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For the Love of Books - What's New in Our World

15/11/2019: Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Hawksley

Dickens and Christmas
Lucinda Hawksley
Published by Pen and Sword

A beautifully presented book in hardback with a dust cover. This book reminds us what an influence the man, Charles Dickens was on the Christmas period.

From the filth of Victorian England, Hawksley tells how Dickens’ worked his way from the depths poverty to become a respected writer. Incorporating snippets from Dickens’ books and private writings, Hawksley enthrals us with the knowledge that Charles Dickens rubbed shoulders with famous names and high society.

The book includes a selection of black and white photographs, cartoons, sketches and Victorian Christmas cards (the latter originated, coincidently, at the same time ‘A Christmas Carol was published’) we learn more about the era through its imagery. Chock full of interesting information, this biography interwoven with snippets of private letters tell us how his life, views and writings greatly influenced the Victorian era, so much so that we keep many of these feelings and traditions alive today.

Hawksley, a distant relative of Dickens, is in the prime position to write about him. She has written an interesting and entertaining book that does not have to be enjoyed only at the festive period, but all year around.

Reviewed by Sarah Banham

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25/10/2019: Apollo 11 – The Moon Landing in Real Time By Ian Passingham

Published by Pen and Sword

Space has always interested me and anything based on a true story is always something I want to read. This book fitted into both categories and was something I saw and thought I must read.

It has a really interesting layout as each chapter is one day leading up to, during and after the launch. In each chapter there are smaller headers with information, quotes and stories from the time of the chapter about what is happening and about the country at the time.

I found the book very interesting, skipping from one subject to another quickly may not be for someone who likes to read a story from beginning to end smoothly, but I found it reminiscent of life and how the media and world talk about subjects now which immersed me into the book more.

I learnt a lot from the book as it doesn't only tell you the main points we have always heard when talking about the moon landing.

I would definitely recommend the book for anyone who has an interest in space, the moon landing or in understanding the culture and mindset of a country at the time of a breakthrough.

Reviewed by Chloe Banham on behalf of For the Love of Books www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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21/10/2019: How We See Ourselves

During the Summer, I bumped into someone I’d not seen for well over a year. I’d been out and about shopping, it was hot and I was exhausted. I’d chosen not to wear make-up that day, I needed a haircut and wasn’t wearing particularly trendy clothing so I probably couldn’t have looked worse if I tried.

They asked how I was but it was given with a sympathetic tone, sad eyes and a head-tilt. They added that I didn't look too good or words to that effect. Infuriatingly, I gave a response as to why I might not be looking so great, basically justifying their question. I remember feeling tired and decided at that split second it was easier to agree with their thoughts than to explain why I looked how I looked because I didn’t want to offend them by disagreeing.

This stayed with me but got me wondering. Unfortunately, for those flashes of moments, those snapshots in time when we see others as they live their lives, we make judgements based on the image in front of us. It's rather like those unfair headline shots that magazines take of celebrities they've papped during an off-day.

Thankfully, I’m neither a celebrity nor was I papped but I did feel exposed and vulnerable for weeks afterwards. I felt like I’d let the person down because I wasn’t looking smart and on top of life in the unexpected instant they saw me. Instead I felt like the stereotypical menopause-laden middle-aged woman who should probably just give up now, you know the one society has historically suggested we should become because we serve no purpose now. (I’m carrying no bitter baggage from that societal view, you can tell, can’t you?)

The thing is, how we see ourselves is different to how others see us. I see me in several different ways: the wife and mother, the friend to some, the acquaintance to more, the professional me, the private me. There’s a lot of them just as there are a lot of you too.

I clothe myself appropriately each day for the tasks I need to complete – whatever that is: writing/meetings/shopping/etc. So why did I expect others to see me looking professionally clothed during the weekend surrounded by my family in an informal setting?

Inside is quite different to how I appear on the outside, just as it is for most of us. After all, the outside is purely just a vessel to take us from one place to another and it’s the inside that counts. Except, often, you’re only judged on the outside view.

Do you project your inner insecurities onto others and see them as lesser people to make yourself feel better or do you see everyone as better than you because you *know* you’re not worthy? Or do you just talk to people, say hi and move on without giving it a further thought?

I suspect we’d all like to be the third option but I wonder how many of us are the first or second?

Since that day, I’ve taken my own advice, or No 4, as it says on my Twitter pinned tweet: Don’t compare yourself or your journey with others’.

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18/10/2019: The Sweeney

The Sweeny
The First Sixty Years of Scotland Yard’s Crime Busting Flying Squad

By Dick Kirby
Published by Pen and Sword

After a career in the Metropolitan Police, I was flattered and enthusiastic to review a book written by former police officer, now police historian and author Dick Kirby.

I had previously read the Brave Blue Line as it featured a story about my late father’s colleagues, a group of four men who were pioneers as the first police surveillance motorcyclists, two of which got involved in a violent confrontation in South London. It is a great read about police bravery, so a history of the iconic Flying Squad to read was never going to be a chore.

Dick starts with the obvious history and origins of the Flying Squads' formation which from the start involved confrontation with violent members of society on a weekly basis and the exercise of selfless bravery to protect the public and each other. If you want to know the origins of the The Sweeney’s official and colloquial name you’ll need to read Dick’s book!

Covering 1919 to 1978 it goes through periods of great upheaval in Britain’s social and economic history and the different kinds of violent crimes associated with it. The chapter on the pursuit of the Great Train Robbers with the squad led by Tommy Butler was just riveting. I also enjoyed reading about two officers who were my divisional bosses when I first joined the Met police and they were near there end of their careers; Bob Robinson and Stuart Giblin.

Amongst the stories of dealing with men who were ruthless in their willingness to use hardcore violence, there is a brilliant anecdote about Sergeant Bird from the Flying Squad, tasked with investigating the theft of some birds of prey, particularly an eagle that fortunately survived,

There is also the account of the officers who chased members of the IRA active cell to the flat in Balcombe Street, London that was then besieged, with the negotiations led by the late Lord Peter Imbert.

Having read previously about police bravery and awards, this book is not short of stories of such courage, and the awards that they so rightfully attracted.

Dick Kirby has maintained his great story telling, attention to detail and research and ability to keep the reader engaged in the stories told from start to finish. Thanks, Dick, I look forward to getting another of your offerings to read!

Reviewed by Bryan Lightbody on behalf of For the Love of Books, www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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14/10/2019: 3-Character Dynamic TV Shows

Without a Trace

This week's OPINION BLOG talks about 3-character dynamics and character development and progression.

For a few months, I’ve been binge-watching an old TV series, Without a Trace. I’ve loosely followed the career of Eric Close (Martin) for approximately 15 years and was pulled into WaT because of the calibre and reputation of his acting (and, dare I admit, his looks). He is a really versatile actor, not just the pretty face he’s often cast for but an actor with depth too. His story line was interesting over a few but then it felt like the writers moved on. I read an old article with him saying he wished he’d been given a story line that allowed him to smile more. He has an amazing smile which switches on charm instantly but smile aside, his lack of meatier storyline lost me.

Because Martin’s story line moved to one side, it highlighted the acting and story line of Danny (Enrique Murciano). I’d seen him in one small part years ago when he played a nasty piece of work on one of my favourite all-time shows, Enterprise (Yeah, I’m a Trekkie). Talk about hold it against him! It clouded my opinion due to his portrayal of a character with grotesque morals. It’s quite unfair, I realise, but the weird part of me totally believes these characters are real people – just as I totally believe my own characters are real.

Then Danny did something very clever. Over two seasons (4 and 5?), he turned my utter dislike for him into my inability to stop thinking about his acting. Thus, an opinion blog was born.

His character development has been, for me, the biggest asset of the show. Generally, Danny is too quick to react, is still young enough to be reprimanded and has a very strong back story – unlike the other characters which are all a bit meh - plus he has a unique vulnerability about him. He had a sense of mischief and a temper that you often don’t see coming. In short, he is predictably unpredictable – a particularly useful trait to have in this kind of show.

Added to Martin and Danny, Jack, played by Anthony LaPaglia, who usually plays unpleasant tough guys but in this he is a smart-mouthed thinker. I love his one-liners so much so that I listen out just for them – I swear some of them are ad-libbed. He is sarcastic and cynical, all the things you might expect from a wearied law-keeper plus he’s protective of his team but not so protective that he won’t take them to one side if they’re not performing. It’s this trait that keeps Danny in line and the dynamic of these two men is enough reason to watch the show.

That’s the ‘three-character dynamic’ I like looking for. In groups, there is often 3 characters who bounce off each other as if they’re one being. As the only 3 guys in WaT, maybe they had no choice?

