Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Non-Fiction – Creative Solutions for the Modern Writer by Harmony Kent

Congratulations to Harmony Kent on the publication of Creative Solutions for the  Modern Writer…Inspirational tools to fire your imagination.

About the book

Creative Solutions for the Modern Writer is the perfect gift for the writer in your life.

Do you want to be an author? Are you struggling to find inspiration? Do you ever find it difficult to put words on the page? Or are you simply looking for novel ideas? If so, then this book is for you.

This little guide will help you unlock your story ideas and fire your imagination. The text covers things such as writing from various prompts, to using Chess, Tarot, and even nursing Triage (and much more) for developing your characters, story, and plot.

From the award-winning author of Polish Your Prose: Essential Self-Editing Tips for Authors—an excellent companion text—Creative Solutions focuses on the creative side of writing rather than the technical.

This book gives you the tools you need to make writing fun, as well as tips and techniques on creating characters and stories that will stay with you and your readers forever.

Crammed with easy-to understand examples, this guide is for writers of every genre—both fiction and non-fiction, literary, and commercial. But most of all, it’s about having fun and making friends with your muse.

An early review for the book

While not necessary, you really should read Ms. Kent’s dystopian novel, Fallout first. It’s not required, but it would help you understand when she outlines her method of preparing to write a story. (BTW, I did read and enjoy, ‘Fallout.’)

While I am a 15% planner/85% ‘pantser’ writer, I’ve seen a lot of methods of setting up a novel outline. Ms. Kent gives the reader several different approaches for those who ‘think differently’ than others do. In high school and college, I took several various chemistry courses, but still had a problem understanding the Periodic Table of Elements. In my fifth chemistry course, an instructor said something that opened my eyes, and suddenly the chart made perfect sense.

In a ‘how-to’ book to plan a novel, I never thought I read about ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,’ a month-long topic in one of my psychology courses being used to explain plot development. Interesting concept!

At the end of this story, Ms. Kent lists many useful tools and how to get them. If you are a beginning author, those tools alone are worth the money for the book.

While I’ll never be a ‘planner,’ I will put some of these concepts to use. I’ve always started with a premise, a basic idea of where I was going, and an ending. All I had to do, then was to use my premise and work my way to my conclusion. It’s worked for me. Harmony’s information will influence my next novel. Thank you!

Head over and buy the book:

And Amazon US:

A selection of other books by Harmony Kent.

Read the reviews and buy the books:

And on Amazon US:

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About Harmony Kent

After spending around thirteen years as an ordained Buddhist monk, living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and six years after a life-changing injury following a surgical error, Harmony Kent returned to the world at the tender age of forty.

Now, she is famous for her laughter, and has made quite the name for herself … she’s also, um, a writer … and fairly well known for that too. She’s even won a few awards. Harmony lives in rural Cornwall with her ever-present sense of humour, adorable husband, and quirky neighbours.

Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.

Connect to Harmony

Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could spread the news about Harmony’s new book.. thanks Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update #Reviews – Teagan Riordain Geneviene, Balroop Singh, Bette A. Stevens and Julia Benally

Early reviews are in for Teagan Riordain Geneviene’s and her latest release, A Ghost in the Kitchen – Three Ingredients book 2

About the book

A Ghost in the Kitchen, Three Ingredients-2 continues the flapper adventures of Paisley Idelle Peabody, aka Pip. It’s a 1920s “pantser” story and a culinary mystery. This time Pip’s pal Andy (from The Three Things Serial Story) returns. Granny Phanny is there too. She’s still trying to teach Pip to cook. Granny is in a lather because of the supernatural goings-on in her kitchen. There’s also one pos-i-lutely potent poltergeist! New adventures abound as Pip and Andy unravel an old mystery. It’s all spontaneously driven by “ingredients” sent by readers of the blog, Teagan’s Books. Jump into the jalopy and enjoy the ride. There’s no telling where we’ll go, but it will be the cat’s pajamas!

One of the early reviews for the book

I never cease to be amazed by this author’s ability to create stories from suggested ingredients supplied by her blog readers and fans, as she has also done for the other books in this Roaring Twenties series.

Each chapter states the three ingredients to be used within it (and highlights them in bold when they are mentioned).

Considering that each chapter not only includes these ingredients, but must follow the book storyline, the sheer talent and skill involved is impressive.
I thoroughly enjoyed this latest Pip tale.

Head over and buy the book:

and on Amazon UK:

Also by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

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and Amazon UK:

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The next review today is for Balroop Singh and her recently released poetry collection Moments We Love

About the collection

Moments of fragrant love that stand frozen in time, of dreams that dare not unfold, of passion that fleets by, of erratic joy that we meet at the crossroads of life, butterflies of time that add color to our dark moments to scare the demons away – I have gathered all of them in this book. Some of them whisper softly to create a magical aura while spring of life sings with them, trying to wipe silent tears. Mother Nature steps in with all her grandeur to breath quiet messages of tranquility.

Each poem would soothe your emotions with élan and add a dash of color to your life. Life – that doesn’t halt for your sad moments; that just floats by. You just need to dive in to soak in myriads of moments to discover how it could ignite positive tones. All the poems in this collection are imaginary but inspired from people around me, some of whom chose to share their frustrations and tremors with me. Sometimes I could read between the lines to pen my thoughts down.

Memories and moments merge here
Today when I return to share
The glow of rainbows
Embers of emotional entreaties
And smoldering debris.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

I loved Balroop Singh’s poetry collection, Moments We Love. The author’s writing covers a range of themes, from hope, to melancholy, beauty, change, and the power of nature. Metonymy is used throughout with an array of symbols reflecting a deeper commentary on this world we inhabit. I am a lover of nature in all its splendour and decay, and was therefore moved by the references to birds, animals, and natural cycles of earth.

One of my favourite poems in the collection is “My Mother”. With powerful lines such as “who could digest rudeness” and “who could rise from the abyss of grief” made me connect with this poet as I too have such a mother, and strive to be such an example of strength and nurturing myself. Regular rhetorical questions left me questioning and turning inward – a perfect technique to make a reader attach personal meaning to the poetry. 5 stars for crafting words that show how well the author has lived.

Read the reviews and buy the collection:

and on Amazon UK:

Also by Balroop Singh

Read the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon UK:

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Connect to Balroop via her blog:

The next author with a recent review is Bette A. Stevens for her poetry collection My Maine.

About My Maine

Inspired by The Pine Tree State—Maine’s diverse landscape, natural beauty, rural communities, and independent people—the author’s 150 haiku poems, along with her photographs, reflect the Maine she knows and loves. Bette A. Stevens’s imagery draws the reader into her world of wonder and delight. My Maine takes readers on a poetic journey through Maine’s four seasons. Whether you’re a native Mainer or from away, Stevens’s short story poems and photographs will resonate.

The collection opens with a haiku tribute, “Maine Pines and People.” The journey continues with the rejuvenating spirit of “Spring Awakenings” and “Summer Songs”; then on to more of the magic and majesty of the places and people of Maine in “Autumn Leaves” and “Winter Tales.” This is a poetry collection to be slowly savored, made even more delectable with the author’s original drawings and photographs. In addition to its poems and photographs, My Maine includes state symbols and interesting facts about The Pine Tree State.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Cathleen Townsend 5.0 out of 5 stars A quality read September 30, 2019

Bette A. Sevens is a real Renaissance woman when it comes to writing–she does it all. Children’s fiction and nonfiction with her charming story of Matilda the Monarch butterfly as well as her Tanagram puzzle book, historical fiction with Pure Trash and Dog Bone Soup, and now she’s turned her attention to further developing her skills in the demanding area of poetry.

Every word always counts, no matter the genre, but it seems that in poetry each one needs to work extra hard. Ms. Stevens has chosen the haiku form to paint her ephemeral pictures of mood and fleeting imagery, and she has clearly practiced her craft to come up with these gems. And even though I’ve never been to Maine, I feel I’ve been privileged to see it through Bette’s eyes. She obviously loves her home in a profound way.

