there were a few stressful moments however in all it was a successful little family trip, it had laughter, love and a few tears but we all made some lovely memories. I took a 10 minutes walk along the beach on my own to take some photos, I stood in the sea and remembered the person I was a a few years ago, how far I’ve come and how far i still have to go, I felt happiness wash over me as the sea rushed to my feet. Sometimes life can seam very black and white, good vs bad, right vs wrong… however it’s much more complex than that isn’t it?

I did these images last week before I knew the case was getting dropped, I was feeling a little off about life I guess and wanted to do something meaningful. these images represent coping mechanisms but also ambition for change. I had also just got out of the shower and wasn’t dressed yet, like other blogs I often use my skin as a tool in my art work. I hate how our bodies have been over sexualised in not only the media but also our artwork, I love the simplicity of skin without clothing in images however when we do this our images get classified as ‘nudes’. I didn’t use any flash lighting just high ISO in camera. I really like the slightly grainy look and moodiness to them.

I did these images a while ago, I was pregnant at the time and the investigation was in full swing, I was having some really full on nightmares and hormonal. I guess I reopened some doors that were stressing me out! I really like these images though, I’ve already shared them before in an older blog however they are definitely relative to this one!

Velvet’s blog can be found here

The Forgotten Girl~Daco S.Auffenorde

She lost her memory. Now she might lose her life. A beautiful woman wakes in a hospital bed, t confused. She’s been in a coma for weeks. And can only remember her first name—Blue. Blue learns she fell from a window on the fourth floor of a hotel. Did she jump? Or was she pushed? To discover the truth, Blue must figure out who she is and what she was doing in that hotel. And she needs to do it fast. Because someone is out there, hunting Blue down, waiting for an opportunity to strike. Not knowing where to turn or who to trust, Blue must rely on her instincts to survive. Gradually, her memories begin to return, and they’re darker than she could ever have imagined. Will she put the pieces of her life back together before she’s silenced forever?

The premise of The Forgotten Girl really lured me in, despite the book being quite a large read with a lot of pages. However I did find it longer than it needed to be by about 100-150 pages and I was highly wary of the characters Lorraine and DeLuca, and something t about the way Blue suddenly had this amazing friend willing to support her just didn’t sit right at all. Plus the fact Blue was overly happy to share her memory loss with people she would certainly not have known prior to her fall seemed like a gamble to me. 

I did like Blue’s mother and her farm hands, however the book wasn’t sitting right in my brain, and I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been in a massive reading slump this year with some time consuming personal and family issues or if it just didn’t have that spark for me.

On the whole it was a great idea, punctually perfect and use of descriptions bought it all to life and I applaud Auffendore for a genius idea but I hope for future books she keeps them slightly shorter and a little more enticing. The plot twist was good but just not quite at the top of the game in my opinion.

Author Bio

Daco S. Auffenorde is an award-winning author of thriller and suspense stories. She’s discussed her books in multiple interviews, including Bob Kustra’s National Public Radio show Reader’s Corner and George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema. The daughter of a physicist, Daco is a southern girl from Huntsville, Alabama (known as Rocket City for its role in building the rocket that took astronauts into space), who pens fast-paced, edge-of-your seat tales that keep the reader guessing.

Daco holds a B.A. and M.A.S. from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Alabama Writers’ Forum, Authors Guild, and Alabama State Bar. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys long hikes, painting with watercolors, and hacking away at golf balls.

The Forgotten Girl is her first psychological thriller with Inkubator Books.

A Stranger in the House~Shari Lapena

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind. There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town. The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good. Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

A Stranger in the House isn’t the first of Lapena’s books I’ve read (the first being The Couple Next Door-which I highly recommend!) and I really did enjoy it! Lapena has earned herself the Queen of The One-Sit Read and it’s not hard to see why; the way she writes is pure gold and the plot twists are so insane-yet-believable that it just keeps you enthralled even past the final page!

