Book Shelf: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and my favored genres to read this one. My first nudge was the cover, and then a friend’s review pushed me to put it on hold with the library.

I am so glad I did. This is wonderfully well written, kept me engaged, and coming back for more. I became invested in learning about the characters and following each of their stories. I truly enjoyed the underlying message of being true to oneself. Absolutely loved it!

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

Meet the Author: Psychogenic Fugue by Nikki Marrone

Today we travel to Cambridge, UK to chat with Nikki Marrone about how Grandia, being an adventurer, chocolate, jumping off the Stratosphere, living in a teepee, the Sahara Desert, being seen and understood, an otter, a sombrero wearing penguin, and a wandering poet come together as part of Nikki’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello! My name is Nikki and I’m a poet/writer/photographer. I’m from Cambridge, UK, where I have a love/hate relationship with the city depending on the season. When I was a kid, I fell in love with a game called Grandia, decided I wanted to be an adventurer and never grew out of that idea. I feel lost if I’m not creating something and feel everything too much and too deeply – so that’s probably why I’m a poet. I love chocolate and will always tell you to eat more cake.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

1. I have jumped off a building. It was the stratosphere in Las Vegas

2. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the night sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert

3. I spent 3 months living in a tepee in an “international intentional community” in Germany

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Like most writers I started my love of writing from a love of reading. I spent all my time living in stories as a child. I take the book I’m reading, create a character for myself and in my head I go and experience my own adventures within that world. From there, I started creating my own worlds and writing them down. As for poetry, it became the best way to express myself and I use it to figure out myself and the world around me.

The first time I performed in front of an audience, I read a poem about my mental health struggles and afterwards a mother came up to me crying and told me that her daughter was experiencing the same thing and how much it meant for me to share my story. When I connect with someone’s art it has this immense power of being seen and understood, when I realised, I could give someone that moment it inspired me to keep going.

What would you choose as your spirit animal, and why?

My spirit animal is definitely an otter. I love to cuddle and definitely see life as a playground. I have fought hard to stay connected to my inner child. However, I also come back to the phoenix over and over in life. I’ve been through hell and resilience is a strength of mine. Can I create a phoenix otter? An otter who carries the raven’s feather and turns into a phoenix? I’ll stop now.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Once upon a time this would have been my favourite coffee shop but now, I have a toddler…So, I guess my ideal writing space now would be anywhere outside. I’ve travelled a lot and have probably written my best poems next to the ocean or up a mountain.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just started the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I’m halfway through The Last Wish.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Too much. Firstly, I’m a mother so I spend a lot of time with my daughter. I’m also studying for my master’s degree and helping run an indie publisher called ‘Point Positive Publishing’ and an arts collective called ‘Colliding Lines’. Occasionally I sleep or play video games.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

“Que es Queso? Queso es que?” *

He’s probably there because by the laws of attraction I have manifested him by sending too many penguin memes online…I hope he brings cheese. Imagine, a philosophical penguin gifting cheese. Más queso por favor, señor pingüino!

*This is a terrible inside joke between a Spanish friend and me. I realised you could kind of make a palindrome out of it and because Spanish is not my first language it works and is fun to say.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I’m not sure I believe things happen for a reason all the time, but I definitely believe that what you put out into the world you get back. That everything is happening in the way it’s supposed to, although it might not feel good at the time. I also think that the forces in nature or whatever you want to call it will always give you an opportunity to change direction in life or teach you something if you’re open to it.

In my experience it’s awfully hard to stay stagnant and stand still. I believe this because I’ve been challenged my entire life and had to overcome a lot, I’ve lived many different lifetimes already. For example, I’ve been an almost homeless struggling teenager, a student in Canada, a wandering poet in America, a single mother in England – the list goes on and on. If you survive it, you learn something at some point from it in the future.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two things.

My first full length collection of poetry titled ‘Burning Through the Bloodline’ which is an exploration of shared familial trauma and a testament to resilience and motherhood. This is almost finished and I’m looking for a publisher.

An interactive poetry box set called ‘Witches Brew’ which will be released in 2021.

How many published books do you have?