Then the 3-character dynamic altered as Elena (played by Roselyn Sanchez) arrived. Her character developed rapidly and believably. She and Danny enjoyed a storyline which, as a writer of relationships, I focused on (and Jack’s one-liners). Elena removed the 3-character dynamic enabling the team of now 6 to work together. However, watching Danny develop from a cold, arrogant young man into a seasoned agent-in-love was the biggest gift from an 8 season show.

Character progression in TV shows has to be quick yet believable often due to funding insecurities for another season to be given the thumbs up. With books, however, we have a longer opportunity to get that development across within the minds of the reader using pages alone rather than visuals. Of course, the two mediums are vastly different yet share so many similarities.

It’s worth looking at character development within TV and the big screen in addition to your characters as it brings forth another dimension of personality traits that you can apply to your own characters.

In future opinion blogs, I’ll give my thoughts on 3-character-dynamics other TV shows. Leverage and Seal Team are two I have planned the moment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your TV show characters vs your own writing ones.




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07/10/2019: Space for one more?

You may have heard it said that in order to find out what the story is about, you need to tell it to yourself first.

I was told years ago by the author Della Galton that we are in the entertainment business. It was a big message to me because I had never considered I was in that industry. But she was right. We provide entertainment for readers. We might spend night after insomnia-ridden night thinking about our characters or our stories, if this fits here or if that fits there, is that necessary, is this relevant, but ultimately what we do is entertainment, education or information for others.

We don’t tend to think about the reader straight away because we have to learn which piece goes where first. Constructing the picture that eventually becomes the story can be seen as a massive jigsaw; a puzzle that requires time, patience and creativity to connect. But there is a point, after several drafts, at which you have to consider the eyes that will be the final part of the literary puzzle. After all, we are writing for readers.

Recently, I heard it mentioned that we should ‘leave some space for the reader’, presumably to complete that metaphorical jigsaw. Also, to allow them room for their imaginations to work. I liked the mention. It reminds me that the reader makes up a big part of the creative process. Without their eyes and mind, the story does not get read.

So the next time you are struck with an idea or you are several drafts into your work-in-progress, just remember to keep some space for one more.

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04/10/2019: The Food Bible - by Judith Wills

The Food Bible
By Judith Wills
Published by Pen and Sword

I chose this book as I am a qualified Personal Trainer and am always interested in nutrition and the different information out there. This book was also mentioned a lot throughout my training so when the opportunity came up to review it I jumped at the chance.

From what I had heard about it I was expecting a book with a guideline of what was in each food, such as the carbohydrate value etc. However, when I started reading the book I realised it provided a lot more than that. It offers recipes that are easy to follow, healthy and nutritious as well as the breakdown of the majority of foods you can buy.

I definitely recommend this book as it is helpful for anyone. If you are just starting look into healthy eating and don't know where to begin you can use the recipes as a great starting off point, and if you know a bit about it and want a quick reference for different foods you are cooking with that is there too.

I am glad I got the chance to look at this book and understand now why it was recommended throughout my training.

Reviewed by Chloe Banham on behalf of For the Love of Books www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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30/09/2019: The 7th Self Publishing Conference

Earlier this year, I attended the above event held in Leicester, UK. I’d been to the very first one but hadn’t been able to get to the ones in between.

I wondered if they had changed in any way since the first one as these things tend to iron out any issues as they evolve. From my memory of the initial conference, there wasn’t much to alter as it was pretty smoothly organised throughout as was this recent one.

The Self Publishing Conference is run by Troubador Publishing Ltd and sponsored by businesses including Writing Magazine so big name reputations add to the literary atmosphere of the day.

They have heaps going on during the day including several talks. One of the talks I attended was on podcasting with Morgen Bailey (www.morgenbailey.com). This has proved useful because, as of September 2019, I will be launching The Versatile Writer podcast so some of the notes I made during Morgen’s event have been used.

I also attended the talk by Keynote Speaker Orna Ross (Founder and Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors) who reminded me of some very important information. I’d jotted down her suggestions during this talk about thinking of our skills in a different way – she was talking about ‘businesspreneurs’ and ‘authorpreneurs’ which makes a lot of sense.

As an aside, Orna’s been a great help to me over the past few years. Not to gush, but years ago after my 8th book was published (I’ve Got A Pen & I’m Not Afraid To Use It), I experienced something strange: publishing paralysis – like writer’s block but with publishing. For me it was the inability to publish again. I was perplexed as to why it happened, after all I’d done it before but I simply couldn’t.

I. Just. Couldn’t.

I’d been that way for five long years. People kept asking me when the next one was coming out and the more they asked, the worse it became. I happened to mention this to Orna while interviewing her at the London Book Fair one year and she recognised it telling me it was a real ‘thing’. She’d even written about it in one of her books (Go Creative! It’s Your Native State). Once I’d reflective intensively on my feelings*, plus getting a massive pep talk from one of my cousins, I pressed that button again and very low-key published my 9th and 10th books which enabled me to get on with my life/business/studies.

Back to the conference, armed with copious notes about podcasting, marketing and business attitude, I networked with the best in the business and enjoyed seeing familiar faces like Jane Rowland and Jeremy Thompson, plus I even met some ladies who’d friended me on Face Book but we’d never met in reality. It’s a strange world we live in.

In addition to the talks and classes, you get a goodie bag, constant refreshments, several varieties of cake, lunch and dessert all included in your ticket price. They even take on board dietary requirements.

All in all, the Self Publishing Conference is a cool event to attend. You’ll learn so much from it – I did.

*all in another blog another time.

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27/09/2019: Book Revieew: England's Witchcraft Trials - Willow Winsham


This book is full of historical facts about 5 different episodes of witchcraft trials. I liked the way they are laid out in chronological order, so I could understand how attitudes and behaviours changed over the years. It was also interesting to notice which things stay the same and can be seen in social media etc today.

There is a lot of detailed information in the notes section which is excellent. It may have been better to include some of this information in the main body of the book as it would be a shame for it to be missed.

It is a well researched book and alongside all of the facts are fascinating insights into human nature. The photographs help to bring the houses and places that these people lived alive. Overall this is an excellent and interesting read.

Reviewed by Brenda Gull on behalf of For the Love of Books www.loveofbooks.co.uk



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23/09/2019: Why?

At a recent GP visit, I found myself sitting in the waiting room with a few other people. One of them was a young mother with three children aged about 3, 1 and a new born. We got chatting during the time I was waiting.

In my opinion, she was a great mum: calm, attentive, answering her son’s relentless questions and being on top of everything. I then reminisced about my own experiences as a young mother. I wasn’t nearly as good as her and most definitely wasn’t on top of everything – and I had just one child – but I digress.

It appeared they were there for the middle child’s vaccinations. She – they – were certainly a breath of fresh air.

As time went on, I couldn’t help but smile at her son’s questions. He was a delightful little thing, picking up books, asking to be read to, opening it up and showing his little sister the pages and generally being a good big brother and child with an enquiring mind, absorbing everything around him.

She sat down with them and opened the book to begin reading. His attention span was, as you might imagine, less than perfect for a 3 year and while she was reading to him and his sister, he looked around the room. She got his attention back by asking him questions about the book and what was going on in the illustrations. He answered then went back to looking at signs on the waiting room doors: a fire extinguisher, a sign for oxygen with a picture on it and all kinds of posters.

“What’s that?” he reeled off several times, adding “Why?”

As she tried to keep up with the questions and answers plus still keep the middle child occupied with the book, I held back no longer and giggled.
She looked up at me and giggled back. “He’s like this all the time. I couldn’t wait for him to speak and now he won’t stop,” she chuckled. “He has me in stiches, he’s hilarious.”

“You’re children are so full of character; they’re amazing,” I laughed. “He doesn’t even wait for the answer, he just goes on to the next thing.” We both laughed as the little boy looked at me and smiled.

This got me thinking about our job as a creative writer.
We have to ask ‘why’ and ‘what’s that’ all the time when structuring a story. Why this story? Why this character, what does this character have to learn? What do they have to do? Why? How will it make the story exciting/entertaining/educational? Why? Will you tie up all the loose ends? How?

And it doesn’t stop there. Our characters ask ‘why’ too, and then we have to answer them. Then the reader will ask ‘why’ so we answer them in order to give a satisfying read. Hopefully they’ll return and ask ‘why’ and ‘what’s that’ in our next story.

And on it goes.

So, in the spirit of this young family, let’s embrace our inner 3 year old and ask ‘why’ and ‘what’s that’ with every piece of writing we create. For without asking, how will we learn and how will others know?

Knowledge is everything. Knowledge is power. Why?

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20/09/2019: Book Review: Garden Wildlife By Gerard E Cheshire

Published by Pen and Sword, this is a hardback book with a dustcover in nature’s greens with beautiful detailed photos of insects and reptiles overlaid onto the background.