Karen and Tom are written so well; I wanted to dislike them but actually for a really long time I loved this couple! Brigid always came across as that nosey neighbour we all try to avoid and who loves to hear the sound of their own voice-and as the plot progresses she becomes a really nasty piece of work; granted still not entirely sure if it’s down to her wanting something she can’t have and manipulating the situation to get it or if she’s just been pushed over the edge by her obsession-quite probably both now I continue to think about. Karen was just fantastic! Without giving away the major plot twist, I was left craving more and hoping for a sequel!

If A Stranger in the House we’re ever to be made in to a TV adaptation, I would expect more of a follow up at the end, but I think it would make for easy viewing as there’s no complicated time hops or character changes and the plot twist was intense but without being confusing-like some plot twists can be, and I didn’t have to read that chapter twice to grasp it either. A perfect ending for a reader who likes loose ends tied up but also likes a bit of a “well I know the drama that’s coming next! Get popcorn!” moment.

I highly recommend Lapena’s books all round-despite having only read half of the available titles to date, the characters are written in such a way that you can relate to them somehow on a certain level or relate to a circumstance that surrounds them. Lapena writes so that you always try to find a level of empathy and then likes to rip the carpet out from under you with the most satisfying and delicious dog-leg turn that’s so sharp you end up coming around the corner and bumping in to your own back!

Author Bio.

Prior to being an incredible novelist, Shari Lapena was a Canadian born lawyer then English teacher. Her first novel Things Go Flying was published in 2008 and she isn’t looked back since and gone on to produce a torrent of incredible thriller novels including The Couple Next Door, An Unwanted Guest, Someone We Know and The End Of Her. The latest title of Lapena’s is Not A Happy Family and is available to buy now.

The Lake Templeton~H.S Burnley

When the body of Sharon Reese, a dedicated government employee, washes up on the shores of Lake Templeton, a small town on the coast of Vancouver Island, Private Investigator, Fati Rizvi, is determined to find out why. Everyone liked her, but no one knew much about her. Was she hiding something? Maybe a questionable past riddled with scandal. And did it lead to her plunge to death, in a drunken stupor, off the dock outside her secluded lakefront lodge? Was it an accident? A suicide? Or cold-blooded murder? With so many questions and secrets than run deeper than anyone could have imagined, it’s up to Fati to figure out how Sharon’s murder is connected to a cult escape, corrupt politics, a failing business and a multi-million dollar project before another body is discovered.

This is a first novel from Burnley and what really got me hooked was the fact that our heroine went against her Muslim family’s wished and joined Vancouver Police Force and then went on to become a Private Investigator after discovering the red tape stopped her doing her job to her own high standards. And she’s also in her mid 30’s and unmarried-even in modern times it’s still not a very common occurrence among her community. Which made me really like her so much more! Who doesn’t love a rebellious daughter who literally kicks butt and saves the day?!

The characters are well portrayed and solidly written, the plot is good, the twists are right there under your nose but you just don’t think about them until they’re right in front of you-what more could any crime thriller reader want from a brand new writer? I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Admittedly It took me a lot longer than anticipated to read this book, and I found my Kindle seem d to have formatted it weirdly (it was sent to me to read for this review so I’m not sure if it’s an error on my end or not) and despite a lot of difficult personal circumstances that I’ve been my sole focus lately, I still found myself drawn to reading it despite feeling like I just didn’t have the energy to do much else.

Keep an eye out for Burnley over the next few years. I think this is one to watch.

Author Biography.

HS Burney writes fast-moving, action-packed mysteries set against the backdrop of majestic mountains and crystalline ocean in West Coast Canada. She loves creating characters that keep you on your toes. A corporate executive by day and a novelist by night, HS Burney received her Bachelors’ in Creative Writing from Lafayette College. A proud Canadian immigrant, she takes her readers into worlds populated by diverse characters with unique cultural backgrounds. When not writing, she is out hiking, waiting for the next story idea to strike, and pull her into a new world.

Author Interview with Gill Merton

Gill Merton is the non de plume of five writers based around Edinburgh and the Lothians: Simon Bramwell, Coreen Connell, Sheila Corrigan, Anne Hamilton and Elizabeth Nallon. I was given the amazing opportunity to take part in an author Q&A with the group after the release of their first collaborative novel Entitled as part of the blog tour via ZooLoo’s Book Tours.