Currently I have 4 books published. Two poetry pamphlets ‘Lost & Found’ and ‘Psychogenic Fugue.’ A photographic novel ‘Honey & Lemon’ and a non-fiction peer support guide on breastfeeding.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is ‘Psychogenic Fugue.’ It’s a collection of poetry and spoken word pieces that were born from my adolescent years spent aimlessly wandering and looking for a home. There are poems about identity, community, mental health, bisexuality, love, and loss.

It was wonderful to learn more about you, your background, and writing style. Thank you for being a part of MTA. All the best to you, Nikki!! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Online at amazon, waterstones, target or WHsmith.

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Meet the Author: This Year Maybe by Liz Hinds

Today we travel to south Wales to chat with Liz Hinds about how Welsh rugby, walking by the sea, a New York cop, playing the piano, burning a boiled egg, limitless energy, and a picnic lunch have to do with her current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a granny living on the edge of the beautiful Gower Peninsula, in south Wales, with Husband and George, the dog. I love reading, writing, chocolate, walking by the sea, and supporting the Welsh rugby team. But most of all I love my seven grandchildren.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

A meeting with a NY cop in a small coffee in Wales. Before that I’d written articles and even had some small success non-fiction writing, but my first ‘proper’ book came when, after having met me about twenty minutes earlier, and knowing nothing about me, Mikey Di Sanza asked me if I’d like to ghost-write his autobiography. From there I progressed to fiction and novel writing.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. I’m writing this in the middle of December, and I’ve just reminded myself that I must go to the library before our next lockdown starts.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Hm, yes, actually I can tell you that as my most recent book was a secret project! I wrote a book specifically for my eleven-year-old grand-daughter who’d complained because she wasn’t allowed to read my adult fiction (it’s not naughty but has grown-up themes). ‘Please write a book I can read, Granny.’ So I did. In six days I wrote 22,000 words. I spent the next few days designing a cover and getting it ready for publication by Amazon. And all this was done through December so I would be able to give it to her as part of her Christmas present. I just hope she likes it.

Before that, This Year Maybe, my latest novel, which was published on 25th November, was a sequel to my first. Many people (five at least) said they’d love to know what my heroine did next so I answered the call.

Can you play a musical instrument? If not, which instrument would you like to be able to play?

I would love to be able to play the piano. I was sent for lessons as a child – because we had a piano rather than because I wanted to learn – but never practised so we all gave up. Now I think it is such a wonderful skill to have. But actually I would be happy if I could sing. I have a truly dreadful voice. I love to sing but because I am aware of how painful it must be to listen to me I sing very quietly if at all when in company.

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

Oh my. I firmly deny that Alison, the heroine of This Year Maybe, bears any resemblance to me however … I have burned a boiled egg, driven around 24-hour supermarkets at 1.00 am on Christmas Eve looking for a turkey, and fallen off my seat while holding a week-old-baby. (Who was perfectly fine I can assure you, unlike me whose knickers had been flashed to half the neighbourhood.)

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I think when the story starts writing itself and taking you down unexpected corridors. Sometimes you find a locked door at the end but the search for the key is always entertaining.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced having to do with writing a book?

To be able to spend more time with my NY cop to get his full story I went to meet him in New York. While Husband spent days wandering around seeing sights I sat in a small hotel room interviewing my subject. His story is one of being saved by Christ and one day Mikey, Husband and I were queuing in Times Square to get last minute returned Broadway tickets. As we stood waiting in this long queue Mikey launched into a very loud story about Daniel in the lion’s den and various biblical prophecies. I should add that Mikey spent a lot of time on street corners with a bull-horn – not that he would have needed it with his voice. Have you ever wanted to shrink into the ground?

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

Since about 2007 I’ve been keeping a blog. I had tried previously at various times to write a diary but I could never quite see the point and it quickly faded away. I just want to be read, dahlings!

What do you miss about being a kid?

Nothing. I have reached an age where I am happy to play and bounce and scoot and skip with my grandchildren without worrying what others might think. No, wait, I miss having limitless energy. Yes, that’s all I need now.

If mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one way ticket there? why or why not?