My favorite haiku in the collection is titled simply “Autumn Leaves,” and it contains this exquisite passage:

“Radiant rustling leaves
Sketched among the trees
Foretell the story

Splashed across woodlands
Blazing brush transforms the world
Into a canvas”

This is a quality read, one where you’ll wish to savor every word.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Also by Bette A. Stevens

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon UK:

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The final author with a recent review is Julia Benally for Pariahs (Ilinga Book I)

About Pariahs (Ilings Book 1)

In a land of monsters and soulless creatures, there is a secluded compound terrorized by a fallen demon-killer, the Grand Apwor. He’s claimed its youngest occupant Vijeren as his son. The Grand Apwor can’t be killed, he can’t be escaped, and his punishments are severe and horrific. Somehow, he knows where Vijeren is at all times. When a law enforcer named Zhin appears like a living flame, a family war that’s been sizzling for decades finally ignites. It drags Vijeren in, revealing secrets of a long-forgotten past and a family torn asunder in recesses of lost memories. Only Zhin knows how to kill the Grand Apwor, but the answer rests on the love between a father and son–something that Vijeren doesn’t have…

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

Aug 27, 2019 Kathryn Blade rated it Four Stars

Julia Benally’s Pariahs is a neatly crafted fantasy that exhibits an inherent skill with world building and character creation. It snatched me up the second I started reading. I give the book four out of five stars.

The story details a family war ignited when a law enforcer named Zhin appears on the horizon after Vijeren is claimed by a demon-killer as its son. The adventures in Pariahs are richly detailed. I fell in love with the characters within the first few chapters. The interactions and adventures of the youngsters was reminiscent of some of the adolescent adventures in Stand By Me. The fight scenes are detailed and action packed. New creatures are richly detailed and are an exciting part of this world.

This isn’t a casual read. It takes some concentration on the part of the reader to stay with the story. If you’re able to do this, however, it is well worth the effort invested in the story.

As usual, I won’t reveal spoilers. If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, consider giving Pariahs a read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

Julia is also a contributor to a number of anthologies.

Read the reviews and buy the books:

and on Amazon UK:

Read the reviews and follow Julia on Goodreads:

Connect to Julia via her blog:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you are leaving with some books under your arm… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – The Bahamas, Chocolate, Flash Dance, Guests and Laughter.

Welcome to the weekly round up of posts that you might have missed here on Smorgasbord.

There are a few things going on around this neck of the woods in the coming weeks, including a bit of break from routine for me as I head off to dog and house sit for my sister whilst she takes on the Bay of Biscay in November on a cruise!

I will make sure the regulars are posted and there is plenty to read on the days that I am traveling. I intend to do some work on writing projects when I am away, but the good news is that the current WIP is now moving into the formatting phase and I hope to have it available by early December. It is a bit of a departure from my usual short story collections as I also include verse and flash fiction. I will let you know more about it nearer the time.

This year’s Christmas promotion

I am also plotting this year’s Christmas book promotions and I will be sharing a post in the next week or so about the International Christmas Book Fair which will including some guest posts on writing from some of the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore, offering additional separate promotional opportunities.

In the bookstore there are authors from all around the world and I want to make sure that every author is promoted. You won’t need to do a thing.. although it would be great if you would share the posts. Look out for news of this promotional feature in the last week of October with a start date of mid-November.

My thanks as always to the wonderful regular contributors and guest writers who share their work with us here. And also to you for your constant support for the blog.

Time to get on with this week’s posts….

The Travel Column this month with D.G. Kaye, is in response to the tourist board of the Bahamas request for visitors to resume their holidays on the Islands, recently devastated by the recent hurricane. Tourism is the main source of income for the Islands and without it reconstruction will be severely hampered.

We are coming to the end of the re-run of Jessica Norrie’s Literary Column from last year, with one more to come at the end of November with some great gift recommendations.. In the meantime, Jessica who was reaching a milestone birthday at the end of last year, shared books that were released in the year of her birth.. It is an interesting exercise to check which bestsellers were released at the same time as you were! The link is in the post.

Robbie Cheadle rounds off her popular series on the York Chocolate Story with the conversion of the factory to make munitions and the production of high energy sweets for life rafts.

This week my guest is Deborah Jay, with an extract from The Prince’s Man – Book One of the the Five Kingdoms Series..

If you are offered the opportunity to do a podcast or radio interview then grab it.. but also do your preparation to make sure you are getting the right message across to encourage readers to buy your book.

My book review for Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg. 

I recommend that if you are unfamiliar with why and how the young men and women of our armies are involved in this conflict, that you read Silent Heroes. It is a way to honour their service, that of their canine brothers-in-arms, and the bravery of the Afghanistan population, trying to exist in a country torn apart by devastating conflict.

Chapter Seventeen and the Opening Weekend of Killbilly Hotel has is moments…including a dead body in the lounge!

Most guests are appreciative of old world charm.. but others not so much….drastic measures required..

This week for Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 148 Colleen Chesebro has given us the prompt words ‘Empty and Space and I have selected the synonyms ‘Hollow and Distance‘  A butterfly cinquain– Rejection.

In Linda Thompson’s third post, she explores the phenomenon that is the mystery of the missing sock.. it is rampant in our household too and I suspect from all the mentions online that it is now an epidemic…

This is the final post of Melanie Stewart who blogs at Leaving the Door Open: A Daughter’s stories about an aging parent. This week When The Money Runs Out

This is the final  post from Peter Mohan who blogs at Cheers, Govanhill as his alter ego .. Boy David.  Why Govanhill is just like the south of France

a deckchair pictured below the M74 motorway extension in Govanhill

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the reproductive system. Karen Ingalls is an ovarian cancer survivor and therefore supremely qualified to write this article.. The post carries an important message about understanding how our bodies work and how we should be on the alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary. 



The Obesity epidemic – Part Four– Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle – 7 – 14 –  School Lunches This week I am going to cover, what I consider the best time to intervene in the obesity epidemic, to achieve the most effective results.

New Books on the Shelves

Author Update #Reviews

A chance to showcase some fantastic posts from fellow bloggers.

Thank you again for dropping in to visit and hope you will join me again next week for more of the same.  Sally

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Sunday Interview – Deborah Jay with an extract from The Prince’s Man – Book One of The Five Kingdoms Series

Please welcome my guest today, author Deborah Jay who will also be sharing an excerpt from The Prince’s Man which is Book One in The Five Kingdoms Series which is also on offer at 99p/99c this weekend.

Firstly a brief introduction to Deborah…

Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time.

Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.

THE PRINCE’S MAN (#1 The Five Kingdoms), winner of a UK Arts Council award, and an Amazon Top 100 Hot New Release, is her debut novel. Book #2 THE PRINCE’S SON and book #3 THE PRINCE’S PROTEGEE are also now available.

Urban fantasy, DESPRITE MEASURES, is the first in a projected 5 book CALEDONIAN SPRITE SERIES, and a stand alone short story SPRITE NIGHT is now available.

Deborah has also published a multi-author SFF anthology THE WORLD AND THE STARS, which includes her SF story, PERFECT FIT.

She also has non-fiction equestrian titles published under the name Debby Lush.

Welcome Deborah and perhaps you could tell us what  is the genre, or genres that your books fit best into, and please tell us about the genre, and how you see it evolving in coming years? For example the growth in Fantasy and the success of Romance.

I write Fantasy fiction – a genre bursting with an ever-growing number of sub-genres.
My Five Kingdoms series is Epic Fantasy, but can also fit into Sword and Sorcery and Low Fantasy categories. Epic is a genre that is little changed over the years at a fundamental level, although it has spawned a popular new sub-category in recent years – GrimDark, for readers whose taste stretches to more gritty violence and depressing (in my opinion) outcomes.

The notorious ‘Game of Thrones’ fits comfortably into Epic, and I think although the basic premise of Epic (sprawling narratives over extensive time and reach, with multiple characters and huge stakes) will remain unchanged, this more brutal and uncompromising presentation will continue to grow. It isn’t a direction I plan on moving, but clearly there is a big market for such work.