1. First things first; how did you come up with the name of Gill Merton? There are five of you so how did you settle on this name? Strangely, this was probably the easiest decision of all! Our writing group meets at the GilmertonCommunity Centre, in Edinburgh, so by democratic vote Gil became Gill and we had our name. It was that or an acronym of our initials, and that doesn’t have the same ring to it.

 

2. The book is adapted from a short story by Sheila Corrigan, whose idea was it to elaborate on the characters and themes already in situ and how did you work out who was writing what? It was one of those off-the-cuff remarks from a previous member of the group that started the whole project. Sheila’s story came from a (now long-forgotten) writing prompt, and the reaction was, ‘That could be a novel’. At the time, we weren’t thinking that big, but we did decide to expand the story – a novel-in-flash, perhaps. There was only loose planning: each week we had a chat (a lot of chat!) about plot, shared out characters and scenes – and then we wrote. We expected duplication and contradiction and confusion, as the story was evolving all the time, but the aim was to get some words down. Then we could chat some more, and edit, edit, edit. It was much later on we realised we had a potential novel.

 

3. The book flows so well, even the narrative from other characters, that it’s really hard to sense a shift or change in writing style- was that tricky to navigate with five authors? You couldn’t get five more different writers (or people!) so yes, it was a bit like mixing Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Scottish and sushi into one recipe and producing a not only edible but tempting plate of food. For us, the bonus was having been together as a group for a number of years and having already produced an anthology and a collaborative audio play. We’ve learned the hard, hard lesson of not getting too attached to ‘our’ characters or scenes, and being willing to ‘kill our darlings’ for the good of the bigger picture. Mutual respect, a lot of laughs and only seeing each other once a week – less through lockdown – helped. One of our members, Anne, is also our tutor, so she took on some of the initial development editing to maintain one voice, and having chapters narrated by different characters gave us the best of both worlds.

 

4. Not having read the original short by Corrigan, how vastly does Entitled differ from its early roots? Sheila’s original was a few hundred words long – flash fiction at its best. Sally and Malcolm were there from the start, along with the traumatic events that bind them, and subsequently lead Sally to do what she does. The rest? All that came later, ideas flying in from everywhere. The Scottish island setting and the little twist at the end of the story evolved as we wrote.

 

5. Will you be collaborating on novels again in the future as a group or pairs or will you be writing solo for the most part? Entitled has been three years, at least, in the making. It’s publication is funded by a National Lottery community grant. Could we do it again? We’ve done it once – something we never dreamed of at the start – so why not? The same goes for writing a sequel, because the novel’s ending is (as in all good stories!) is also a beginning. But would we? The lifeblood of the group is that we’re always trying new things, challenging ourselves, but mostly as individual writers supported by each other. So it’s back to our own projects for now – but let it be noted, we’re quite happy to try our hand at a screen adaptation, especially if it’s on location and we can all have cameo roles!

 

6. I imagine each of you will have a secret favourite character and a character you love to hate-who are they and why? Elizabeth says, ‘I love Sandy, he’s a practical, down to earth man, not one to stand on ceremony or who attempts to impress. He surrounds himself with those who matter most to him and their lives are all the better for knowing Sandy. His turn of phrase reminds me of older people and their conversations, when I was growing up.’ Coreen adds, ‘Aunt Maud reminds me of my Granny – I aways thought she had her own secret or two and she always kept mine. Like Maud, Granny survived the war, and her husband was her one true love. I would love to live Miss Maud’s life on the island!’ The most flawed characters have to be Malcolm and Martha, and their breathtakingly self-centred lives, which made them a guilty pleasure to write. Thecomic relief, then, comes in the form of Sergeant McLeish and Alisdair, a pair with whom Simon (his sci-fi and fantasy skills stoically put aside to write Entitled!) would have a wee cheeky dram and put the world to rights. Elizabeth sums it up: ‘The story involving the doctors is a cold one – the life on the island is a warm and colourful one.’ We all secretly want to live on Inniscuillin.