The contents list Fauna under separate groups; these being:
Mammals
Birds
Reptiles
Amphibians
Fish
Invertebrates

There is a small chapter at the end of the book on Flora

This book is filled to the brim with amazing photographs and detailed facts about the variety of wildlife that might be be found in your garden, whether you live in town or country and your garden is large or small.

You may have more visitors to your garden than you think!

A fascinating, interesting, and well written book suitable for young or old. A book to keep.

Reviewed by Elaine Carlo on behalf of
For the Love of Books, www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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18/09/2019: The Swanwick Diaries

Earlier this year, I finally made it to a writers’ annual conference that has been recommended to me over the past ten years. For whatever reason, I’ve never managed to go. Until this year.

Day 1

Arrived about 4pm after a nearly 5 hours in my car. I booked in and rapidly freshened up before heading for Orientation at 4.15. After which was the Chairman’s talk, a tour of the site, wine then dinner. With around 300 people attending, some familiar faces and meeting new ones, I excused myself around 8.30pm before a guest speaker began and an ice breaker session ensued.

Talk about hit the ground running!

After that journey and the influx of information and people, I was overwhelmed to took refuge in my room, unpacked, showered and tried to settle down. At midnight I was just about able to settle. Meditated until around 1am.


Day 2

Awoke at 4am unable to get back to sleep. Meditated but it didn’t work as fully as I’d hoped. I’m not used to being away from my family nor driving for so long alone. Washed and dressed by 6.45am and at keyboard by 7am. Quite possibly the earliest I’ve ever sat at my keyboard! Ever. In my life.
After breakfast and the first of 4 sessions I want to attend this week (Character Psychology), I suspect I will crash for at least an hour later. My plan for this week is to give another (hopefully final) edit to Livin’ & Lovin’ in Texas. It is a bitter-sweet romance originally written in 2005 and currently stands at just under 35k.


Day 3

Reasonable day of editing. New faces that are the other residents are becoming more familiar.

Even starting to remember their names too. Had an epiphany with the editing project. My hero is now based on the guy from accounts. (Private joke only daughter and I get). Googled photos of the actor and added a couple to my phone to look at for…ahem…inspiration. Fire alarm went off after midnight so grabbed my laptop, hard drive and phone then headed to assembly area. I’ve done too much work on it for it be lost in potential burning situation.

Back to room within the hour but too wired to sleep so edited some more. Suspect guy from accounts was so hot he set off the alarm. Totally understandable. Sleep by 2am.

Day 4

Blurry eyed this morning especially while absorbing information on psychology course. Napped a lot afterwards and edited when able.

Had a lovely chat with 3 ladies today, all vastly different backgrounds. Time well spent with them. Wanted to achieve more today but fatigued prevented it. Glass of wine tonight so squiffy too. Finished off the night with a swig or seven of Malibu and a handful of frazzles. I’m so classy.


Day 5

My birthday. Kept low-key as don’t want to attract attention. Facebook announces it to the world though and heaps of fb and IRL friends sent wishes which is lovely and makes me smile.

I recall spending only 2 birthdays away from home: one with my girlie in Stratford upon Avon before she was able to drive so I had to and the other time is here. Feels weird not to be around husband and daughter (and cat) but I know they are at the other end of the phone/text/whatsapp.

Might mention it tonight at dinner but will see how the day goes first. Definitely having a large wine tonight and possibly cake too. Ha! Take that, Bembridge Scholars!

Day 5 cont…

Didn’t announce it at dinner, seemed inappropriate and really didn’t want any attention. Did have wine but didn’t have cake. Had a dodgy vegan thing that held onto the plate so hard I had to employ a pneumatic drill just to taste it. (What must vegan digestive systems go through?).

Also there was no psychology course today – it continues tomorrow. Instead I tried a one hour workshop on audio books. Interesting but has reminded me that so much of the digital experience removes a lot of the creativity and relies almost totally on technology – my favourite bedfellow. Not. Made notes though.

Had a couple of uncomfortable moments today which brought out my very best version of anxiety for all to see so felt vulnerable too. Add to that a mishap with a chair which resulted in a broken nail. Dammit! On the plus side I got about 5 hours of editing completed so yay!

Quite possibly my most anxiety-filled lay-low birthday ever. Not fab. Just to add to that not fab feeling, I did the calculations and I might not even finish the editing before I leave Swanwick. That’s sad. Am working out a way to achieve it or else continue at home which I’d rather not do. I mean, this is the reason I came here.

Day 6

Pulled out all the stop and DID IT! Finally finished editing L&LiT removing over 6 thousand unnecessary words. It was one of the most intensive and disciplined editing sessions I’ve ever completed.

I packed after lunch so it will be a smoother evening what with dregs party, dinner, awards & farewell then drinks. Feeling knackered and didn’t get a nap today so going to bed before midnight for a change. Yay.


Day 7

I couldn't sleep until around 1am. My alarm was set for 6.30 so there wasn't much wiggle room. It was also miffing that I fell asleep during a meditation only to awake suddenly and need a wee. I've shared a bathroom all week so creaky floorboards outside my room helped me work out if anyone was on there before I set off. I got back only to see my phone battery was lower than I'd like but the plug for the charger wasn't near the bed so if I did another meditation to get to sleep I had the extra worry there'd be no battery left and I would get the alarm clock in the morning. As is usual I was worrying for nothing as I did awake at 6 30 and put the phone straight onto charge before I showered.

I dealt with the last min bits and needed the loo again so grabbed my key and promptly shut my door only to discover the key I held was my car key. Thankfully dressed, I made my way to reception but it was still too early for staff so I had to phone the emergency number for the duty manager to rescue me. She arrived within 10 mins so I grabbed my room key and went to the loo.

After brekkie, a group photo and an exchange of contact details and promises to stay in touch, I grabbed my cases and headed for the car.

The problem within journeys alone is the aspect of fatigue. To keep awake I began analysing the timeline of my novella. I found I was taking each character and looking at their individual timeline within the story. This is something I might play with in the coming days. I'm happy to know that a fifth and (hopefully) final tweak will be done.

It also crossed my mind if those travelling back were discussing me as I thought about them. Had I made any impact on them as they did me. I suspect the only way I'll know is if they do contact me as we both agreed.

So there you have it, my week at Swanwick, my bucket list box ticked, and my novella finally edited.



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18/09/2019: Tea & Talk - Mental Health Foundation

Recently, Society of Authors asked me to consider holding a Writers of Essex Tea & Talk session. I agreed and organised it for 8 October 2019 at Cafe Triple 2 in Colchester, Essex, UK.

This session invites writers who write professionally or for fun to be open about their mental health. It is hoped that informal discussions will take place where we can listen to each other about our experiences with daily life and with our writing life.

Personally, I've been reasonably open and transparent over the years about mental health and what that looks like for me.

Listening to each other thoughts and feelings on the subject is part of being open about it. Mental health affects everyone so these discussion need not be negative - nor do they have to be positive...they just have to take place in order for us to be well.

If you'd like to participate in this event, please come along on 8 October 10am until midday at 14 Long Wyre Street, Colchester, CO1 1LH. Feel free to stay for the allotted time or simply drop in for a drink.

I'll look forward to seeing you there.

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13/09/2019: Book Review: Nile Wilson- Raising the Bar

Nile Wilson: Raising the Bar
How Gymnastics can Change your Life

I first heard about Nile Wilson at the 2016 Olympics, where he won a bronze medal. I eventually stumbled onto his YouTube channel and even tried his training programmes from BodyBible. When I saw his book, I thought it would be interesting to read, I would find out more about the Olympian and as his videos are interesting thought it would be worth a read.

When I saw the book, it was exactly how I thought it would be, the cover shows him at a competition and the blurb showed his positivity and passion for gymnastics that has always been apparent.

The first half of the book is him explaining how gymnastics has impacted him and changed his life, how it has affected his behaviour and mindset and what he feels he has learnt from it.

He also explains how he feels gymnastics and the positive mindset it needs can help everyone in their day to day lives, whether they are athletes or not. All things he has put online before and explained in interviews, but it was interesting reading it as it was slightly more in depth than I have previously seen from him.

The second half of the book is a 21-day challenge, that is meant to teach you how to do a handstand by the end of the challenge. The weeks are explained clearly, the exercises are shown well and overall the layout of the challenge works well.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, however, I was surprised how little of it was about his gymnastics career and his life. Most of the book is taken up by the 21-day challenge, which made it a very short read.

If getting into gymnastics or learning how to do a handstand is something you would benefit from then the book is worthwhile. However, if you are looking to learn about Nile Wilson specifically, you may be better off watching his YouTube channel.