My Caledonian Sprite series is contemporary, and nominally Urban Fantasy, though with much of the action taking place in the countryside, rather than a city, that’s a bit of a stretch.
The current big thing in UF is Academy series – young magic wielders at school. Harry Potter undoubtedly had a hand in starting this trend, but like Epic, even young readers may go for more darkness in their reads, with species such as vampires often central to these stories.

Identifying these trends (thanks to Sally’s question prompting some thought on the matter), I’m not sure I’m quite comfortable with the direction of my genre. Thank goodness there is still a massive readership for the more traditional fantasy, because I have no intention of following the latest fashion.

Are your books indie or mainstream published and please tell us about your publishing process and the pitfalls you may have encountered?

I am what is known as a hybrid author – I have both traditionally and self-published books. My trad pub work is non-fiction (horse training), which, if you are knowledgeable on your subject and can spot a hole in the market, is easier to sell than fiction. It helped that I had a track record of published magazine articles.

My first novels were written long before self-publishing (other than vanity publishing – for the most part an expensive and fruitless venture) was an option, and I was delighted to gain an agent at first attempt. However, the books didn’t sell, encouraging though the comments were from the Big Six publishers (as they were in those days). When I discovered self-publishing, I embraced the idea as I was certain my books would have an audience, even if they weren’t what publishers were looking for at the time – and I was right. My debut novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN, shot into the Amazon Hot 100 New releases category and sold like hot cakes for the first few months.

After that, I employed what I’d learned from my traditional published venture – if you want to sell books, you have to market them yourself. No one else is going to do the job for you, unless you are one of the really, really big names.

What would be your advice for an aspiring author before they put pen to paper?

Read widely – good books, bad books, different genres – and be prepared to experiment. Then before you decide what to write yourself, think hard about what makes you feel passionate.

First, pick a genre. This may not be as simple as it sounds, as you also need to have a clear idea of why you are writing: what your goals are. If you want the chance at big money, you will need to write in a popular genre. That, of course, has its own challenges, due to stiff competition.

If you are more interested in the experience alone, by all means, write whatever you want, but realise that niche genres are small for a reason, with limited reader interest, and tough to market.

The one thing I would advise against, is inventing a new genre. Sounds like a cool idea, but where will you find readers? If you don’t know who will read your work, you won’t know where to find them.

Second, analyse the books you’ve read – what made you fall in love with one, and discard another. The mechanics of writing can be learned (there are plenty of books and courses out there), but knowing at a gut level what inspired or enthralled you is equally, if not more important, and you need that passion to come over in your work.

Where did the inspiration for your featured book come from?

I really love films and TV series, and the protagonist of THE PRINCE’S MAN, Rustam Chalice, (Rusty to his friends), is based on James Bond. I adore the spy genre, but found it incredibly frustrating that Mr Bond was never allowed to develop as a person, or change his lifestyle, so I decided to do it for him!

Unlike the quintessential spy, I steered Rusty to develop from a shallow womaniser, albeit one devoted to his kingdom’s safety, into a character of far deeper morals, who questions not only his own way of life and his blind obedience to his master, the prince, but the validity of his magic-fearing society.

Building my world was great fun, and I made the decision early on that the inhabitants were to be refugees from another continent, so they are evolving their culture and learning about the land as they go along, which enables me to bring in new aspects whenever I want. I did, however, develop strict rules for my three magic systems before I set up the story, as these are integral to the whole scenario – characters, society, and plot. If pushed to say what inspired these, I would say my fascination with the psychology of ‘damaged’ individuals, and how their behaviours might be expressed if they had magic at their fingertips.

Do you belong to a writing group and if so, what benefits do you feel it offers an author?

I have belonged to the same writers’ group for 30 years, and I’m not sure what I will do without them once I move away, which is becoming increasingly imminent.

As a group, the majority of us are published in one form or another, so, with the exception of newer recruits, we are producing professional level work, and we are both experienced and skilled at critiquing, and also at receiving criticism! As we all know we will be on the receiving end at times as well as doling out our own views and opinions, we have become adept at highlighting issues without destroying confidence.

My group point out weaknesses or inconsistencies in plot before it develops too far, meaning less backtracking in the editing stage. They also pick up on those habits we all have – words or phrases we use so often we become blind to them – and they spot proofing errors. My group has around six to nine members, and between them we cover a wide range of professions, which also helps as almost every question will find an answer.

If you can locate such a group, they are worth their weight in gold (I would be instantly pulled up for using such a cliché). The danger in groups is when you have members who think they are better than the others, rather than everyone working to help each other. If you find one of those, don’t hesitate to walk away. One of the best things about being a writer is that we aren’t in competition with each other – the more people we can enthuse to read, the bigger the market becomes for all of us.

Now time to find out more about Deborah’s books including her The Prince’s Man – Book One in The Five Kingdoms Series with is on offer at 99p/99c this weekend.

About The Prince’s Man

Think ‘James Bond meets Lord of the Rings’

Rustam Chalice, dance tutor, gigolo and spy, loves his life just the way it is. So when the kingdom he serves is threatened from within, he leaps into action. Only trouble is, the spy master, Prince Hal, teams him up with an untouchable aristocratic assassin who despises him.

And to make matters worse, she’s the most beautiful woman in the Five Kingdoms.

Plunged into a desperate journey over the mountains, the mismatched pair struggle to survive deadly wildlife, the machinations of a spiteful god – and each other.

They must also keep alive a sickly elf they need as a political pawn. But when the elf reveals that Rustam has magic of his own, he is forced to question his identity, his sanity and worst, his loyalty to his prince.

For in Tyr-en, all magic users are put to death.

Award winning novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN is a sweeping tale of spies and deadly politics, inter-species mistrust and magic phobia, with an underlying thread of romance.

An extract from The Prince’s Man

Rustam laid the elf in the shade beneath an ancient spreading oak. His breathing was audible now, but that was no more reassuring. Now it rasped and bubbled like a drowning fisherman, and when Rustam touched his face, the skin burned.

He looked around for Risada and found her kneeling by the stream, scooping water in her cupped hands. She had removed the net and hat, and her pale golden hair tumbled down her back, kinked into waves by its confinement. Rustam’s eyes fixed for a moment on the graceful arch of her throat.

He shook himself. “My Lady?” he called softly, aware that she was still furious with him.

She glanced up, frowned, and then rose to her feet. “Yes?”

Rustam pointed at the supine elf.

“What do you expect me to do about it?” she inquired icily.

Rustam shrugged. “I don’t know. I just thought you might have some idea; he’s hot as a baker’s oven.”

“What did you expect? He has very little chance of surviving this journey.” The sunlight faded from the clearing and Risada glanced up at the clouds beginning to amass overhead.

“Especially if winter decides to break early.”

She knelt down beside the elf and touched his flushed cheek and forehead. “He has a fever—”

“That’s what I said!”

“If you will let me finish? In my saddle-bags you will find a small twist of blue paper. No, the other side. Yes, that’s it. Bring it over here with a canteen.”

From the paper she took two pinches of powder and mixed them with a small amount of water in the canteen cup.

“Hold his mouth open.”

Slowly Risada dribbled the potion into the elf’s mouth, holding his jaw closed when he choked and gagged. Then, satisfied that he had swallowed enough, she rinsed the cup and stood up. “That should reduce the fever, always supposing he responds like a human. It’s all I can do; I’m not an apothecary.”

Rustam tightened the horses’ girths while Risada filled the canteens. They had just remounted when thundering hooves pounded down the slope behind them and three riders burst into the clearing.

On the edge of his vision Rustam saw Risada drop the bay mare’s reins, draw her dagger and raise a blowpipe to her lips in one fluid set of movements, while he struggled awkwardly to free his sword from the saddle scabbard beneath his left thigh.

Nightstalker pranced eagerly, destroying the tiny moment of concentration he needed to snap his mind into high speed. The unconscious elf bounced in front of him, blocking his view. He cursed and curbed the mare sharply. She half reared in protest.

The glint of a blade sliced towards him. Rustam threw himself sideways just as Nightstalker squealed and lashed out with her hind feet. Already off balance, Rustam slithered from the saddle pulling the elf with him, and they crashed heavily to the ground.