Definitely not. Same reason I won’t emigrate. Too far from the grandchildren.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I’ve always been the sort of person that life happens to rather than one that makes it happen. See story above about how I came to ghost-write the story of a NYPD cop. So, yes, I do think things happen for a reason sometimes. I would call the reason God. But sometimes sh*t happens to everyone.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

What do you mean ‘if you could’? George and I have long conversations covering life, the universe, and why he has to wait so long for his dinner. He has yet to explain to me though why he goes out the front door, wanders around to the back door, and barks to be let in there.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

Around the cliffs to my favourite spot, for a picnic lunch – that would be set out for me already so I wouldn’t have to carry it – with bread and cheese and crisps, on a sunny day in Spring. With a soft blanket, a book, and George, to stop anyone bothering me.

It was great to learn more about you, Liz! Sounds like you have fun! Wishing you all the best. – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Alison and David have been engaged for so long that even Alison’s mother has given up asking when, but it’s second time around for both of them and they’re not in any particular hurry. That said, Alison is beginning to wonder if living with her has put David off the idea of marriage so when he suggests they set a date she is delighted. But that date is six months’ away and a lot can happen in six months – especially if you’re Alison!

‘My son’s been arrested, Great-aunt Millie’s fallen in love, my best friend suspects her husband of having an affair, and I still need to lose weight. How on earth can I think about getting married?’

This Year Maybe, the sequel to This Time Next Year. Through Amazon.

Connect with Liz:

Home

https://www.facebook.com/LizHindsAuthor

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Friday with Friends: Balancing the Light and Darkness – Zarina Macha

Evil Fascination

Baby P was sadistically abused, tortured, and killed by his relatives. I read this story as a child in the paper and was horrified. It was an early taste of the pure evil that runs in this world, and the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting upon each other.

That’s not the most cheerful introduction to my work, or indeed to me. But I like to get straight to the point.

From an early age, I experienced immense rage at cruel injustice that plagues our world. When I was seven, I watched Titanic, and one scene made me weep. It wasn’t the scene where Jack died. It wasn’t the scene where the other passengers died. It wasn’t even when Rose spoke solemnly of how Jack had saved her.

No, the scene that pulled my prepubescent heartstrings was when Cal and Lovejoy set up Jack to make it look like he had stolen the ‘heart of the ocean’ necklace. Jack was chained to a pole at the bottom of the ship. Later, Rose rescued him.

Seeing Jack unjustly accused of something he hadn’t done, and being a prisoner in such a nasty way, made tears fall from my eyes. The cruelty of it all; the unfairness, and the possibility that he would drown, all for a crime he hadn’t committed, made me unbelievably sad.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve witnessed many distressing things in film and TV shows. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Dexter are all fantastic shows. And they have all yanked at my heartstrings, shocked my pulse rate, and let screams tumble from my larynx.

Why do I enjoy this? Why do I love to consume such vile, terrible scenes in the media I watch?

I think a lot of it comes from the sheer, heavy accompanying emotion. It shows us what humanity is capable of, but also the good that comes out of it. When I saw Jack in that position, I wept. But it made the ‘payoff’ of Rose coming to rescue him, even more triumphant. The cruel injustice followed by the heroic display of compassion and empathy flooded my heart with relief.

It’s like when a serial killer or rapist is caught and sentenced to jail. The crimes they commit are appalling. But knowing they will spend the rest of their lives rotting in a prison cell because of the brave men and women that put them there is comforting. It is a big relief to know that for every evil person out there, there are two or three good ones ready to put things right.

The worst kind of evil, for me, is committed in the name of good. My favourite Disney film is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Unsurprisingly, one of Disney’s darkest.) The villain in that movie is one of Disney’s most petrifying figures. He is also certain of his righteousness.

There are people in this world that use their beliefs as a weapon to instil fear into others. What these people believe doesn’t really matter, because they all think the same. That their cruelty is justified, their means are necessary, they are correct, and somehow more important than other people. In my young-adult novel Anne, the antagonist is Anne’s abusive father who beats her mother and uses his extreme religious beliefs to justify his cruel behaviour. He condemns his unfaithful wife as a ‘fornicating slut.’

Egotism is a big fuel for cruelty. Psychopaths possess high degrees of narcissism and grandiose. When researching my novella Psycho Girl (the second novella in my duo-storybook Every Last Psycho), I watched movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, The Hand that Rocked the Cradle, and The Bad Seed. The same traits came up. Eerie calmness. Cool self-assurance. Determination and skillful intelligence.