Reviewed by Chloe Banham on behalf of For the Love of Books www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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13/09/2019: The Writers of Essex Meetup

I’ve been holding regular events for the writers within Essex, UK. Initially they were created so I could meet other writers who shared my thoughts and goals. I felt that if I needed to meet others in real life, then there must be more people who feel the same out there.

The quarterly meetings were originally held inside a Chelmsford coffee shop; the venue ensured the meetings would be informal and friendly, a chat over coffee if you will. I chose that location as, despite it being an hour’s drive for me, I felt it would be central for those likely to attend.

However, after 3 years of running these meetings, my single voice reaching out to a handful of people who, for one reason or another, couldn’t make the date or the location, it was time to rethink the location and venue so after the June meeting in 2019 I spoke to Essex Libraries and Society of Authors, asking for their input to my meetups.

I was incredibly fortunate to have both those bodies come on board instantly. The library would provide a free space and display posters while the SoA would extend the invitation to their members - what was originally my voice calling out to a few people is now a larger voice calling out to potentially hundreds - they also provided a face book group so I can easily post notifications to those who follow it. The SoA also gave me discounts to distribute to those interested, magazines and bookmarks.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a freebie?

The September meeting was held at Essex Libraries in Colchester Library and Community Hub with support by Society of Authors. 18 people attended and it was heartening to learn that half were members of the SoA and half were not. This is the kind of meeting I think is vital for communities.

I had the foresight to create feedback forms asking attendees to tell me what they’d like from an informal and friendly, supportive and encouraging meetup such as this. I was thrilled with the responses – all of them being useful and constructive. Gauging by this first meeting in Colchester, it appears to be a good step in the right direction.

During the summer, I sent out several invitations via the face book page, so if you haven’t yet responded, please rethink. This could be the ‘in real life’ group for you. Added to that, if you know a writer within Essex who might enjoy it, please tell them about the face book group page too.

The next meeting is December 7 12-3pm. However, I’ll be hosting a Tea & Talk event (Mental Health Foundation) on Tuesday 8 October 10am-12pm at Café 222, 14 Long Wyre Street, Colchester CO11LH. It's a relatively new cafe that is located quite close to Queen Street and, in turn, the car park in Priory Street. If you want to join in the discussions about mental health generally or yours while you write/the effects it has on you, please do.

It’d be good to see you there.

Finally, thank you to those who attended, Essex Libraries and Society of Authors for sharing my vision.

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09/09/2019: Community

Community. That word describes what this weekend has been about.

On Saturday, I organised a countywide meet up for writers and on Sunday I (riding pillion) participated in a motorcycle charity ride.

The thing is about community events is that despite the amount of effort, energy, time and money thrown towards them, you are just left with hope for a good turnout in the day. There is so much that can go wrong including the things outside of your control. The weather is always a tricky one - you can never know for sure especially in the UK.

On Saturday the weather was bright but overcast and just minutes before the meet up was about to begin, I was caught in a torrential downpour which resulted in me being five minutes late. Punctuality is a big deal with with me, I've spent my life ensuring I'm early for events, exams, interviews - you know the kind of thing - so while I apologised to the attendees who got there on time, I felt I was instantly on a back footing from the get go. That soon changed, however, as I booked in with library staff and began the meet up.

Of the 20 writers that showed up, I knew just 2 of them so as someone who spends a lot of time with other writers in the county, I was amazed at how many more there are.

On Sunday, everything was outside of my control anyway as I was simply a passenger for a rider. The temperature was, again, very mixed, but stayed dry.

We began the official ride from Dunton in Essex, UK while bystanders waved and cheered at us and around 2000 other bikers raising awareness and funds for the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance.

The fun aspect of this annual ride is the people who leave their cars and homes to sit at the side of the road from Dunton to Harwich to give us cheers, waves and thumbs up signals. It makes your heart swell to experience the community come together for such a worthy cause.

Charity aside, it's always great spending time within the biking community because, on the whole, they are a friendly and respectful group of people. In my 30 plus years of being a road user, I found the past 4 years of being part of the biking community to highlight that bikers will always stop their journey to check on another biker - stranger or not. You'll always see bikers nod a hello or raise a hand at other bikers on the road too. Plus in service stations, bikers will generally stop and chat with you about how your journey has been.

And that's how I feel community should be: caring for each other and being respectful and friendly with each other. After all, we all inhabit the same local, national and world wide community.


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06/09/2019: The Mayfair Mafia - Book Review

The Mayfair Mafia
The Lives and Crimes of the Messina Brothers

By Dick Kirby

Published by Pen and Sword True Crime


The book begins with an interesting foreword by an ex-police colleague of the author and progresses to the prologue, where we learn that the word Mafia might have originated as far back as the 1860s. Considering the word seems more modern than that, this titbit of information was an immediate surprise to me.

Kirby’s wit and extremely dry humour comes on straight away as early as the prologue which, of course, makes reading heavy subjects easier and created a relationship between the author (narrator) and the reader. When you read further, you get a good understanding of pimps and prostitution, slavery and murder, and gangs around the world.

Focussing the content towards London, Kirby adds references about events and people who are mentioned in his and other authors’ books. This is a useful cross-over element for readers of true crime in the historical and contemporary eras.

This book isn’t for the overly-sensitive but if you enjoy reading real life crime from the side of the good guys, then you’ll love Kirby’s Mayfair Mafia.

Reviewed by Sarah Banham
www.loveofbooks.co.uk for Pen and Sword Books

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04/09/2019: Radio Show Sponsor

Most of you know I present Writer's Block. It's a local community radio show currently broadcasting live on Colne each Monday from 6pm (UK time).

I first pitched the idea of a radio show over 7 years ago and i didn't expect the pitch to be accepted. Generally in 'creative land' pitches are usually declined. However, over 7 years later and I'm still presenting.

It's voluntary work and I do in addition to running my business For the Love of Books, leading several community groups and studying with part time uni. The show's aims have not changed either - to shine a literary light onto the county's creative writing endeavours - yet they have evolved.

Over those 7 years, I've been part of 4 different radio stations, two of them I presented live and two were selected recorded shows and interviewed over 400 guests including authors, literary agents, editors, publishers, proofreaders, audio book voice artists, cover designers, bookshop owners etc. Often guests return, which is a really nice relationship to have.

Over the years I've discovered that the show is listened by people not just in our local community but wider too via the web. I have regular listeners in Essex but also further afield too all over the UK. It doesn't stop there either, listeners in Europe, Mexico, United States, Canada and even Australia have been in touch too.

Therefore, it was with pride that I announced this week that the Writing Magazine is currently sponsoring Writer's Block. I'm thrilled at this because I really love the magazine as it does so much for writers everywhere by supporting and encouraging them.

I hope you tune in to 106.6fm or listen online via www.colneradio.net - especially during September as there is a guest scheduled every week - because Writing Magazine have got some great offers going too that you can only get by listening to the Writer's Block.

Happy listening!

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30/08/2019: The Golden Age of Science Fiction

The Golden Age of Science Fiction
A Journey into Space with 1950s Radio, TV, Films, Comics and Books

By John Wade

Published by Pen and Sword History


An exciting book that will interest lovers of Sci Fi from the 50s. With colour pictures and photos throughout, there is lots to keep the reader involved – even if you didn’t grow up in that era.

Wade goes into details over radio series of that time including Journey into Space from the BBC aided by photos of the people wo provided the voices. He also includes detailed respective plots and series information of Lost in Space, Dan Dare and other radio presentations before looking at the TV Sci Fi offerings of the time.

Quatermas and the Pit, Nineteen Eighty-Four both get a mention and for the 20something readers, the original Star Trek series is covered too. Wade mentions HG Wells’ War of The Worlds reminding us that not all aliens like to be friendly.

With regards to science fiction films, we learn background information about the posters advertising the films too – even the misleading interpretations some posters gave. In the book section, towards the end of Wades’ research, he looks at novels and comics.

This is a fantastic collection of sci fi memorabilia for those who enjoy escapism and a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Brilliant stuff!

Reviewed by Sarah Banham www.loveofbooks.co.uk



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23/08/2019: Understanding and Treating Your Migraine

Understanding & Treating YOUR Migraine
Paula Greenspan

Published by Pen & Sword Books

Author and Health Journalist Paula Greenspan has written this book from the viewpoint of a migraine sufferer. However rather than become a victim to debilitating attacks, she’s taken the attitude of a survivor. And that’s what drew me in.

She begins by describing the visual symptoms of attacks as ‘a knock-off Picasso’ – this description not only made me smile but also enabled me to relate to her whole-heartedly.

She tells us that migraines are now considered to be a neurological disorder; yet it seems while research is ongoing, not enough has yet been found.

Personally, I’ve suffered for about 35 years and Greenspan’s research has told me more than any GP I’ve ever seen. However, experts believe serotonin and oestrogen play a part and this might be why more women get them than men or children.