Hooves rose and fell finger distance from his face, trying to trample him, and they might have succeeded had his beloved black mare not lunged at the attacker’s brown gelding with her teeth bared.

Rustam rolled away, finally managed to shift his time sense, regained his feet and darted in beside Nightstalker. He dragged his sword free with a satisfying rasp of metal on leather. The soldier, dressed in Melcard’s maroon livery, guided his frightened gelding around the angry mare, and with a curdling battle cry attacked Rustam. His sword arced downward and Rustam ducked, twisted around as the horse passed him, and sliced upward. A severed arm thudded to the ground at his feet.

Uttering a hysterical shriek, the soldier dropped his reins, and his horse lurched to a confused halt. The man sat frozen in shock, gazing without comprehension at his bleeding stump. Rustam sprinted forward, swerved around the spurting jet of bright blood—no point soiling yet another shirt—caught hold of his victim’s sword-belt and dragged him from his saddle. One quick dagger thrust ended the man’s worry.

Rustam turned to see Risada not faring so well. The blowpipe was nearly useless against fast moving armoured targets, and her dagger was too short to menace their swords. She was still mounted, but one rider was circling to get behind her.

Rustam vaulted into his saddle. Nightstalker grunted an objection at his rude arrival but bounded obediently forward. One soldier’s back was towards him; the other saw him coming and cried out. The nearer one began to turn, pirouetting his horse on its haunches, but Rustam’s charge brought him quickly within range and although the man managed to raise his sword awkwardly to parry Rustam’s first blow, it flew from his grasp and the backswing sliced through his neck.

Turning to confront the last of their attackers, Rustam found only an empty saddle. The man lay spread-eagled on the grass, a tiny yellow feather adhering to his exposed throat.

Risada was already off her horse, kneeling beside the sprawled tangle of limbs that was the elf. As Rustam jumped down from Nightstalker’s back to join her, she rose gracefully to her feet.

“Somehow I don’t think falling on top of him has helped his chances of survival.”

A recent review for The Prince’s Man

D. W. Peach 5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written September 24, 2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining and skillfully-written fantasy novel. I was particularly taken with the tight narrative, not a wasted scene or conversation, every word counting as the story unfolded. This contributed to a quick pace and complimented the well-considered plot that comes together with a satisfying ending. Though the first in a series, The Prince’s Man can also be read as a stand-alone.

All that good stuff, and then there’s more… the characters are fabulous, deeply flawed and sympathetic at the same time. The relationship between Rustam and Risada takes center stage. There are hints of a romantic attraction but the reader is saved from moon eyes and heaving chests by a very real tension based on past experiences, current loyalties, and objectives. Despite being allies, there’s a lot of loathing going on here. I love that.

Elves, trolls, and were-cats throw the story into the classic fantasy genre and are integral to the plot and underlying theme of the book. The political machinations are realistic enough to be recognizable today. Prejudices, bigotry, genocide, and beliefs in cultural superiority are alive and well in her world-building. The characters are forced to revisit their worldviews, but just like in real life, they will only open their eyes so wide. And Jay doesn’t hold back on the brutality.

I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series and seeing what happens to the two main characters as well as a host of others who intrigued me no end. Recommended for anyone who loves a good fantasy.

Read all the reviews and buy the book 99c today:

and Amazon UK 99p:

A selection of other books by Deborah Jay

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Deborah on Goodreads:

Connect to Deborah Jay


My thanks to Deborah for joining me today and if you have any questions then please leave them in the comments section below.

Thanks for dropping in.. Sally.

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Eighteen – Some guests and their Foibles by Sally Cronin

This was my first novel written in 2001 and is loosely based on my various jobs. It is however the story of Imogen and her bounce back after her divorce and so is a mainly a work of fiction!

Previously Imogen is surprised by the initiative shown by two of her staff at the opening weekend party, but has to draw the line somewhere….

Chapter Eighteen – Some guests and their Foibles

A number of guests stand out in my memories of the two seasons that I stayed at Killbilly. We had many Americans staying with us, generally for one or two nights, during their tours of the West Country. They loved the faded charm of the hotel and took copious pictures of the high ceilinged rooms and the delightful grounds. And I have to say that everyone was a pleasure to serve as they were charming, polite and grateful for the old style service that we offered, even if it was delivered with an Australian accent. However, one particular American couple  were clearly used to a slightly different level of accommodation. Air conditioning, ice in the rooms and twenty-four-hour food service.

They were looking for something to criticise right from the moment they walked through the large wooden doors and into the reception area. They had probably had a miserable journey on a hot day in a car too small, with no air conditioning, and had no doubt got lost several times. That however was no excuse for the way they spoke to the receptionist when they arrived and so I decided to step in and ease them upstairs to their room. Michael took their bags, all ten of them, and I led the way to the guest elevator.

I have to say that they were both rather large, and it was a very tight squeeze for the three of us in the small lift. We were all a little hot and bothered by the time we arrived at their room and I stood aside as first the man and then the woman entered. It was one of our larger rooms with two double beds and a lovely view over the front garden. It was a very warm day and the window was open to allow a gentle breeze to waft through the room.

‘Oh my god, Elmer look at the bugs, there’s bugs in the room, I can’t stay here.’

Startled, I desperately tried to find these bugs that Madam was referring to. By the open window, I caught a quick glimpse of a couple of mayflies that had drifted in from the garden.

‘It’s okay, those are just little mayflies, they are completely harmless.’ I tried to reassure the hysterical woman.

Elmer glared at me.

‘Where’s the screens for the windows, get them fitted immediately.’

Screens? I can only assume that he was referring to mosquito netting, which would have been totally redundant in the depths of the Cornish countryside. I apologised, and explained that we did not get much call for them even in the height of summer. Elmer crossed to the window and slammed it shut, rattling the glass. He returned to his distraught wife and elbowed her out into the hall.

‘Get us a room without bugs! Otherwise, we will be leaving immediately.’

Tempting though this thought was, I felt I should make some effort to accommodate our two disgruntled guests, as they were booked for three nights and we really could not afford to lose the revenue.

‘Please wait here while I check to see if we have another superior room available, I won’t be long.’

With that I dashed downstairs to the reception area and checked our reservations. We were fully booked from tomorrow for several days, but by moving some guests around, I managed to free up another room for three nights.

I shot back up the stairs and showed the bristling couple into a room on the other side of the hotel. Luckily, because this one was not being used until the next day, the chambermaid had not opened the window, and as far as I could tell, without the aid of a microscope, it was relatively bug free. I was sorely tempted to mention mites that were probably infesting the room in their millions, but held my tongue. Thankfully, Elmer and his lovely bride deemed this room just about acceptable and I went in search of Michael and the luggage.

That evening, as was my practice, I stood at the entrance of the dining room and showed the guests to their designated table for the duration of their stay. During the meal I would circulate through the dining room, making sure that everything was in order and assisting the waiting staff if things got a little backed-up.

I had returned to the door, having just shown a particularly lovely couple to their table and happened to glance up the wide flight of stairs that led to the first floor rooms. I caught my breath! Coming down the stairs were Elmer and Mrs. Elmer. The two of them, side by side, completely filled the stairway. However, this was not what grabbed my immediate attention. It was rather the attire that they had chosen for the evening. They must have read a book on country house etiquette and dress code and had gone all out to comply with ‘regulations’. He was wearing full evening dress with a bright scarlet cummerbund and matching bow tie.

Compared to his lovely wife he was relatively subdued. She was wearing a full length taffeta evening dress in bright green, it had a wide flowing skirt that accentuated the width of her generous hips and had a very low cleavage that showed an ample bosom bedecked with every single piece of jewellery she owned.

The sight was breathtaking and I tried hard to keep a professional smile on my face as they glided towards me. Up close, I was almost blinded by the sparkling gems, including a tiara that perched precariously on top of her pink-blonde bouffant hairstyle. Behind me, in the dining room, were about forty people who were wearing smart casual clothing and who were going to be totally unprepared for the sight of their dinner companions. I had managed to restrain myself but could not guarantee the reaction of the assembled diners, or for that matter the Australian waiting staff.