A psychopath is a master manipulator. Someone who knows how to twist the emotions of empaths and regular people. Not all evil is committed by psychopaths, which is weirdly more chilling. At least psychopaths can blame their atypical brain patterns. What sort of horror causes a perfectly ordinary person to colonise an entire society of people? Or molest children, or murder their family?

Ultimately, I can’t go out and stop all the evil that is in this world. But I can cast some light by bringing these people to the forefront. If I write characters who are cruel, nasty, self-absorbed and vicious, I can juxtapose them with characters who are good-hearted, selfless, compassionate and kind. In my novel Around Midnight I contrast the kind-hearted protagonist Megan with the manipulative ‘bad boy’ Vince. He sucks Megan into his calculating clutches. But her light prevails.

Balance is the key to everything. The universe has a balance of light and darkness. If we understand and stay aware of the darkness, we can combat it. Then we can help stream in more light through the blinds.

To see Zarina’s previous interview on MTA, go here …

Meet the Author: Anne by Zarina Macha

Go here to learn more about Zarina and her books:

My books: https://zarinamacha.co.uk/books

Blog: https://thezarinamachablog.co.uk

Download a free e-copy of her poetry book ‘Art is a Waste of Time’ upon subbing to my mailing list: https://storyoriginapp.com/giveaways/4a955900-7b14-11ea-9fcc-f384d4e75ead

FB Page: http://facebook.com/zarinamachaauthor

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/zarinamacha

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Book Shelf: Titanicat by Marty Crisp

**Throwback to 2016** – From the time Thomas and Lillian were born (2005 and 2001) I read to them nightly before going to bed; leading to some time in 2017 when we all decided to discontinue doing so. Their tastes in what interested each of them had solidified by this point. We all continue to be heavy readers, reading daily.

Titanicat by Marty Crisp

Beautifully illustrated story of the cat of the Titanic. I didn’t even know there was a ship cat! We sure enjoyed this one!

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

Meet the Author: The Fifteen by Michelle Kidd

Today we travel to Suffolk to chat with Michelle Kidd about how working as a legal executive, dust under the bed, working for NHS, a tabby cat, Enid Blyton, writing long-hand, getting ideas on the treadmill, gardening, Nelson Mandela, and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm come together as part of Michelle’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Michelle Kidd – I currently live in Bury St Edmunds, a sleepy little town in Suffolk, although I was born in Cambridge. I worked as a legal executive for ten years, specialising in civil and criminal litigation, but have worked for the NHS for the last 12 years. I still work full time so writing is squeezed into whatever spare time I can muster! I like reading, wine and cats (although not necessarily in that order!)

My first book, The Phoenix Project, was written in 2008, but it spent the best part of the next ten years under my bed gathering dust! It wasn’t until 2018 that I decided I would publish it, and it’s a decision I’m glad I made!

I have an adorable cat called Livi – she’s a tabby cat and we rescued her from a stray cat centre when she was 7 months old. She loves it when I write – if she’s not sitting on my legs, she is trying to crawl across and sit on my notepad. She does make a few cameo appearances in my books…..

In which genre do you write?

Crime/thrillers

How many published books do you have?

At the moment there are three – all in a series (DI Jack MacIntosh series). I am just finishing the editing on the fourth – hopefully to be released in January 2021.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I’ve wanted to be a writer from a really really young age. I always had my head in a book as a child – I blame Enid Blyton! I loved the Famous Five books, and also the St Clare’s and Mallory Towers books. Boarding school looked such fun didn’t it?? Then I got all ‘horsey’ for a while and read anything that had a pony on the front! I began writing my own stories around eleven or twelve years of age. I remember showing my best friend my first completed full length story when I was about twelve and it made her cry – I think in a good way, or at least I hope so!

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I write long-hand! I scribble away in a succession of notepads and then type it up onto my laptop. I find that my head churns out words so much faster than my fingers can type – but I can scribble really quite quickly. The only problem comes when I try to decipher what I’ve written….. But the story has the advantage of having its first edit when I do that first typing session, so I find it works for me.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I mostly write on my bed with my cat sitting on my legs! I think she does it to make sure I don’t move and keep writing…because everyone knows you never disturb a sleeping cat….

What are you currently reading?