This book gives concise and unique information. If you live with them or are unsure if what you’ve been experiencing is actually a migraine, you’ll find hints, tips and even a migraine survival sheet which makes this book a medical-cabinet must-have.

Greenspan’s book deserves the title of ‘The Migraine Bible’ instead because that is what it is. I believe the excellent help, case-studies and plentiful help this book offers, it should be an item prescribed by doctors!


Reviewed by Sarah Banham from For the Love of Books for Pen & Sword Books

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16/08/2019: The Yearbook of Astronomy 2019

Yearbook of Astronomy 2019
Brian Jones
Published by White Owl, Pen and Sword Books


Not only is this book an interesting read, it is also an observation guide.

Although astronomy fascinates me, I’ve never been aware that there have been any Yearbooks for astronomy. However, as this book was highlighted to me, I’m now intrigued.

The yearbook is aimed at ‘armchair’ astronomers and the active ‘back yard’ enthusiasts. With several diagrams, many brilliant photos and heaps of information about the heavens, this book would make a resourceful research book for those writing sci fi plus a general everyday guidebook for anybody interested in space.

The striking cover alone is worth getting this book – the rest is a beautiful bonus!

Review by Sarah Banham www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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19/07/2019: Great British Names and Their History

Great British Family Names and Their History
What’s in a Name?
By John Moss
Published by Pen and Sword History

As a writer, I got this book to assist with character names and the history attached to them which occasionally helps with character development too. I wasn’t disappointed – although I suspect Moss didn’t write the book for this purpose.

Primarily, it is a snapshot of British family names from their derivation including any translations from the Domesday Book, so covers absolutely everything about them.

With several map diagrams complete with key, Moss gives so much historical information by way of his extensive research that it is not a book for a single sitting but a reference book to dip in and out.

The world is a better place for the intricate and curious minds of people like Moss.

Reviewed by Sarah Banham www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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12/07/2019: It's All Happening!

Gosh! Have you ever been whizzing around doing things but cannot show anyone your efforts? Well, that's what's happening here at For the Love of Books.

There is a lot going on in the background, the stuff that provides the foundation for products and services to stand
upon - and without these foundations, nothing lasts.

It's the background bits that take the time and effort manifesting themselves through research, materials, creativity and the most important part of it all, imagination. Without stretching those imagination muscles, we don't move, evolve, progress or develop.

Therefore, come Autumn 2019, I will 'go official' on what has been going on in the background. I'm certain these new products and services will make you smile.

In the meantime, why not let me know what else you'd like to see from For the Love of Books and I'll see if I can make it happen.

Until next time...

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05/07/2019: Love Island

Unpopular opinion alert!

I like Love Island. There I said it. But have you noticed how divided people are on the show? It's almost as if people feel LI is a lesser form of TV and those watching it (or shock, horror taking part) are a lesser form of human. Remember last year when stats came out saying that there were more people applying for LI than applying for Oxbridge and people were shocked?

Well, I may have been a reluctant watcher but was pulled into it last year and without realising it began really rooting for specific couples or individuals. This year, I wasn't much interested until maybe the second or third episode and then...boom.

But the point of this blog isn't about gathering ratings for the show, it's about something much more down to earth that hugely relates to creative writing, or more specifically fiction writing.

You see, LI and other reality shows (Kardashian's, House Wives) have one thing that I think fiction writers might enjoy. Relationships. Or more importantly, explosive relationships.

When I'm writing a novel, one of my biggest loves is writing characters involving themselves within a relationship. Whether it is crime/romance, action/romance or simply romance itself, watching how people react to specific situations is gold. Of course you could rock up to a coffee show and stare outside (or inside) for a while to see how people react to each other but the kind of gentle cuteness or massive fireworks that you see on these shows enables your writing mind to gather images of body language, character traits and facial expressions.

As for more people applying to be on the show than applying for university, does that really matter? Not everyone wants to/is able to go to university because, guess what, everyone is an individual with their own wants and needs. And therein lies another blog subject for another time.

So before you dis the idea of Love Island (like I originally did), give it a go for the research alone. You don't have to like it, but the knowledge you can gather is gold.

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14/06/2019: Research is Everywhere

Recently I visited Los Angeles. It was essentially a research trip and while we were there we had great time.

Sadly, there was a need during this trip to call 9-1-1 because I'd become so ill an ambulance was called. It wasn't a decision taken lightly and for me, barely able to comprehend what was happening, it was a scary situation.

Details of my complaint aren't necessary, the taking on board of the processes are useful especially if a situation like this cropped up when writing a novel. Despite remembering very little of what went on - only recalling some bits in part - I've been told about it by my family who witnessed all of it.

As an ambulance was called, we expected to see an ambulance; after all, why wouldn't you? My daughter and husband waited at the door as the siren was approaching but instead of an ambulance, a firetruck showed up. Puzzled, my family saw the paramedics get out and showed them the way to me.

Fortunately I was going to be okay but it would take some time. Between my husband and daughter they gave the person in charge my details (husband forgot my birth date, presumably due to the intensity of the situation, and gave them his!) They remained for about 15 minutes but to me it felt like hours, not because it was boring but because i had lost all ability to comprehend and track time.

With copious amounts of sympathy for my situation, they advised two options: wait for the ambulance which was on its way anyway/use our car to get me to the hospital or tough it out. I chose to tough it out because the thought of taking up their time and utilising an ambulance and hospital bed that someone else worse off than me frightened me more than what I was going through.

Information and advice was given by two very sympathetic paramedics and the woman in charge (plus the firefighter/firetruck driver) and they advised my family to send the details to our travel insurers once their bill had been received by us when we were back in the UK. Our bill came through this week and we're in the process of sending it to the insurers.

All of this would have been a mystery to me unless I had seen it first hand. Hollywood movies and TV dramas don't necessarily show you the ins and outs of paperwork processes - essentially because it would be boring. But it is real life.

A month on and I can take some positives from my ordeal like some vital research information that I wouldn't normally have known. It seems the Anaheim Fire and Rescue Department share equipment (like the firetruck that brought them to me) like they do on, say, Chicago Fire (TV drama) but to witness it in real life means I can write about it with authority. After all, who sends a firetruck to someone in need of an ambulance?

Finally, if they ever read this blog, I want to extend my sincere thanks to the guys who came out to me that night and to my family to whom I gave quite fright.



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29/05/2019: Writers of Essex Meetup

It does seem to come around quickly, but these quarterly meetups are back again.

This coming Saturday 1 June from midday until 3pm at Caffe Nero in Chelmsford, Essex, UK, I will be hosting another social session.

Originally these meetups were set up for myself so I could escape the solitary environment of writing along. I am, by my very nature, a sociable person so when there is an opportunity to chat (usually about writing) to other writers going through the same issues as me, I'm one happy bunny.

Now in its third year, these meetups have proved to be more than just a catch up for me, by other writers (hobby and professional) have joined me to discuss ways out of ruts they've written themselves in to, brainstormed new ideas and even come up with collaborative efforts that they'll take forwards.

Some sessions have even created new friendships - the best part of socialising in my opinion.

So, don't ignore the invitation, if you are free for up to 3 hours every quarter, why not join in with the other writers who show up? It is free to attend - but do buy some refreshment from the cafe (we don't want to upset them) ;O)

See you there. :O)

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26/04/2019: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty

by Mimi Matthews
Published by Pen and Sword Books

Elegant cover with pastels of cream, pink and shades of sepia. Illustrated with coloured pictures, this incredibly informative book gives a good idea of fashion between 1840 to the end of the century.

It provides information on clothing, varying activities for women of the time including horse riding, formal occasions and even what was worn on holiday. The restrictive and confining designs are a far cry from today’s fashions!

Aside from the fascinating aspects of fabric choice, needlework techniques and research undertaken for the cosmetics available at the time, this book would make a brilliantly helpful research companion for writers and artists focusing on that era. Reviewed by Sarah Banham www.loveofbooks.co.uk for Pen and Sword

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25/04/2019: Forgotten Royal Women

Erin Lawless’s book ‘Forgotten Royal Women’ is not only a fascinating and insightful read, but it is also written in an entertaining style with a great blend of historical prose, unusual words and modern parlance.

It traces female historical characters from the dark ages through to Victorian times. It covers legendary figures from the near mythical Scottish ‘Scota’ to the tragic Princess Charlotte, who had she survived would have prevented the invention of the word Victorian.

The book covers Queens, lovers, mistresses and tragic mothers.

Scota’s story stems incredibly from Egypt and includes the potential origin of the ‘Stone of Destiny’ (this rock gets more than one mention in the book!) as being from Egypt. Her existence is still a subject of conjecture, and it’s not often that a UK royal history book has a commentary that pre dates Christianity.