I smiled and bade them good evening. They swept imperiously past me and entered the dining room. I managed to steer them across the room towards their table by the window. Of course, it had to be the table furthest from the door.

As we manoeuvred our way across the floor, all sound ceased. I could feel forty pairs of eyes tracking our progress, and prayed that there would be no snigger, or gasp, from the crowd.

My two guests however, took this silence as astounded appreciation of their turnout and actually turned to tables on their way to the window and gave little regal waves. I thought the room was going to explode any minute and desperately tried to seat Mr. and Mrs. Elmer and quickly as possible. I hurriedly put their menus in front of them and backed away as if in the presence of royalty.

The room let out a collective sigh and conversation resumed, although in hushed tones and whispers. I saw that many guests were smothering hysteria with a great deal of British backbone and thanked goodness that the Australians had held themselves in check. As I looked around, I realised that this was because there was not one member of the Australian waiting staff in the dining room. I went through to the kitchen, and the chef gestured with his knife towards the back door into the garden. There I found eight members of the down-under contingent in convulsions. Their laughter was infectious but I felt I ought to remind them that they had to get back to work and continue serving our dinner guests. I made them promise to behave themselves when serving Elmer and his wife and decided that perhaps one of the local girls would be a more reliable waitress. That settled we went about the evening’s business.

After eating their way through six instead of four courses, the couple squeezed into the lift and disappeared up to their room. I wondered what other outfits the ten pieces of luggage might hold. I was beginning to have serious doubts as to whether I would be able to keep a lid on things for two more nights.

I need not have worried. The next morning, Elmer ordered breakfast in their room. We normally only served a full cooked breakfast in the dining room, but Elmer insisted that they wanted the whole works delivered in ten minutes and we could keep that continental rubbish.

Anything for a quiet life!

Eventually, around midday, the couple appeared downstairs, ordered a packed lunch and disappeared in their car for an excursion. The chambermaid managed to get into their room and when I saw her half an hour later, she commented on how disgustingly the room had been left. I sympathised and said it was only for a couple of more days and returned to the office.

The excursion seemed to last only as long as it took to eat the packed lunch and then they were back. They went up to the room and within seconds the phone on my desk rang.

‘There’s bugs in the room again girlie. Whoever cleaned this room has left the window open. And another thing.’ He paused for breath and I wondered what was coming next.

‘My wife has a head cold and your maid put her toothbrush in the same glass as mine and I’m going to catch her germs. I want a rebate on the room rate.’

So, there we have it. Crunch time. Now, I firmly believe that the customer is always right, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. I knew that whatever we did in the next three days it would never be good enough for this demanding and unreasonable couple. Assuring Elmer that I would be upstairs within a few minutes with a solution to his problem, I replaced the receiver and got out my address book.

We had an ongoing rivalry with a hotel about five miles away. Patrick had taken me there for dinner shortly after my arrival to show me what the competition was like. An ex catering-corps major, who always referred to himself by rank, ran the hotel and I have never been in such a pretentious establishment in all my life. The staff were clearly terrified and we heard them being roared at, in the distance, as we ate a fairly mediocre but incredibly expensive meal.

Patrick confided that, for several years, Major Scott had been in the habit of ridiculing Killbilly and the way that both Patrick’s parents, and then he, had run the hotel. He was particularly scathing about the Australian staff and the relaxed way the establishment was run. It was time for pay-back and it was with this in mind that I rang the number of the Major’s hotel and got through to reception.

‘Good afternoon, this is Killbilly hotel here, I wonder if you could help us?’ There was a stunned silence on the other end.

‘Uh, yes, certainly, what can we do for you?’ I could sense a certain amount of suspicion in the hesitant voice on the end of the phone.

‘We are fully booked and we have an extremely wealthy American couple who require a superior room for the next two nights. Do you have one available at all?’ I could here rustling in the background and whispered conversation. The one thing that Major Scott could not do was whisper.

I smiled in anticipation, having set the bait.

‘Yes that will be absolutely fine, we have one of our best rooms available and if you can give us the name of the party we will expect them in the next hour or so.’

Perfect! Armed with this information I sped upstairs and knocked on Elmer’s door. He opened it and stood in the doorway quite clearly spoiling for a fight. I smiled sweetly and pushed past him into the room.

‘It is quite clear that we are unable to match your extremely high standards and so I am delighted to tell you that I have booked you a superior room at a very prestigious hotel in the next village.’ I paused for effect.

‘I will only charge you for dinner last night, which I noticed you both enjoyed immensely. In this case, I will not charge you for your room for the night. I trust that is acceptable? The hall porter will be here in half an hour to collect your luggage.’ With that, I swept out of the door and into the corridor.

Elmer was out after me like a shot, visions of very expensive hotel rooms looming in his mind.

‘There’s no need for that, just get rid of the bugs and tell that maid of yours to leave our toothbrushes alone in future. I’m sure we can work something out.’

‘Absolutely not.’ I insisted, shaking my head. ‘If we can’t supply the service that you expect then of course we must make every effort to find you somewhere that can. Michael will be with you shortly, may I respectfully suggest that you begin packing so that we can get you on your way.’

I’m afraid he did not stand a chance, and it was with much satisfaction that I deducted the hefty dinner bill from his credit card and waved the two of them off an hour later.

One of our local chambermaids had a cousin who worked for Major Scott, and a week later she regaled us with the details of the confrontation between Elmer and the Major. Apparently, there was a certain amount of property damage and a number of other guests left the establishment never to return again. When I told Patrick the story he was delighted and thought that after all these years of being put down by the Major it was worth losing a nights room-rate.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Sep 13, 2016 Teresa Karlinski rated it Five Stars
At almost fifty, Imogen is shocked when her husband announces he’s met someone else. She gives up the marvelous home she’s lovingly made for her and her husband. The new wife loves love it. A deal is made, a sum paid to Imogen and she buys her own little house. After spending months sprucing up her new nest, she’s bored and decides she needs something to occupy her days. Her children have grown up and have lives of their own. Nobody and nothing needs her.
She finds a job ad in the newspaper for an agency which places mature candidates. Perfect. She’s given an unusual interview during which her story unfolds, from her first job as a teen through the various and many positions she holds during her youth. Imogen is a gutsy, entertaining personality, who though younger than some of the people she’s worked with and for, was not only a clear thinker with a good head on her shoulders, and fleet of foot but wise beyond her years. This is a rollicking read you won’t want to put down. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I promise Imogen is the type of character you cannot help but admire and enjoy. If you want a light, heartwarming read, this is for you.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews


Amazon UK:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.

I hope you will join me again next weekend for the final two chapters about Imogen’s colourful work history.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New book on the Shelves #Pre-order #Romance – The Gambling Hearts Series Book Three: My Girl by Jacquie Biggar

USA Today Bestselling author Jacquie Biggar has a new release on Pre-order 99c/99p until October 21st for book three in the Gambling Hearts Series: My Girl.

About the book

Sometimes, the right decision isn’t the easiest one to make

Trish Sylvester knows her family and when they accept a week long stay at a rustic dude ranch, she is concerned- especially since it’s at her ex’s home.

Aaron is overjoyed at the opening of his family’s guest ranch, until he learns their first guest is his ex-girlfriend, her parents–and a fiancé.

And that isn’t the only surprise.

Head over and buy the book at 99c until October 21st:

And on Amazon UK at 99p:

A selection of of other books by Jacquie Biggar

One of the recent reviews for Book Two – The Gambling Hearts: Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

A high powered New York publicity expert comes home to help her family save their ranch, and to finally resolve her lingering feelings for the handsome ranch hand she left behind but both her brothers and her crush seem to think they can do just fine without her. The thing is, she’s all grown up now, and she’s not willing to take no for an answer.

I loved Sophia’s determination, her spunk and her vulnerability, and it was hard not to feel for the strong and silent Tony with all his conflicted feelings – besides who doesn’t love a cowboy. Their romance made for a great way to spend an afternoon.