 

7. This will be one that I’m sure crops up frequently, but are any of the characters based on traits you have all come across in people in the past? The characters are as real as people we know by now – as is Inniscuillin, which is a totally fictional island. Sally is an enigma for all of us: we know why she does what she does; we might empathise – but is she justified? (Now there’s a reading group discussion!) None of them are based on real people – even if they once were, having five authors writing them would certainly change them beyond recognition. But Sheila’s first creations were pure fiction then, and we’ve just taken their traits and their flaws – and run with them.

8. How did you find working on the geographical locations? You’re all Scotland based so it’s not hard to imagine the terrain, but it’s a vast part of the country with differing locales and backdrops-did this help build up a location profile or was it awkward to navigate and get everyone’s vision down on paper to create the scenes?The story starts in England: Sally is from Yorkshire, has her life turned upside down in London, and ends up in Cambridge. From there, it’s a slow and revealing journey to Inniscuillin. The island is so integral to Entitled now, it’s strange to think it was something of a later addition. For a while, France, then Portugal featured, but international travel – for all kinds of plot-related reasons – was too complex. What we needed was somewhere remote, and since we are Scotland-based, where better than the Highlands and Islands? In the 1970s, links to the mainland were far fewer than they are now, and that suited the story perfectly. Naming Inniscuillin (and then spelling it consistently!) and pinpointing it geographically was a highly entertaining puzzle. Life on the island itself, we based on our own collective experiences, and literally made up as we went along. The trickiest thing of all was getting the book cover right: a rugged coastline, figures on the beach and a hint of the Big House – brought to life by our designer, Marta Lis – and then made into the dream of a real book of our own, by Claire Morley of myepublishbook.com

Entitled~Gill Merton

In 1971, Nan Douglas and her toddler twins arrive on the remote island of Inniscuiilin, long-lost family of the eccentric Miss Campbell. For fifteen years they all live quietly up at the Big House, until the twins start planning their future – forcing Nan to confront their past…. Because someone, somewhere believes that the twins aren’t twins. That they’re not even Nan’s children. And that Nan isn’t Nan. Only Nan herself can prove them wrong – but it’s a gamble. Win or lose, she’s still at risk of losing her beloved family.

This is the second book I’ve read since I found myself in a major reading-slump in February (there’s a lot of things going on in my life and usually reading is an escape, but it’s just too much to be distracted from sadly) and it was the best read to bring me back to it! I was HOOKED after the third page! Literally even text my better half to say I wasn’t going to be able to put it down! I think he was pleased but also surprised by this given how slow I was to read my last book!

I LOVED how were first introduced to the character who would become Nan as a young girl, who was goi g to be one of less than half a dozen women going in to medical school, I liked how we were witness to the change in dynamic of her life and a totally new set of surroundings for this country-lass, watching how she grew and went on to fall in love only to be deeply and painfully betrayed. I was at one point wondering when Nan would come in to things, but as chapters went by and we were shown how Malcom’s life changed and how Sally’s did, it soon dawned on me that Nan was created through Malcom’s roguish and God-complex like behaviour.

There were a few plot twists band the best really was saved for last-I was part gob-smacked but also partly unsurprised, but I’ll keep the details to myself because unless you have read the book it would be a total pity to give it away!

The way book ended was a really good cliff-hanger and was very satisfying to read! I was slightly heart broken that one of the children followed with their fathers personality but so pleased the other did not-something that I’m sure would deeper explored if there were to be a sequel (which I truly hope there will be!£.

I highly recommend Entitled! I cannot rate it enough!

Author Biography.

Gill Merton is the non de plume of five writers based around Edinburgh and the Lothians: Simon Bramwell Coreen Connell Sheila Corrigan Anne Hamilton Elizabeth Nallon. Entitled is their first collaborative novel, adapted from an original short story by Sheila Corrigan, and was made possible by funding from The National Lottery Awards For All. Earlier publications include: The Writing Group: an original stage/radio play (First recorded 2017) A Way With Words: an anthology of prose and poetry (Pilrig Press, 2015)

The Promise~Emily Shiner

If you break the promise, you pay the price.

Scott will do anything to protect his wife, Erin. That’s why he secretly installs a tracking app on her phone and watches her through hidden cameras in their home.

When he learns there’s a chance one of Erin’s kidneys will fail, he vows to shield her from the truth and find a donor for her at any cost.