In the story of Cartimandua, Erin entertains with her references and descriptions. When this Queen of the Brigantes takes a second husband whose names means ‘better in battle’, I loved the reference that for the queen he was ‘clearly better in other respects too…’ Interestingly it is suggested that the love triangle that surrounds her story might have given origin to the story of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Edith Swannesha gets a noble and tragic mention who was the common law wife of one of my historical heroes Harold Godwinson. It is sad that history does not record what happened to her after the Norman invasion. But lineage can be traced from her to the current Queen through Edith’s daughter Gytha, meaning Queen Elizabeth II is Edith’s 29th great granddaughter.

Another touch of what I found to be an almost satirical use of English that entertained me was the story of Joanna Plantagenet. Erin describes how ‘it would have been totally inconceivable that a married pregnant woman be admitted to an Abbey’. Something in her story had clearly been very conceivable! Joanna was another tragic royal woman who died following child birth along with her child, much like the final tragic story of Princess Charlotte. Charlotte’s death, when she was the immediate heir to the throne, led to family expansion elsewhere to produce a new heir: Queen Victoria.

Writing royal history with its twists and turns in who accedes to the throne and from which house is difficult to commit to paper having read much on this subject. Erin has done a commendable job to try to allow the reader to follow these lines, and she has entertained along the way.

Good work, recommended read!

Reviewed by Bryan Lightbody,
For the Love of Books www.loveofbooks.co.uk
for Pen & Sword Books

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02/11/2018: BIKER BLOGS: It's not easy being green!

Remember when Kermit said that? I think I understand him now.

Menopause – or peri-menopause (the bit I’m in) creates a very colourful time in a woman’s life. Now, before all the guys click onto a different page, this affects you too. After all, why should we be the only one to suffer with it. Let’s share that suffering.

Kermit was green. I relate because my eyes are green. My hair is dyed red, the air is often blue when a mood hits me and within seconds from being sweary and shouty, my face matches my hair. Then my eyes see red.

Like I said, it’s a colourful time.

On the back of a motorcycle though, life feels different.

Because hubby and I (perhaps purposely?) do not have Bluetooth communications inside our helmets, and because he is a lot taller than me, I tend to see and hear very little while we ride out. This may sound restrictive, but it does provide a major positive: thinking time.

I run my own small business as a writer, ghost writer, business blog writer, workshop host, etc and I also present a weekly radio show on writing. On the days of the week I don’t do those things, I study. I’m now in my penultimate year of an Open University degree which is, you guessed it, writing related. Because of the often-intense nature of juggling my schedule, having time to think is paramount.

Between excellent riding skills, looking sexy in biker gear and generally being rather patient with his potentially volatile wife, hubby seems to enjoy the challenging mix of negotiating the traffic while having an anxious (will even jump at my own shadow!) pillion rider. We’ve had this bike for 3 years now and have had some amazing adventures on it.

We often take a long day trip out around Essex, an occasional weekend away (Lincolnshire, Wales etc) and we even battled the extreme sunshine earlier this year as we rode through the Cotswolds for a week. The term boil-in-the-bag was a reality for us during those five days. You can imagine what a delight I became for hubby while I endured menopausal hot flushes in 40-degree heat wearing a biker jacket and helmet! I probably lost a few pounds but then regained them during dinner each evening.

Aside from the thinking time you get on the back of a bike, you get to see life. Due to the lack of vision – I see both sides as we are on top of them rather than as they approach – when we slow down for traffic, I get to notice wild flowers, partially-hidden ancient stone walls, the reluctant rodent and occasional owls and other shy birds.

As a fan of architecture, I often get the chance within our county of Essex to take in the stunning lines and curves of gothic, classical, Victorian, medieval and even brand-spanking modern buildings.

So, between my hormones, thinking time, our weather and the countryside, pillion-riding is exciting and often peaceful in great measure.

That said, in unexpected torrential rain, the adventures are quite different again.

But that’s a story for another time.

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25/10/2018: Time Sensitive - Autumn Creative Writing Course

Each Tuesday from November 6th to December 11th 2018, I will be hosting an in-depth creative writing course at the Albert Edward Community Hall in Clacton, Essex.

During the stages of the course, aspects from the germ of an idea through to final publication will be covered in an informal and relaxed, flexible atmosphere.

If you aspire to becoming a creative writer, or are already writing, and want some tips on any aspect, then join us for a fresh look at the creative writing process.

Cost of the course is just £120 per person, for 18 hours of tips, exercises, one to one assistance and actual writing.

Book your place now by emailing sarah@loveofbooks.co.uk and showing your interest.

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01/10/2018: Health - work balance

More often than not, we all try our hardest to do what we do to the best of our abilities.

Sometimes, it doesn't work like that.

I want to mention the M word. I don't want to scare away any gents to my blog though so won't use the whole M word. Let's call it 'm-pause'.

Yeah - we all know what I'm talking about now.

M-pause or peri - m - pause (the bit I'm going through), is tough. Some women get it bad, some hardly notice it at all.

The problem arises when brain fog sets in. Brain fog, zombie-esque days, joint ache, low motivation, mixed into your work day and you'll find yourself having a very tricky time.

My memory isn't fab and I was never blessed with patience so when someone mentions a mistake I've made - an obvious one like a typo or the wrong time for an event - I have a tough time telling myself that I shouldn't sweat the small stuff. The thing is, ANY mistake, any error and anything not utterly right is not small stuff, certainly not when you are a writer by trade so the tiniest error is emphasised by the masses. But before the masses spot it (if you are lucky), you spot it and then continue to beat yourself up about it.

So, I put to you people of Interweb-land, is it worth punishing yourself for a small error or should you just remind yourself you are human?

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24/09/2018: Trying to keep up… with everyone!

Do you ever have that feeling that if you don't keep up with everyone you will be left behind? I find this a lot in business. I'm absolutely shattered today due to a busy weekend meeting up with relatives both days and then going to the cinema last thing on Sunday night.

We didn't really stop the whole weekend. I am beyond exhausted. I feel really dizzy and I've got brain fog and unable to focus much but still I've got a lot to do.

I'm doing this blog and vlog just to find out from other small businesses how they deal with it. Just be kind to yourself. Yes the calendar doesn't match up with how you feel inside, yes, you need to earn money to pay bills but sometimes…sometimes it's just not possible.

All morning I've been beating myself up in here (points to head) because I feel guilty because I've not been able to keep up. Now rather than do a really poor job of trying to keep up I feel I just cannot.

I've got a radio show to present this evening which I'm hoping in my heart of hearts that I don't have to do but I might have to anyway. It is voluntary but sometimes you still have to do these things. Somewhere in amongst the guilt in my mind I'm still privileged to be able to do it.

Mental health is vital to your physical health and everything else. (sigh)

Is it the answer though - to just be kind to yourself? Or should I just pull up my big girl pants and get on with it?

I don't know what the answer is….you tell me.

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30/06/2018: Elegant Etiquette in The Nineteenth Century

by Mallory James
Published by Pen and Sword Books

An amusing yet informative take on good manners and behaviour in years gone by.

The cover* alone evidences the off-beat tone used in the content which includes fashion, politics and acceptable social behaviours of both genders.

Incorporating behaviours between social classes, it looks at marital and class status too. This charming book offers a selection of black and white photography showing the intricacies of 19c fashion.

An amusing read, of potential value to a historical writer needing to research characteristics of people from this era.

* image of cover is on its way

Reviewed by SJ Banham
For the Love of Books
www.loveofbooks.co.uk
for Pen and Sword Books

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25/06/2018: Myths that Shaped our History Simon Webb Published by Pen and Sword

An interesting book showing how propaganda and handed-down, unquestioned stories have created a belief system.

The dark green cover drew me to this book and the title got my curious mind wanting more.

Starting with the Magna Carta and journeying to the Battle of Britain, this timeline of unchallenged stories have provided the country with a way to raise the morale of soldiers at war and civilians with a way of life. Webb suggests that Great Britain needed to believe historical events happened in a specific way in order to show our strength and prevent threats.

The content provides several photographs which serve to evidence the propaganda with ‘another example of …propaganda being taken at face value without anyone bothering to look at the facts’.

An interesting, if somewhat cynical read that makes you think.

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21/06/2018: How To Overcome Eating Disorders Breaking Free for a Better Life Louise V Taylor Published by Pen and Sword

Having experienced my own battles with eating disorders, I felt this book would answer a lot of my questions.

It did.

The cover photo is calming and serene but I didn’t feel it was right for this book. The layout is a little crowded too; wider margins may have been a better choice.

Those things aside, the content is well written and well researched covering many of the feelings suffered go through including feeling pressured, judged and shame.

Body image is not about vanity, it is about control and Taylor explains this fully confessing to her own experiences. She talks about how these disorders are fundamentally psychological incorporating how mental health issues can occur in later life.