Read all the reviews and buy the books including great deals on book sets:

And at Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Jacquie Biggar on Goodreads:

About Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar is a USA TODAY bestselling author of Romantic Suspense who loves to write about tough, alpha males who know what they want. That is until they’re gob-smacked by heroines who are strong, contemporary women willing to show them what they really need is love. She is the author of the popular Wounded Hearts series and has just started a new series in paranormal suspense, Mended Souls. She has also contributed to several successful anthologies.

She has been blessed with a long, happy marriage and enjoys writing romance novels that end with happily-ever-afters.

Jacquie lives in paradise along the west coast of Canada with her family and loves reading, writing, and flower gardening. She swears she can’t function without coffee, preferably at the beach with her sweetheart. 🙂

Free reads, excerpts, author news, and contests can be found on her web site:

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Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will head over and explore other books by Jacquie Biggar. We all need a little romance in our lives….. thanks Sally

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – #Reviews – Vashti Quiroz-Vega, Karen Demers Dowdall and Judith Barrow

Welcome to the second of the Cafe Updates this week with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first author with a recent review is Vashti Quiroz-Vega for her short story – Memoir of a Mad Woman.

About the book

A novelette from the award-winning author of The Fall of Lilith and Son of the Serpent, Vashti Quiroz-Vega.

Who can explain how madness begins?

This is the story of Emma. Reared by a religious fanatic, orphaned at a young age and sent to a mental institution and an orphanage. Molested and betrayed by the people who should be watching over her…

Who can say that madness has no logic?

During a fight, Emma’s best friend punched her in the abdomen. Since then, Emma has believed there’s something damaged inside of her.

Every month… she bleeds. She tries to fight it all her life, but the pain and the blood return twenty-eight days later… and the cycle begins again.

But Emma, even in her madness, knows how to take care of herself.
She knows how to make things right…

You may not agree… But, who can reason with insanity?

Read this tragic but fascinating tale and traverse the labyrinthine passages of madness.

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

Oct 02, 2019 Dennis Cardiff rated it it was amazing with Five Stars

Memoir of a Mad Woman by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a horror story but entirely believable. Emma introduces herself in the first few pages. Her name, she states, “means ‘whole’– something I’ve longed to be my entire life.” As the story progresses we learn that her father left her at an early age and her mother was a shrieking, religious extremist who died in a house fire when Emma was eleven years old. Concerning the fire, Emma states, “I had nothing to do with it.” This clue caught my attention, especially when I later learned that her mother was doused in “some kind of an accelerant used to ignite the fire.”

Emma was placed in a hospital where doctors noted that she, “Lacks emotions in regard to the severity of the situation.” I have known many friends living on the streets who showed this same lack of emotion. Some were convicted of murder, others who had committed murder were not convicted. In conversation, they seemed ordinary, something that Emma aspired to be.

Memoir of a Mad Woman gave me some insight into the life of a person who had suffered neglect, mental illness, physical and especially sexual abuse. This story will probably give me nightmares but the artistry and mastery of the words, plot, dialog and storyline leave me filled with admiration for the skill of author, Vashti Quiroz-Vega.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Also by Vashti Quiroz-Vega

Read the reviews and buy the books:

and on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Vashti on Goodreads:

Connect to Vashti via her website/Blog:

The next author with a recent review for her latest book is Karen DeMers Dowdall for The Captain’s Witch.

About The Captain’s Witch

Lost in the Annals of Time: A Story of Love and War

The Captain’s Witch is a hauntingly beautiful story of love that transcends time. Sara Windsor Knightly, born into a family with generations of witches inherits Windsor Manor, a colonial era manor built in 1680. She had no idea that the Manor is haunted by Jacobite ghosts, and a ghost named Christian Windsor.

He is a gentleman farmer who is also a Captain in the British Brigade in the year 1690 in Colonial Connecticut during King William’s war with the French and the Abenaki Indians. To complicate matters, the White Oak Tree on the property of Windsor Manor, is haunted by the ghost of Alice Windsor Hall. The White Oak Tree was once a sapling on the grave of Alice Windsor Hall, one of Sara’s distant relatives who was falsely accused of witchcraft in 1690. Alice has haunted the White Oak for more than 300 years and she has plans of her own that sets everything in motion. Alice spins a spell that sends Sara and Christian to the year 1690 to save her little girl, Clara, from the hands of Reverend Baron Warwick, a Puritan Zealot who has diabolical plans for the child. Alice promises to return Sara and Christian back home as soon as Clara is safe from harm.

Alice’s promise sends Christian back to war and certain death. A brokenhearted Sara is sent back to the present day to Windsor Manor. Sara is, quite by accident, sent once more back in time to revisit a very different Christian, who has no memory of Sara, putting her in great danger of being accused of witchcraft.

One of the recent reviews for the book

This story reminded me quite a bit of the Outlander series with a fair amount of swashbuckling, romance, and brogue, as well as some time-travel to make things exciting and complicated. But there are plenty of differences too. The main character Sarah is a white (good) witch in modern Connecticut, and she’s untroubled by magic, fairies, and ghosts, several of the latter who reside in her historic home.

The captain, Christian, is one of the ghosts and the source of the story’s romance. There are some clever and humorous moments resulting from the 400 years of technological and cultural advancement separating the two protagonists. It’s clear that the author knows the geographic area and did her research into colonial Connecticut. The thick brogue seems realistic, and once I became accustomed to reading it, I had no problem.
The book seems to have two parts, the first half a time-travel rescue. The villain, a murderous preacher, is pretty dastardly, and yet he’s easily evaded and disappears from the book at the midpoint. The second half dives into the romantic push-pull between Sarah and Christian and provides a satisfying conclusion. The story does need some professional editing to compliment the engaging personalities and plot.

The pace moves along nicely. I liked the two main characters quite a bit. They were well-rounded, and it was especially refreshing to see Sarah so blasé about her supernatural home. Recommended for romance readers who enjoy a little magic

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Also by K.D Dowdall

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And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Karen on Goodreads:

Connect to Karen Anna via her blog

The final author with a recent review for the first book in her successful Howarth Family Trilogy: Pattern of Shadows  is Judith Barrow.  I can highly recommend all the books about the Howarth Family.

About Pattern of Shadows

Mary is a nursing sister at a Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling; life at home a constant round of arguments—often prompted by her fly-by-night sister, Ellen, the apple of her short-tempered father’s eye.

Then Frank turns up at the house one night—a guard at the camp, he’s been watching Mary for weeks—and won’t leave until she agrees to walk out with him. Frank Shuttleworth is a difficult man to love and it’s not long before Mary gives him his marching orders. But Shuttleworth won’t take no for an answer and the gossips are eager for their next victim, and for the slightest hint of fraternization with the enemy.

Suddenly, not only Mary’s happiness but her very life is threatened by the most dangerous of wartime secrets

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jul 14, 2019 Sandra Danby rated it Four Stars

The first instalment of Judith Barrow’s Mary Howarth series is ‘Pattern of Shadows’, a historical romance set in World War Two Lancashire that explores the challenges and new opportunities for women in wartime. Set against a male-dominated background where the aspirations of working class women have traditionally been put second, war brings change and some people adapt better than others.

Mary is a nursing sister in the hospital attached to a prisoner of war camp, nursing German soldiers captured and injured in action. Some people find that challenging but for Mary it is a satisfying and fulfilling job. Things get complicated when she attracts the attention of two men who could not be more different. One night Mary meets Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the POW camp and, thanks to a combination of unforeseen circumstances, runs to a shelter with him during a bombing raid. This evening has far-reaching consequences for Mary and her flighty younger sister Ellen. There are tensions at home too with her argumentative irascible father and defeated mother, as Tom her older brother is in prison as a conscientious objector and her younger brother, injured fighting, must now work as a coal miner. Meanwhile a new German doctor arrives at the hospital. With two choices in front of her, Mary must decide whether to do what is expected or defy convention, to be loyal to her family who are not always loyal to her, or to be selfish and do something for herself.

A well-paced story combining stalking, prejudice, domestic violence, homophobia, poverty and family strife, Mary is the only unselfish, balanced person in her family. Will she finally put herself first? This is at times a grim story set at a difficult time and at first I worried this was misery fiction and longed for an occasional bright light. But the setting and time period are so well researched I soon relaxed into the story as the character of Mary and her predicament drew me in. I admire her stubbornness, her selflessness and loyalty, above all her bravery. Sometimes she is misguided, always well-intentioned, I look forward to reading more about Mary in ‘Changing Patterns’, the sequel.