That’s how he meets Kathleen. She is the answer to his dreams, a perfect match for Erin. There’s only one problem – Kathleen has no intention of becoming a donor. That doesn’t bother Scott – he is confident he can manipulate her into giving him what he wants.

But Kathleen isn’t as innocent as she looks, she has her own agenda. And she doesn’t care who she hurts as long as she gets what she needs.

As lives hang in the balance, Erin and Kathleen are bound together by a terrible promise. But when that promise is broken, who will pay the ultimate price?

Zoë over at ZooLoo’s Book Tours has done it again! She sent me a book with an amazing write up and I started reading it thinking “yeah……..not for me…..” BUT then I got to this point where I was sucked in and literally couldn’t put it down!

The book is written from the point of view of three main characters- Erin the over-trusting and naive house wife, Scott the controlling and manipulative criminal defence lawyer husband and Katherine the one whose really unwell and is convinced her daughter is going to have the exact same fate as her so poisons her daughter to make her believe she’s as unwell as her mother.

Sounds complicated BUT actually the narrative is well written and there’s definitive changes when the chapters are focusing on other characters-not something all books manage to pull off as smoothly as this. Well done Shiner.

A few select times I was a little confused however it seems the character who was seemingly in control of the entire orchestration of the plan was also hit with confusion toward the end so I didn’t feel like I was the only one having a brain-fart-moment! And everything was made very clear a dozen or so pages later. The ending was a major cliff hanger and I can see that there is plenty to work with for a sequel focusing solely on the daughters of the main characters in the future. Something is actually be interested in reading, which doesn’t happen all that often of late.

All In all a very good read with very few confusing or uninteresting moments, so I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a rollercoaster ride!

Author Bio

Emily Shiner always dreamed of becoming an author but first served her time as a banker and a teacher. After a lifetime of devouring stacks of thrillers, she decided to try her hand at writing them herself. Now she gets to live out her dream of writing novels and sharing her stories with people around the world. She lives in the Appalachian Mountains and loves hiking with her husband, daughter, and their two dogs. Emily writes psychological thrillers. The Secret Wife will be her first novel published with Inkubator Books.

The Midnight Library~Matt Haig

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

Wow, wow and WOW! I DEVOURED this book in four days and cannot rate it highly enough! I bought a copy of this incredible book from a local independent book shop in September of 2021 with every intention of reading it right away, but as per usual life got in the way and it’s only now I managed to pick it up! And I’m so glad I had it waiting for me!

The Midnight Library is unlike any other book I’ve read! The concept is brilliant and I think it’s a book that everyone needs to read at some point in their lives! We follow Nora on what seems to be the worst possible day of her life, and we see her make an almost successful attempt to bring her root life to an end (a term that will make sense as you read further in to the book), however Nora finds herself in the oddest building with her old high school librarian (whom she had a close bond with) going through her very own Book of Regrets and choosing various lives to live, and each time being bought back to the library when Nora realises it’s not the life she truly and deeply wants (or needs). Nora attempts hundreds of differing lives and scenarios and by the end has pretty much seen and done it all. But each life teachers her something valuable even if she doesn’t realise it at first or what it is.

About three quarters of the way through the book I was really hoping for Nora to have a life with Ash, the man who knocked on her door after discovering her cat (spoiler alert-the cat wasn’t alive but it isn’t always sad, I promise!) and I could see a real emerging pattern with Dan, the man she originally ditched before their wedding.

I don’t want to give too much away but I was so happy with the ending and it was such a brilliantly written novel and really humbling and I feel like it taught me a valuable lesson-and at the right time too!

I have Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet on my shelf and those are the two books I’m going to be picking up next! My mind is totally blown!

About the Author

Matt Haig is a British writer known for both fiction and non fiction works. His book A Boy Called Christmas was adapted for screen in 2021

Here For You~Nora Valters

A fresh start… or a living hell?