She highlights statements like: ‘underlying emotional traumas’, ‘ambitious individuals who believe personal achievements are important’ and ‘being people pleasers’ which makes this book speak directly to the reader and connects with the sufferer.

The wavy oversized chapter headings did not seem to sit easily with the seriousness of the content or calm cover. However, Taylor makes up for that by incorporating case studies and touches on Freud and Jung while describing varying types of therapies available.

I was impressed Taylor focussed the disorder on sufferers of all ages and not just the young.

There is also a page devoted to self-help and further reading in addition to several helpful books sign-posted within the content.

All in all, a really insightful book. Thoroughly recommended for sufferers or those simply curious about eating disorders.

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20/06/2018: Elegant Etiquette in The Nineteenth Century Mallory James Published by Pen and Sword

An amusing yet informative take on good manners and behaviour in years gone by.

The cover alone evidences the off-beat tone used in the content which includes fashion, politics and acceptable social behaviours of both genders.

Incorporating behaviours between social classes, it looks at marital and class status too. This charming book offers a selection of black and white photography showing the intricacies of 19c fashion.

An amusing read, of potential value to a historical writer needing to research characteristics of people from this era.

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18/06/2018: Radio News

Writer's Block is going through some changes.

It celebrated its 6th birthday this year after having interviewed some 350 guests and giving a voice to new and existing writers all over the area - and world in some cases.

While Saint FM changes its name and frequency and goes off air until the new year, I have taken up home in the studios at Colne Radio (106.6fm) who I have been working with for two years now.

'Sarah Banham speaks to...' is the name of the show but essentially is still Writer's Block. I will be broadcasting live every Monday night from 2nd July 2018 6-7pm from Wivenhoe.

If you are local to Wivenhoe in North Essex (UK) and are willing to get to the studios to discuss your love of writing/your book/your writing group/your book group, indeed anything creative writing related, get in touch with the show's Facebook page: "Writer's Block Local Radio Show" or my twitter feed @sjbwrites

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19/02/2018: Book Review - Mary Queen of Scots' Downfall

Mary Queen of Scots’ Downfall
The Life and Murder of
Henry, Lord Darnley

By Robert Stedall
Published by Pen and Sword

This is a historical biography in hardback with a dust cover.

The contents include coloured pictures, detailed family trees and a meaningful acknowledgement to the publisher.

I had a personal reason for wanting to review this book. My surname was Stuart and I wanted to know how the spelling alters at times to Stewart. The book did not disappoint as now I know.

This is a very thick book filled with presumably years of research on a complex subject of power and status within royalty. It talks of aggressive tactics, bullying and taking children hostage to ensure the parents were loyal. These were not friendly people and the book certainly gives a vision of how appalling some of the personalities behaved.

With incredibly detailed genealogy and research undertaken by Stedall, to the point of becoming obsessive over evidence, it appears no detail, however trivial or intricate, has been ignored in the events surrounding the death of Lord Darnley.

For anyone even slightly interested in Royal history and all its celebrations and cover-ups, this book will be an added delight upon your bookshelf. A remarkable read and encased inside a binding well worth the asking price of £25.

SJ Banham

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19/02/2018: Book Review: How To Overcome Eating Disorders

by Louise V Taylor
Published by Pen and Sword

Having experienced my own battles with eating disorders, I felt this book would answer a lot of my questions. It did.

The cover photo is calming and serene but I didn’t feel it was right for this book. The layout is a little crowded too; wider margins may have been a better choice.

Those things aside, the content is well written and well researched covering many of the feelings suffered go through including feeling pressured, judged and shame. Body image is not about vanity, it is about control and Taylor explains this fully confessing to her own experiences. She talks about how these disorders are fundamentally psychological incorporating how mental health issues can occur in later life. She highlights statements like: ‘underlying emotional traumas’, ‘ambitious individuals who believe personal achievements are important’ and ‘being people pleasers’ which makes this book speak directly to the reader and connects with the sufferer.

The wavy oversized chapter headings did not seem to sit easily with the seriousness of the content or calm cover. However, Taylor makes up for that by incorporating case studies and touches on Freud and Jung while describing varying types of therapies available. I was impressed Taylor focussed the disorder on sufferers of all ages and not just the young. There is also a page devoted to self-help and further reading in addition to several helpful books sign-posted within the content.

All in all, a really insightful book. Thoroughly recommended for sufferers or those simply curious about eating disorders.

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24/01/2018: AAMilne Book Review

The Extraordinary Life of A. A. Milne

Nadia Cohen

Published by Pen and Sword

A beautifully presented hard back book with many photographs of the subject and his son.

This is the story of A. A. Milne’s life; sympathetically written, which shows the depth of this extraordinary man’s character and talent.

Taught, among others, by H. G. Wells, his friends included P. G. Wodehouse, J. M. Barrie, and Kenneth Graham, whose book, The Wind in the Willows, Milne dramatized into the play Toad of Toad Hall.

This book also explains his extremely close bond with his brother, Ken, and his lifelong financial generosity to Ken’s family before and after Ken’s premature death.

The major regret in A. A. Milne’s life was the fact he was never truly recognised, for his novels, plays, and political writings, but remembered mainly for being the writer of children’s stories which he wrote for his son, Christopher Robin.

A rift grew between father and son when, after returning from the 2nd World War, Christopher married his cousin, of whom his parents disapproved. The rift sadly never healed.

Do not let the wording on page 202; which makes it seem as if Christopher Robin outlived his daughter, Clare, while stating that he died in 1996 and his daughter in 2012; stop you from buying it. It, in no way, detracts from an excellent and well written book.

I loved this book and I’m sure you will too.

By Elaine Carlo
On behalf of www.loveofbooks.co.uk

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13/12/2017: GDPR

What is it?
General Data Protection Regulation


What does it do?
Due to be passed by the House of Lords as a law, this regulation is designed to protect the consumer further. Currently when we purchase something online, or we give our personal details to a business, our details are protected but there are some loopholes. GDPR will enable us to have more control over what happens to our personally identifiable information.


I run a small business. Does it apply to my business too?
Everyone who runs a business, whatever its size, will be bound by the regulation. The Information Commissioner’s Office has made it clear that it will be seeking compliance from businesses of all sizes.


Does it cost?
Not directly, but if you do not comply, there will be hefty fines. If you have a web site, it will need to clearly display certain information. Even if you do not, you need to make sure that your reason for processing data, the exact nature of data held, for what period, where and by whom are all clearly understood by people before they submit their data.


How do I find out more about it? https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/635900/2017-08-07_DP_Bill_-_Statement_of_Intent.pdf will give you more information, but for more human conversation, why not discuss it with your village websmith instead?

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29/11/2017: Dickens and Christmas - A Book Review

Dickens and Christmas
Lucinda Hawksley
Published by Pen and Sword

A beautifully presented book in hardback with a dust cover. This book reminds us what an influence the man, Charles Dickens was on the Christmas period.

From the filth of Victorian England, Hawksley tells how Dickens’ worked his way from the depths poverty to become a respected writer. Incorporating snippets from Dickens’ books and private writings, Hawksley enthrals us with the knowledge that Charles Dickens rubbed shoulders with famous names and high society.

The book includes a selection of black and white photographs, cartoons, sketches and Victorian Christmas cards (the latter originated, coincidently, at the same time ‘A Christmas Carol was published’) we learn more about the era through its imagery. Chock full of interesting information, this biography interwoven with snippets of private letters tell us how his life, views and writings greatly influenced the Victorian era, so much so that we keep many of these feelings and traditions alive today.

Hawksley, a distant relative of Dickens is in the prime position to write about him. She has written an interesting and entertaining book that does not have to be enjoyed only at the festive period, but all year around.

Review by Sarah Banham
For The Love of Books
www.loveofbooks.co.uk


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09/11/2017: What Month is it? It's Nano-November!

November, for most people, is the pre-Christmas month. For writers all over the world it means NaNoWriMo.

Writing a novel within the month - 1667 words a day from the first to the last day of November - is as difficult as it sounds.

But then that is why it is called a challenge.

Most people who take on the challenge struggle at some point within the month. It might be time struggles, plot struggles, even fatigue struggles. There are few people who sail through the entire process without an issue.

So why do it?Yeah, I ask myself that every. Single. Year!

I think I participate in Nano (www.nanowrimo.org) because of the community aspect to it. Sure, there are writers all over the county but you never meet the professional ones, the hobbyist ones or the writing groups ones until Nano begins and then you really meet some characters.

Those people are your tribe.

They get you. They understand that when you are washing up the dinner plates at night you are wondering what 'Andrew' is thinking as you left him in a lift with nothing but a old coffee cup and a wrist watch which he might be using to count down the minutes until you release him and the doors open.