Read the reviews and buy the book

And on Amazon US:

Also by Judith Barrow

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon UK:

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Thank you for dropping by today and I hope you are leaving with some books under your arm.. thanks Sally.


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves -#Thriller – State Of Denial (The State Trilogy Book 2) by Iain Kelly

Congratulations to Iain Kelly on the release of his latest book State Of Denial (The State Trilogy Book 2).

About State of Denial.

Election time in The State, the citizens prepare to vote. A journalist from the Capital City heads north to report on growing resistance to the powerful ruling Party. An ex-police detective returns to the City he once fled. Together they become entangled in a burgeoning opposition movement. Soon they learn the Party will do whatever it takes to remain in power, and one life is all it takes to spark a revolution.

Head over and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

Also by Iain Kelly

One of the recent reviews for Book One of the State Trilogy – A Justified State.

This is a compelling read, suggesting a possible dystopian future through the lens of detective/thriller narrative. At various times the writing brought to mind Phillip Marlow, Do Androids dream of electric sheep?, the world of George Smiley, and Robert Harris’ Fatherland; at the same time the story is completely unique and Danny Samson is an excellent addition to the cadre of world weary detectives who have to give more than they think they have in them, while life keeps heaping on more woe. I felt that the State was a character in its own right, and so strongly present that it swamped the personalities of some of the other characters, but I’m very much looking forward to reading the next installments in the trilogy – although I worry about Danny’s ability to survive it!

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About Iain Kelly

Iain Kelly lives in Scotland, UK. He is married with two children and works in the media industry as a television editor for the BBC. When he is not creating stories through sound and vision, he is writing them. ‘A Justified State,’ published in 2018, was his first novel. It was followed by a sequel, ‘State Of Denial’, was released in September 2019. ‘The State’ Trilogy will be completed in 2020 with the forthcoming publication of ‘State Of War.’

Connect to Iain.


Thanks for visiting today and it would be great if you could spread the news about Iain’s new novel. Thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

We are coming to the end of the re-run of Jessica Norrie’s Literary Column from last year, with one more to come at the end of November with some great gift recommendations.. In the meantime, Jessica who was reaching a milestone birthday at the end of last year, shared books that were released in the year of her birth.. It is an interesting exercise to check which bestsellers were released at the same time as you were!  I was fascinated to discover that some of my favourite reads were in the list for 1953, including Seven Years in Tibet, The Go-Between and The Bridges at Toko-Ri…

Goodreads has the bestsellers for every year and here is my link and you can find your own..

Time to enjoy Jessica’s post…..

What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

The covers shown here are from the editions I read. Cover design fashion over the years is fascinating. Most of these books now look different, but they’re all still available.

My birth year saw some fantastically high quality children’s fiction, but in schools some pupils were still stumbling at the first post. So “Dr Seuss” was commissioned to write a book using only words from the first reader.  The Cat in the Hat burst into life, and you can read the fuller, fascinating story here

Having mastered that, children could discover  The Treasures of Green Knowe, published in the UK as The Chimneys of Green Knowe. I’m amused by a current Amazon review that says “There isn’t much action”. If time travelling 200 years for a rescue mission that includes climbing the chimneys of a haunted house with a blind ancestor isn’t much action, what is? Incidentally, throughout this series, L M Boston wrote quirky, independent female characters, including elderly and disabled ones.

Another female character whose ill health leads to wider worlds was created by Catherine Storr in Marianne Dreams. Just the book for any budding psychoanalysts out there. I now discover it’s the start of a series, but this first one is complete, weird, and memorable in itself.

An audience that would now be called Young Adult could learn a lot, as I did, from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Anyone still seeking to know why single, intelligent, lonely and/or “different” women are so easily categorised as witches by suspicious narrow minded societies, will find the saddest and most exciting of well researched signposts here.

Even with a diet as rich as this, the child reader moves on, and I was pleased to be reminded of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. It was a first introduction for this white middle class first worlder to the richness of African writing, a completely new perspective for me in my late teens. Achebe’s prose is poetic, his story moving, his world evocative. This is the clash of white arrival against black tradition; missionary against culture; city against tribe. It’s still required reading; things are still falling apart.

To my shame, I’ve never been a huge reader of poetry. But the late teens were a great time to discover E. E. Cummings, whose last collection, 95 Poems was born in book form the same year as me. Try him. If you’re in the right mood, his stars and wordplay, his individual punctuation and eroticism and wit and wonder and poignancy will play your head space with. If not, leave it for ‘anothertime soonever’.

Off I went to university, including a year in Paris where I wrote my dissertation on Simone de Beauvoir. So I probably knew then, and rediscover now, that the first volume of her autobiography was published in English on New Year’s Day of the year I was born, as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Looking at recent reviews, people (women, mostly) are still finding it readable, funny, perceptive, and angry. It seems the #MeToo generation could still learn a lot from de Beauvoir.

I have fond memories of lying on the sofa, heavily pregnant with my first child, gobbling up films that my husband gloomily predicted we’d never be able to watch uninterrupted again. One was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so good that I didn’t bother reading the book for years. When I did, I seem to remember wincing at some of the views. Stick with the film, I’d say.

Skip two decades when I must have been reading other things. The daughter who’d have heard “Moon River” as she shifted about waiting to be born, was living in Palermo, Sicily, as part of her Italian degree. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, and The Leopard was an entertaining fictional guide to the history, climate, politics, gastronomy, and characters I came across.

It was fun discovering this list. Goodreads has lists of world bestsellers for most years – do have a look for yours. The guidance you get from the books on it beats any star chart. Oh, and there’s another important birthday on the horizon – Happy Christmas all, when it comes around.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the recent reviews for The Magic Carpet

I must admit that I got an expected but completely welcome surprise when I read this book. The magic carpet is an intricate and beautifully told tale of a school project and several families involved. Each child in the class has been allocated a fairy story to take home and make their own any way they wish.

The narratives switches between each family and each chapter is dedicated to a different class member. Diverse, intriguing and almost voyeuristic, we are allowed to peep into the lives of each family as they tackle the homework project in very different ways. All the adults in the story are increasingly distracted by events in their own lives and it’s up to the children to bring everyone together.

I adore that Jessica Norrie has given each family a very unique identity through circumstances. culture and race. Each relationship and situation is delicately written and issues are tackled with sensitivity but bring he characters to life. I became invested in every single child in this novel.

This is a breathtaking and addictive story about stories, families and children.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books:

and on Amazon US:

Find more reviews on Goodreads:

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, was published on July 22nd 2019, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica


I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Health Column – The Obesity epidemic – Part Four– Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle – 7 – 14 -School Lunches – Sally Cronin

In  part three of this series I looked at children aged two to seven years old with the emphasis on activity and Vitamin D to complement a freshly cooked varied diet and build strong bodies and an effective immune system.

The Obesity epidemic – Part Four– Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle – 7 – 14 –  School Lunches

This week I am going to cover, what I consider the best time to intervene in the obesity epidemic, to achieve the most effective results.

This is a time of enormous growth and development physically and mentally for a child and they need the best nutrition possible to achieve that healthily.

In next week’s post I am going to share what is needed for healthy brain development, but first a look at the lunchtime meal of the day that our school children are being provided in this age group, including packed lunches.

My experience of cooking for children is within this age group and with 110 students and 20 staff to cater for, three times a day.  I had a great opportunity to not just influence their diet, but to see the results of an 80% fresh, cooked from scratch approach to the process.

Admittedly they were a captive study group since it was a boarding school and they ate all their meals there, rather than just a lunch. But, there was no obesity, and their diet was combined with sports and daily activities which were also supervised.

This was forty years ago, but I believe the same formula is needed in schools today, boarding or day schools.