Jess’s life is back on track again: the messy divorce, bitter inheritance feud, and terrifying home invasion are well and truly behind her. After two years abroad, she is excited for a new beginning in a sleepy English seaside town where nobody knows her. So when Jess is attacked in the street, she thinks it’s rotten luck – her troubles are firmly in the past, after all. But, as more creepy things start to happen, she becomes convinced she’s being targeted. As the frightening events escalate, Jess is certain someone she thought she’d left behind has finally caught up with her – and they want revenge. But who? And just how far will they go to push her over the edge and into oblivion?

I have one major point I’d like to raise first before going on to my review; there is a fair amount of talk regarding domestic abuse, rape and miscarriages throughout this book, and the main theme which comes to light as the story progresses is gaslighting. I feel that this book, and all books of this nature, really need to come with a warning because I very nearly didn’t continue reading because of this and it really caught me unawares and made me feel quite triggered and distressed reading it.

But now that I have that off my chest, I can loudly and roundly say I read 95% of this book in one day! The characters at first irked me though, because frankly I’ve been “the newbie” in a town and workplace and I’ve never become that close and trusting with anyone the way Jess does in Here For You. So I felt that character and plot development moved way too fast to be realistic, however when reading the end I can plainly see why it was written in this way.

I really felt for the character of Jess, never ever liked Kevin and thought he was really odd and uncomfortable in his own skin and a pretty two dimensional character. Alex seemed a bit pushy at times but again this becomes clear as to why at the end. Tim on the other hand I had hoped was a real leaf-turner of a character but sadly not.

The ending was really happy though and I’m glad that Jess and Noah managed to stay together, although I’m not sure that’s something that would be allowed to happen in real life, but this is a work of fiction after all and a warm fuzzy ending was much needed.

If I had to rate this book out of 10, I’d give it a firm 7 and that’s purely because I feel the hook needed to come with a warning and that slightly more of a lead up was needed to Jess and Alex’s friendship.

I’d like to thank ZooLoo’s Book Tours for giving me a space on this blog tour and for arranging a digital copy of the book for me.

About the Author

Nora Valters grew up in the New Forest in the south of England and has lived in London, Manchester, Bournemouth, Oxford and Dubai.

She studied English Literature and Language at Oxford Brookes University before embarking on a career in marketing and copywriting. Her debut psychological thriller, Her Biggest Fan, was published in October 2020. Her second novel, Now You Know, came out in June 2021. She’s currently writing her third, which will be out soon. Nora loves to travel and has journeyed around the world. She enjoys exploring new places, painting, hiking, and is an avid reader. She’s also a bit obsessed with dogs. Nora writes psychological thrillers. Here For You will be her second novel published with Inkubator Books.

The Cat Who Saved Books~Sosuke Natsukawa

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse. After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone . . .

Second book of 2022 complete and it’s only the second week of January!

Where do I start with The Cat Who Saved Books? A few months back while hitting a popular online bookshop for some much needed retail therapy, I came across this title and thought to myself that it would be a lovely read; I like cats and I like books so clearly would be a good choice. I read the blurb and figured if it’s an adult book with a talking tabby cat as a character, then that’s a book I seriously need in my life! And I’m wasn’t disappointed in the slightest!

Standing at 217 pages it’s a small book but there are plenty of sentences and paragraphs which have a massive impact on the reader and the characters are whimsical but so very strong in personality!

I adore how Tiger the talking tabby cat pops up one day in Rintaro’s hour of need (in my view Rintaro doesn’t know it’s his hour of need but as I got toward the end of the book it hit me that he really needed help from the cat rather than the cat needing help from him) and really brings Rantaro in to his own skin, so to speak, and takes him on this fantastical adventure that only someone with a life long love for books could possibly feel the true meaning of.

For me, this was the perfect short read to break up my habit of crime thrillers and I can’t rave about it enough! I’d give it a full on 10/10 and whenever I picked it up to read and Tiger came along, I heard Eddie Izzard’s voice in my head for the whole of his narrative! because it’s a translated book there’s use of Japanese words and culture throughout the translation giving it a truly original and cultural feel.

Sosuke Natsukawa is a doctor in Nagano, Japan. His first book Kamisama No Karute (‘God’s Medical Records’) won the Shogakukan Fiction Prize and received second prize at the Japan Bookseller Awards. It sold over 1.5 million copies and was adapted into a film in Japan.