You see? As a writer, we get involved in our stories so much, we forget life outside of our heads.

Imagination is the key.

Without it, who are we? What are we?

We are approaching the middle of nano soon - the saggy bit where many have already downed pens, and others are typing furiously into the night. The bit where some of us have families who say, 'Shouldn't you put that away and spend some time with the children?'

Whatever the outcome of your 2017 nano, I wish you a fun filled time.

The best of it is, once midnight comes on 30th November, we only have 365 days until it all happens again.

Happy writing!

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02/05/2017: Writer in Residence at West Clacton Library

For the next three months at least, anyone who is interested in talking over any aspect of writing or books can drop in to West Clacton Library between 10am and 1pm on Fridays, for a chat with me.

Being appointed Writer in Residence at the library gives me the chance to write and help others write, while soaking up the atmosphere, surrounded by books full of story telling and learning going back over centuries.

During my tenure, I will be organising workshops in conjunction with library staff, offering one to one mentoring and taking part in library special events. This will all be great fun and a great challenge, so feel free to join my voyage of discovery on Fridays at West Clacton Library.

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02/05/2017: Good News Comes on Buses

As if becoming a Writer in Residence isn't enough good news for one day, Jaywick Library has today confirmed the dates for my next round of Creating Writing Workshops.

Check out the Calendar Page for details and booking instructions for the following workshops:

  • Finding Inspiration for Creative Writing
  • Getting to Know Your Characters
  • From Acorn to Oak
  • Writing Your Life Story

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01/03/2017: Spring is in the air - a great time for love stories

In our lives, we all take many roads. There are twists and turns galore on the path to happiness and to where we stand today. How many times have you looked back at your life, loves and relationships and thought "You couldn't write this"? Well, the fact of the matter is that you can write it. Only you have experienced those moments. Only you have seen those times. All it takes is for you to put it into words. Spring is a special time for thinking about love, be it the love of your life now, a lost love, a love that has yet to be or a love that can never be. All of these make stories. They can be dressed up as fiction, changing names and places to protect the innocent, or they can be set out as an autobiographical work, either for publication or for a limited audience of family and friends. If you would like to write the story of your love but don't know where to start, coming to one of my creative writing workshops, or joining one of my writing groups could help set you on the right road. Call me or click in the header of any page to send me an email.

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01/02/2017: How's your confidence?

Everyone has a story to tell and a book to write. Learning to do this creatively can do more for you than just provide anything between an absorbing pastime and a new career. More than that though, writing creatively can bring a wealth of benefits in less expected ways. Confidence with words is one thing that writing has taught me over the years. Speaking to people as well as writing comes more naturally and easily to me thanks to making use of words when I write.

This can have a powerful effect on every aspect of life, so whatever your writing ambitions may be, taking the voyage of discovery into your own story can be a fascinating and rewarding journey. If you don't know where to begin, attending one of my workshops, taking some coaching or joining one of my writing groups can be a positive beginning. Call me for a chat or send an email to get the ball (point) rolling.

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20/01/2017: You are not alone!

Have you a writing related new year's resolution? Perhaps to dig out that book or story that you have neglected. Maybe your aim is to start a new writing project, or enter a particular literary competition. Writing resolutions are no different to any other kind really, they are so much easier to stick with successfully if you have a little help. Having someone to make contact with at key stages, to check progress against plan, and to offer encouragement or advice can make all the difference. This can also be surprisingly affordable. My hourly rates are very reasonable and there are no commitments on your part to take a specific package. Everything is geared to you, your timescale and your project. When taking time away from longer term projects, such as ghost writing, this one-to-one coaching and mentoring approach can be highly productive in a relatively short time, fitting in sessions to suit you. If you feel that a little help and motivation can bring out the best in your novel, short story, poetry or script, let's have a chat. You can call me on the number above or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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14/10/2014: Book Reviews

Whenever an author receives a review about their book, there is a certain amount of tension that surrounds it. Will it be favourable? Will it be scathing? Will it be hard to swallow? Will it be brilliant?

Of course, not every review can be wonderful - after all we each have differing views as to what can be classed as 'wonderful'. Most of the time, if the review is 'adequate' or 'acceptable', it gives us just enough 'it was good, you can go on with your day now' to get through.

Back in April when I published my most recent book, I gave a copy to the Self Publishing Magazine at The London Book Fair and while a review wasn't guaranteed, it was accepted. Six months down the line the book has been reviewed. For this I am truly thankful.

There were one or two glitches with the book, I'm sure (nothing is utterly perfect after all and I am human), but on the whole, I am happy with the review.

If you have a copy of the book, I hope you enjoy it too. If you don't, you can get a copy from me or from this site.

sjb :O)

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29/09/2014: Feeling Unsure?

OK, so you have got a story to write but unsure about the way forward? There is no need to feel as lonely as a boat out there. I can help.

Hiring a ghost writer neeedn't be the most expensive thing on the planet. Indeed, most businesses hire someone to write anything from their advertising flyers right through to corporate histories. Sometimes it is a small job and other times a larger project.

A ghost writer worth their salt is someone who will listen to what you want to say. I am such a ghost writer. I will spend time with you, listen to your needs and carry them out.

I've been told I am friendly, helpful and professional. If those qualities appeal to you, please do get in touch.

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21/09/2014: A Right Larfff!

Yes, a typo - but it is allowed because it was a particularly exciting week!

Last week, For The Love of Books was part of some pretty special events and network meetings. The best of it was epitomised by me sitting in an F1 simulator. My face can best be described as hilarious!

This kind of expression, however, is what owning your own business is like. Some days it can be calm and serene while others can be completely wacky!

There is never a dull moment in the life of an entrepreneur and that is the way it should stay!

Have a great new week and I hope the expression on your face is something like this :O)

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15/09/2014: What's New in The World of A Writer?

Quite a lot actually.
As I wear many different hats within my roles of Writer, Photographer and Websmith, I find variety is the spice of life. My life, that is.
The thing is with being a creative soul is that so many aspects of business can be appealing that you want to be part of them AND you find you have many different skillsets, thus 3 hats.

Within the role of my writing business, I have recently reduced the amount of services I offer. Most people found I offered too many options so it seemed logical to streamline. It has worked well and been beneficial.
For those of you interested in Business Writing: 'blogs, proofreading, editing, then do get in touch.
For those of you who are more interested in the creative side of things. writing workshops, writing coach and ghost writing services, then I'm your gal!

However I can serve you, please do get in touch. It will be great to hear from you.

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24/07/2014: IN8 Business Networking Event

Fancy getting together on a monthly basis with other Small and Medium Enterprises to exchange tips, ideas and referrals? Well, IN8 Networking Event do exactly that!

We meet at several Essex venues each month for breakfast and evening meetings in order to expand our potential client base and build business relationships. Currently we meet at Basildon (The Haywain), Thorrington Nr Colchester (Mario's Place) and Purleigh Nr Maldon (Purleigh Bell).

If you are interested in attending FREE business networking events through IN8 and would like to be on our mailing list, please email sarah@loveofbooks.co.uk or sarah@villagewebsmith.biz with IN8 MAILING LIST in the title heading and we will include you.

Looking forward to seeing you at the next one!

Sarah
For The Love of Books

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30/05/2014: Workshop Link

A few of you have asked for the Eventbrite link to show on my blog. Easily done! It is below. (you may need to cut and paste into your browser)

Please also note that on the day of the workshop in Maldon on the barge, you are asked not to wear high heeled shoes. Trainers or flats are fine. This is due to the age of the barge and your safety and ease getting around.

Also please bring lunch for yourself - or feel free to roam out and about for lunch - then we will pick up again in the afternoon. There will be an abundance of tea/coffee and biscuits throughout the whole workshop which is included in the fee.

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/creative-writing-workshop-tickets-11692387245


Very much looking forward to meeting you on 13 June :O)

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01/05/2014: Happy second birthday to Writer's Block

My radio programme for writers on Saint FM celebrates its second birthday today. This will be an opportunity for all guests who have been on the show over the last two years to send in birthday greetings to be read out on the next broadcast, which is on May the 6th.

A huge thank you to all who have participated while I have been presenting Writer's Block. I have enjoyed presenting the programme immensely and look forward to many more interesting interviews in the future.

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Writer's 'blog

2018-02-19
Book Review - Mary Queen of Scots' Downfall

Mary Queen of Scots’ Downfall
The Life and Murder of
Henry, Lord Darnley

By Robert Stedall
Published by Pen and Sword

This is a historical biography in hardback with a dust cover
...More information...

Forthcoming Events

2019-11-18
Writer's Block Radio Show


Join me on Colne Radio every Monday from 6pm BST for a combination of music and conversation with literary types, covering just about every aspect of writing creatively
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