What is happening in the UK

In the UK the government has made an effort to promote healthy eating in schools and here is an extract from their official report that you can read in full: UK Government School Meals standards

“The government encourages all schools to promote healthy eating and provide healthy, tasty and nutritious food and drink. Compliance with the School Food Standards is mandatory for all maintained schools. We also expect all academies and free schools to comply with the standards, and since 2014 we have made this an explicit requirement in their funding agreements.These school food standards are to ensure that food provided to pupils in school is nutritious and of high quality; to promote good nutritional health in all pupils; protect those who are nutritionally vulnerable and to promote good eating behaviour”

Most schools do provide healthy and varied meals for their students, and since 2008 there have been standards that have to be complied with that bans sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks and packaged snacks.

However, these standards do not apply to packed lunches brought to school by the students. In this report the number of children taking a packed lunch to school in the UK is quoted as 4 million, which is 5.5 billion packed lunches a year.

There are approximately 11 million school children in the UK  with 4.5 million being in the primary school age group. Children up to 7 years old receive free lunches, with some other age groups eligible for free lunches too depending on their circumstances. With the number of packed lunches at 4 million this would leave in the region of only 3 million students in this 7-14 age group eating a cooked school dinner  ..Daily Telegraph

  • An analysis of 1,300 packed lunches for children aged between eight and nine in schools across Britain was published online ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. All the children took a packed lunch to school on at least one day of the week, and almost nine out of 10 ate a packed lunch every day.
  • Sandwiches, sweets, savoury snacks and artificially sweetened drinks were the most common items found in lunch boxes.
  • Foods that would be allowed in schools meals were the least likely to be provided in lunch boxes with only one in ten children having sandwiches with vegetables in them and a further one in ten being given a portion of vegetables.
  • Contents of the lunch boxes were recorded before and after the meal so researchers could discover what foods the child ate and which they left.
  • The children were most likely to eat the confectionary and least likely to eat the fruit.
  • More than a quarter of children had a lunch box that contained sweets, savoury snacks such as crisps and a sugary drink.
  • Another quarter had a similar lunch box without a sugary drink and fewer than one in ten had lunch boxes with none of these items.
  • Less than half of the lunch boxes had foods with sufficient levels of vitamin A, folate, iron and zinc.

There are two key processes going on in the body of a boy and a girl in this age group. Brain development and a healthy reproductive system at puberty.

This is why, in my opinion, this 7 – 14 age period in a child’s life is the best time to intervene with regard to obesity.  There are some other elements to consider, that I feel should be highlighted. NHS – Obesity and Costs

  • Nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer.
  • It is estimated that obesity is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths each year. On average, obesity deprives an individual of an extra 9 years of life, preventing many individuals from reaching retirement age. In the future, obesity could overtake tobacco smoking as the biggest cause of preventable death.
  • More broadly, obesity has a serious impact on economic development. The overall cost of obesity to wider society is estimated at £27 billion.
  • The UK-wide NHS costs attributable to overweight and obesity are projected to reach £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year.

Currently the cost to the NHS is estimated at £5.5 billion for obesity related interventions, including hospital admissions, prescriptions and it is more if you take into account surgeries for joint replacements, heart disease etc related to obesity and lifestyle related issues.

The cost of a free school meal in the age group 4-7 years old is paid by the government at £2.30 and in a recent report I read, it was estimated it would cost £950 million to extend this to 11 years old. Which presumably means that extending it to 14 years old would add a further £712 million…Taking the annual commitment to providing a healthy lunch for all children within that age group to £1.6 Billion.

However, this investment in a free school lunch for all children, of £1.6 billion per year, would in my view significantly reduce the current £5 billion burden carried by the UK health service, and certainly the projected £9.7 Billion and the overall £49.9 Billion impact on the economy, by the time the current primary school children are parents to the next generation in 2050.

What else can we do to make a difference in schools to improve the obesity projections.

I make no bones about it, parents need to take responsibility for their child’s health and foods that they eat. And this point is highlighted by the fact that an estimated 1 million children are going to school each day with a packed lunch that is full of processed industrial snacks and too much sugar. And only 10% of children are being given healthy sandwiches or snacks.

That being said, there is no doubt that there are parents who are struggling to provide a healthy alternative to a school lunch especially with more than one child..

Currently school dinner costs vary between £7.50 to £12.50 per week, so between £1.50 to £2.50 per lunch. If you have two or three children in the school system then this adds up and could be costing you £150 per month, which explains the 4 million children taking packed lunches. That figure is more or less in line with the £2.30 that the government is currently paying for each child on the free meals programme.

Whilst a growing number of schools make every effort to provide a nutritionally adequate lunch, including growing their own foods, this is not across the board. Unfortunately, looking at some of the images of the school dinners being provided, even though there are some basic standards that have been adhered to, there are appallingly nutrient deprived plates being served to children at the most important developmental stage of their lives.

A large part of the problem is that in certain areas, the food and choices is driven by cost not nutrition, and carbohydrate is the king on the plate using the cheapest options such as white bread, white rice and pasta. Also healthy fats which are so important at this age are replaced with unhealthy margarine, cooking oils such as corn oil and there is insufficient fresh vegetables content on the plate. Whilst Europe has a great deal less GMO crops, in certain countries, corn is the vegetable of choice both as an oil to cook with and to feed children and livestock. With at much as 95% being GMO and treated with Round Up weedkiller, it would not be my vegetable of choice for either child or livestock!

If the government funded free school lunches for children that would remove that financial burden and with some more efficient management of the system, improve the nutritional density of every child’s diet.

I believe that school meals should be partially sponsored by the main supermarkets as a community and a marketing project. I would estimate that nearly every school within the UK is within walking distance of a local major chain supermarket.

  1. They already buy fresh seasonal produce at cost that they could provide to schools at the same price.
  2. For example Tesco already donates to nominated charities each month in our area to the tune of thousands of pounds a year. Why not provide the equivalent in food to local schools?
  3. They could also provide healthy grains and fats such as butter and even perhaps milk so that all children get a glass at break time.
  4. They have in house bakeries with freshly made wholegrain bread.
  5. They have other products that are own brand such as seasonings, flour, teas, juices, etc. Although as a caterer you would be looking for a different pack size, they too do bulk buy packs of staples.
  6. They are influencing not just the parents to shop in their store, but also the next generation of customers.

All schools should have a domestic science class, which includes the basics of health nutrition from the age of 11. Basic cooking skills should be taught and main meals should be the focus with fresh produce (donated by the supermarket). Especially vegetables and other produce that is still edible but has been reduced to sell. There should be input from a qualified nutritional specialist in the lesson planning and content, as well as advising on the school lunches being served. It is hoped that most school districts already have someone in that role already, although the results do not necessarily support that.

The students should also be taught how to shop for food, budget and to plan a week’s menu. .

If the class is the last class of the morning, the meals can be served up at lunchtime alongside the other food offering variety or could be taken home to benefit the whole family.

By the time every child reaches 16 years old they should be able to shop, plan meals and cook healthy basics for themselves, that in itself will help prevent obesity in that age group and as they move forward in their lives.

Many schools, especially those in more rural locations, already have gardens where they grow some vegetables, herbs etc and some even have chickens. I would love to see that extended to all schools with every age group involved in tending the garden from seed to table. I am not sure about the school where they had a pig, and the children naturally became very attached, only to have it dispatched and served up for lunch!  I agree children should understand where their food comes from and respect it as an essential food, but it should be well thought out.

Here is a link that you might find interesting if you are looking to encourage a school in your area to start a food growing programme in the London area:

Here is school garden in the Boston area.. courtesy of WGBH News

And another approach that I really like is the French school lunch system, prepared in a central kitchen in the school district under stringent health and safety regulations, and under the guidance of a nutritionist... I would love to see this in place in the UK in areas which are restricted on space and without their own cooking facilities. Courtesy of CBS

Next week I am going to focus on brain development and what foods should be included in a child of this age’s diet.

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here:

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thank you for reading and I am sure that you have your own experiences to share about school dinners.

I have read from excellent to appalling in my research and for me that means that nutrition for children at this age is hit and miss and needs to be overhauled to ensure that every child is provided with at least one meal a day that provides what they need to develop physically and mentally.