I am just about to start The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez. It’s a new one for me – recommended by someone in a little book club I belong to.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

The most recent book I have published is The Fifteen. It is the third book in my DI Jack MacIntosh series. By book three, I feel I know my central characters pretty well. As for the ideas for the storylines, they seem to come to me when I least expect them. Mostly it is when I’m doing something else, like working out at the gym, walking to work, or even washing up. Ideas float into my head and I quickly have to try and find a way to write them down (not easy when you’re striding away on the treadmill!)

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I work full time for the NHS at my local hospital. It is a 5-6 day working week, so finding the time for writing is quite difficult. When I do get some free time I like going to the gym and do some gardening.

If you could have a fantasy tea with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I would like to invite Nelson Mandela to tea! I saw him when I was 17, at the Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley Stadium. It was just after he had been released from prison. I remember walking through the streets of Wanstead with a friend from college, at lord knows what time of night, making our way to where my dad was going to pick us up in Redbridge. This was before mobile phones (giving away my age there…!) and it makes me shudder to this day!

I think Mandela would make the most fascinating afternoon tea guest – just thinking about all the experiences he has had. I would like to ask him how he managed to keep his strength and optimism, and whether he believed he would finally be released one day. And what books does he like to read??

What is your favorite time of day and why?

Early mornings! And I never thought I would ever say that! I love being up in the quiet hours when nobody else is around. Except the cat -she’s always up.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (ie Borat 2). My daughter made me watch it, and although I didn’t really think it would be my thing, I did actually find it to be quite amusing and very clever in the end!

Camilla: This is on my list to watch! Thanks for the reminder.

What are you currently working on?

I am just finishing the editing for the fourth book in my DI Jack MacIntosh series. It is called The Bishop. Hopefully it will be ready for publication in January 2021 – fingers crossed.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is the third book in the DI Jack MacIntosh series – called The Fifteen.

It was great having you on MTA, and learning more about your writing style. Wishing you all the best, with much success! – Camilla

Blurb for The Fifteen:

The Fifteen

When the past finally catches up with you, is it murder? Or justice?

When a bedbound, defenceless man is found dead in his London nursing home, nobody saw his killer.

But the killer left their mark.

Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh soon discovers that this was no random killing; this one was personal.

And it was just the beginning.

As the case unfolds, Jack is forced to think the unthinkable as the evidence begins to point disturbingly close to home.

Revenge – how long would you wait?

The Fifteen is the third book in the DI Jack MacIntosh series.

Where to find the book:

Amazon: https://books2read.com/u/bMP00A

About Michelle:

Michelle Kidd is a self-published author known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels.

Michelle qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

But the dream to write books was never far from her mind and in 2008 she began writing the manuscript that would become the first DI Jack MacIntosh novel – The Phoenix Project. The book took eighteen months to write, but spent the next eight years gathering dust underneath the bed.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and has not looked back since. There are currently three DI Jack MacIntosh novels, with a fourth in progress.

Michelle works full time for the NHS and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She enjoys reading, wine and cats – not necessarily in that order.

Bibliography:

The Phoenix Project (DI Jack MacIntosh book 1) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07HVXMDM5 https://www.books2read.com/u/bW1Np1

Seven Days (DI Jack MacIntosh book 2) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08413GDYQ https://www.books2read.com/u/bMp5zX

The Fifteen (DI Jack MacIntosh book 3) – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08FH5WH9L https://books2read.com/u/bMP00A

Social Media links:

www.michellekiddauthor.com

www.facebook.com/michellekiddauthor (Facebook)

@AuthorKidd (Twitter)

@michellekiddauthor (Instagram)

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Book Shelf: The Cake Fairies by Isabella May

The Cake Fairies by Isabella May

First of all, I absolutely LOVE the cover of this book. Also, I stepped outside my typical favored genres to read this one. The title and the cover hooked me, and then I won this beauty through an online Meet the Authors event. YAY!

I had a wonderful and fun time following along with two master baker cousins who get transported from 1969 Somerset to 2019 London! Their mission while there is to possibly find everlasting love, and to become Cake Fairies, whipping up delicious treats, dropping them off in the wildest of places, all in the hopes of distracting people from the overuse of technology. It’s got me wishing there were real Cake Fairies! Great read!!

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla