My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister #PublicationDay #IARTG

Happy Tuesday!

Today is publication day for my new novel, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Here’s what you need to know.

1 My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available to buy from Amazon HERE (E-Book, paperback and hardcover).

2 The audiobook is in production with the multi-talented actor Lindsay McKinnon (seen below).

3 This is the best book I have ever written.

4. It is a first-person account from an unreliable narrator.

5. The title could refer to two people or the same person.

Photo credit https://www.facebook.com/jdmoses.uk Lindsay McKinnon and Samantha Henthorn

It started with a memory.

When I was a child (about four or five), I remember visiting two ‘aunties’ who lived in a marvellous house with a big bay window on a road that my dad had called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. These two women were extremely glamourous, with mauve and grey-toned clothes and knee-high boots. I don’t remember their names. ANYWAY, years later I asked my mum who these two women were; she had no idea. Maybe I dreamt them, or maybe they were Jacquetta and Heather – two of the main characters in My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

     ‘Epiphany! Epiphany!’ Mummy shouts from downstairs. I hear her key turn halfway, and she’s muttering to herself, inviting all kinds to unlock the door to my flat. 

     ‘Epiphany, what’s wrong with your front door?’ Mummy shouts.

     Yes. Epiphany is my name – Pippa for short, strictly Pippa for short. I don’t mind Pip but definitely not Epiphany. When Mummy was pregnant with my older sister, she intended to name her Hazel. Right up to the last minute, Hazel. Then a midwife told her that Hazel is a witch’s name, and this put her off. So, Mummy chose the name Heather. It suits her because my sister’s eyes shine hazel when she’s excited.

In the above words, you have met Epiphany (Pippa for short) and her mother, Jacquetta. I hope you have picked up that Jacquetta is a demonstrative busy body, letting herself in at her daughter’s front door. ‘Inviting all kinds to unlock the door’ and changing her mind about the name ‘Hazel’ because of something the midwife said.

Read Jacquetta, and think Geraldine McEwan in Mapp and Lucia circa 1985 – but include paranormal persecutions.

Au Reservoir, Lucia | Christopher Fowler

Has Jacquetta changed her mind about witchcraft? – I do love a conflicted character.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Pippa’s sister Heather is a confident and content green goddess. Think Courtney Love in the biographical drama Beat (insert an English accent).

BeatPoster.png

No doubt Heather would have been filled in about my holiday at home. And if John can stop watching the news for once, the cat will be out of the bag about Ben and me separating.

     Today was meant to be a good day, but now I can see Heather walking across my imagined moat.

     I miss Sadie.

     ‘Sweetie, are you alright?’ Heather has let herself in via the door (the same one that Mummy has trouble opening).

     ‘In here,’ I answer Heather without answering her.

     ‘I’d love a cup of tea if you’re making one.’

     I wasn’t, but I am in the kitchen, mainly to look out of the window onto the road below. I usually have to stay here a while until I have spotted a second magpie.

     ‘So, how are you?’ I ask Heather. I never quite know what to talk about with my sister.

     ‘No! How are you? I never did like that freeloader, and I’m glad he’s dumped you.’

     ‘Thanks?’ I answer Heather with a question.

     ‘I’m not glad for you, obviously. Breaking up is hard to do, Pippa. It happens to the best of us, even me.’ Heather helps herself to two mugs from my cupboard and gazes longingly at the kettle. It seems Mummy’s bitter coffee has not quenched her thirst.

I hope that the above exchange illustrates Pippa’s strained relationship with her sister Heather.

Pippa has not seen Sadie since school swim class. Sadie visits unexpectedly and turns Pippa’s life upside-down.

You must be tempted to meet Sadie. I spent a year waiting to write her story, and when I did, she took over my life as much as she did my protagonist, Pippa’s.

We learn very little about Sadie’s existence. She doesn’t seem to have a job, relationship or home. What she does have is Pippa’s attention and she takes her round the mulberry bush many times, on many mornings throughout the novel. Sadie takes no prisoners, yet she is fun and supportive.

Sadie is everything Pippa wants to be.

Pippa’s boyfriend telephones her at work, letting her know that her sister has called round. Pippa finds this strange because Heather is always visiting – why would Ben contact her at work to tell her something that happens regularly? When Pippa arrives home, Ben is on his way out and Pippa sees someone sitting in her front room that is not her sister.

‘Were you expecting the Pocahontas of Pendle?’ Sadie grins.

     ‘What! You can’t say that!’ she meant Heather, who lives in Pendle and does look a bit like she’s descended from America’s past.

     ‘Why not? Look.’ Sadie performs a centre parting in her lengthy black hair and two plaits appear (in record time). ‘Heather and I have our dad’s genes. You know as well as I do that Oswald’s great-great, however-many-grandads was one of the Salford Sioux, so if I was teased at school about it, then it’s fine for me to say it about Heather.’

I had to make Sadie the opposite of Pippa, this is why her father (not the same person as Pippa’s father) is descended from the Salford Sioux (I’ve added a handy link for you to check out). I worked in Salford for twenty years as a nurse. I learnt that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show visited Britain at the request of Queen Victoria and they arrived via The Manchester Ship Canal. This was in the winter of 1888 and some of the Salford Sioux stayed in the area (making their home on the banks of the River Irwell). Imagine yourself a Salford woman in Victorian times – descendants of this fabulous story live in the area today, and as my community boss once said to me ‘they say that if you think you’re descended from the Salford Sioux – you probably are.’ I think it was then that I decided I would weave this thread into something I wrote.

Pippa’s family tree.

Sadie is not all good…

I’m not telling you any more than that. You’ll have to read it.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, Samantha.

PS I also wrote The Curmudgeon Avenue Series;

On How I Wrote My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

Inspiration attacked Samantha Henthorn from several different angles when she wrote her new novel, ‘My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Inspiration attacked me from several different angles when I wrote my new novel, ‘My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister’.

A while ago, everywhere I looked there was a book title that included the word ‘sister’. The Stepsister by Jenny O’Brien, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Dead Sis by Jane Holland, and The Herb Sisters by Marina Johnson to name just four; sisters were everywhere in literature (I blame the Brontes).

Even though I knew that by the time I had written my ‘sister book’ publishing trends would have progressed, but I couldn’t get ‘sister’ out of my head.

Siblings never go out of fashion.

One of my favourite books (and my own sister’s teasing stick) was My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards (illustrated by Shirley Hughes).

(Image from Amazon)

‘Sisters’ are not the only trope that has been swirling around my writing for years. I’ve been obsessed with witches since I was little. If you’ve read my blog before you will have seen how I was named after the protagonist from 1960s sitcom Bewitched, you will have seen how I read books such as Witchdust by Mary Welfare and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and met and was baptised a witch at age 6 on a family day out to Pendle.

(Or was I?)

Photo by A Koolshooter on Pexels.com

Pippa, the protagonist of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is not a witch, she is a forty-year-old woman trying to make sense of her life. When Sadie visits (her sister’s half-sister), Pippa starts to think that her mother and sister Heather are witches. All the evidence is there; Heather is a green goddess and Jacquetta (Pippa’s mother) is obsessed with the patron saint of keys. You would have to read on to find out the details – I want readers to either believe in Pippa’s breakdown or that her family are actually a nest of vipers.

If you’ve ever read or seen Fight Club or read Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih you’ll be well versed with books that leave you not knowing what to believe. Plus, we have all lived through some uncertain times recently, so I think mind-bending is on its way in literature.

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There is a debate going on (I’ve heard it in pubs, I’ve read it in reviews and I’ve tormented my own thoughts) about lockdown in literature. If you saw the Channel 4 drama Help earlier this year then you’ll know that this kind of pandemic narrative must be highlighted in any genre it can be. I am of the opinion that literature has a job; if stories are about people then people should be about stories. We are all wondering if the pandemic has taught us anything, and we should be reading books to help process the volume of information, emotions, bereavement, culture shocks and psychic storm-trooping we’ve all been through.

I’m not saying My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is the answer to any and all pandemic woes; what I am saying is it HAD to be set at the end of the lockdown… it just had to be. Pippa needed to have an epiphany.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

When writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, I had to come up with an occupation for Pippa. I had also been reading and rereading Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys (for my creative writing degree). I really wanted to include an intertextual reference, and before I knew it, Rhys’s Mr Blank became Pippa’s Mr Bland; and Pippa became an accountant ‘doing sums’ (Sadie’s words).

Actually, my darling daughter is an accountant. We text each other every day and have our own little ‘text speak’ language. A while ago, I started asking her if she had ‘done any really hard sums’ at work… obviously I was teasing (that’s just our sense of humour) but it stuck. I asked my daughter, and she didn’t mind if that Pippa also ‘does sums’ at work (creative licence applied – I know that accountancy is a complicated occupation).

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I used to be a psychiatric nurse until it was made impossible for me to continue working (my RMN career ended after I was diagnosed with MS). Reading and writing saved my mental health when faced with the vast culture shock of retiring at 39. That was almost eight years ago, and I’ve come a long way since. The older I get, the easier it becomes to face up to the serious side of life (especially when you write). It all fitted into place, and the protagonist of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister started to shape into a character who could inspire hope (or at least seek help).

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Because Pippa loves reading, I had to make literature part of the narrative. I achieved this with plenty of intertextual references, starting with the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’ (said to be written by female inmates of HMP Wakefield in the 19th century), and fitting because Pippa is stuck going round in circles with her female relatives.

Pippa compares herself to two of Hardy’s protagonists, the forsaken Tess Durbeyfield and the confident heroine Bathsheba Everdene. In the story, this reflected Pippa’s journey.

During writing, I was concerned about overdoing the references to other texts, then I remembered reading and loving the modern classic ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson. There is almost an intertextual reference on every page, and Jeanette Winterson is a genius.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (Paperback)

By this stage of writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, Pippa had taken over and told me what to write (see my other posts about my writing being powered by witchcraft).

If I really dig deep, this book started with a memory. When I was a child (about four or five), I remember going to visit two ‘aunties’ who lived in a marvellous house with a big bay window on a road that my dad had called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. These two women were extremely glamourous, with mauve and grey-toned clothes and knee-high boots. I don’t remember their names. ANYWAY, years later I asked my mum who these two women were; she had no idea. Maybe I dreamt them, or maybe they were Jacquetta and Heather – two of the main characters in My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Pippa has a secret, will you believe what she has to say?

I do have an older sister, and no the book is DEFINATELY NOT about her. However, this is why I chose the hyphenated way of writing half-sister for the title – there are actually five ways to write the title My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister:

My half-sister’s half-sister My Half Sister’s Half Sister
My Half-sister’s Half-sister My half sister’s half sister
My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

(thank you https://www.alisonproofreader.com/)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law about enjoying books with a quirky and different plot (like mine) so I dedicated the book to her.

Deeper inspirations flow through My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister that I can’t reveal because that would be a spoiler!

Thank you for reading my blog today, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available to pre-order from Amazon now (release date 30/11/21). See my Facebook Author page for #BlackFridayDeals. Audiobook in production.

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

PS I also wrote these:

I Read Horror in October (it’s the law)

Hello Everyone, happy October,

First of all, where has the time gone? It has been fourteen days since my last blog post (and I might not even finish writing this one today). Reason? I’ve been writing and, more importantly READING!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

A fascination with all things horrific leads us mortals to read/watch/listen to anything that creeps us out. This month, my horror choices so far have been Bound: A Paranormal Shifter Romance by Kat Kinney and The Thicket which is free until the 1st of November with this link: https://books.bookfunnel.com/halloweenshorts/4r7jar8ylo

Bound: A Paranormal Shifter Romance (Blood Moon, Texas Shifters Book 3) by [Kat Kinney]

Teacher by day, fantasy writer by night, West Caldwell was forced to live in secret long before werewolves and vampires accidentally outed themselves on social media, causing a worldwide freak out. One slip of his rare Omega magic bound Topher Greer to him against his will. Now that magic threatens to fracture even further—just as shapeshifters are being abducted off the streets of Austin, Texas.

Topher Greer, EMT and former prisoner of the most dangerous vampire coven in Texas, is one of the few who can sense the presence of undead blood. He’s been marked for death by the Vampire Nation—who hold his brother hostage. Things with West Caldwell are… complicated. Pack law doesn’t forbid relationships between newly changed werewolves and their sires. But West has more walls around his heart than a high-security vampire prison.

To avoid the coming war and save his brother, Topher will have to turn to the most unlikely of allies—and untangle the feelings between him and West Caldwell for once and for all.

BOUND is part of the Blood Moon, Texas Shifters series. Sizzling hot romance. Guaranteed HEA.

My review

Fabulous. I knew I was bound to love this one, and it arrived just in time for October’s spooky season. West and Topher are bound together (initially, without Topher’s consent). This magic moment saved Topher from the vampires, but will West ever know if their love is for real? Meanwhile, vampires and werewolves toil against their natural instincts and there is talk of an alliance – because the humans are after them.
A great plot and I enjoy Kat Kinney’s writing too. I was immersed in a world where vampires and werewolves are crossed to make varewolves, I learnt how to spell ‘whuffed’ and was treated to a thread of ‘You’re the biggest fantasy nerd’ – two characters teasing one another really normalised the supernatural for me (and made me smile).
What starts as a story about rule-breaking shapeshifters becomes a narrative of family values and loyalty.

WOULD YOU RECOGNIZE A REAL SCREAM AT HALLOWEEN?

Norah Lewis ignored her brother’s screams in the haunted house that night. Because none of it was supposed to be real. Not the blood. Not the butcher knives. And not the bodies.

Tormented by survivor’s guilt and seeking answers, Norah secretly plans to retrace her brother’s final steps.

But the killer hasn’t chosen his hunting ground at random. And his sights are set on the hordes of thrill seekers still lining up to visit the notorious haunted house.

This time, Norah will run toward the screams—no matter the cost.

CLICK HERE FOR A FREE COPY (part of a promotion)

My review:

A great cover, a great plot and a chilling end. The Thicket is a serial killer thriller about one of the most haunted (fictional?) places in the US. The story starts with brothers and sisters Brandon and Norah visiting The Thicket (which is run like a ghost train without the train); the siblings are separated and the plot opens up. The book has Halloween and horror themes throughout and the crushing of pre-pandemic contemporary life – (Facebook pages with amateur sleuths and other threads which tore at the survivor’s mental state). An exploration of sibling guilt, teenage friendships and loyalty. Why have I knocked one star off? I think this book made me feel a bit old as I got ‘lost’ a few times. Get lost in The Thicket this Halloween!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Stay spooky, and happy reading, Samantha 🙂

Book Review Lie of the Tiger by John Martin (it is part of a promotion, and it’s about cats)

Lie of the Tiger by John Martin

More about Lie of the Tiger by John Martin

Paddy – if that is indeed his real name – has taken the reins of the Windy Mountain Tasmanian Tiger Museum, only to discover the previous manager left the building in a coffin.

Then he finds out that the devious owners don’t actually want him to succeed anyway.

The old men’s dogged determination isn’t good news for a third octogenarian who has the only legal dog in town, but stuff him.

Oodles and Wish-Wash have good reason not to like The Mayor anyway and if he won’t help, they are prepared to break the law.

This is a funny, sometimes touching story with a quirky character around almost every corner.

Lie of the Tiger is book 1 of the Windy Mountain series. Each book has its own story.

But if you enjoy this one, Blokes on a Plane (book 2), Whitey and the Six Dwarfs (book 3), Blokes in Donegal (book 4), and Blokes in the House (book 5, inspired by the events of 2020), await with many of the same endearing characters.

Lie of the Tiger is free as part of this PROMOTION until 31 August

I read Lie of the Tiger last week and it really made me smile. And! I had never heard of a Tasmanian tiger.

Here’s my review:

Lie of the Tiger is a quirky satire about a Tasmanian tiger museum. The book is educational (I had never heard of this extinct cat) and funny. Yes, it is because John Martin has a funny way with words. Character names are playfully chosen Wish-Wash and Oodles, and later Sergeant Stretch (especially when someone stretches out their arms to catch him). The plot is engaging. To keep his job, Paddy must succeed in reopening the museum, but this means proving that these stripy wildcats are still alive and well near Windy Mountain. Recommended for cat lovers, big cat conspiracy enthusiasts and readers with a sense of humour.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/freeandfun/3295975751

Apologies, I did promise to write a blog post about an interesting conversation I had with my sister-in-law. This will be about books, reading and why we choose to read certain books. I haven’t written the post yet because I’ve been really suffering with fatigue. I’ve got MS, it’s just something I have to put up with.

At least I can still read. And write! Another reason I am worn out at the moment is I am writing my next book. This is about a woman trying to find her way in life after lockdown. Although I am enjoying writing it, I am drained!

Have some free books on me, have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (I just need to say something)…

I didn’t want this book to end.

I don’t usually review books that have a million reviews only because I think what does my little voice count amongst over six thousand (insert big number) reviews?

But I just have something to say; this book is the most beautifully bittersweet piece of art I have ever read in my 46 years (and I’ve read a lot of books during that time).

Adunni (the protagonist) would have wanted me to because she had a louding voice.

The Girl with the Louding Voice: The Bestselling Word of Mouth Hit That Will Win Over Your Heart by [Abi Daré]

This book gives so much to the reader, and so much to me that I didn’t want it to end. Adunni is a fourteen year old girl who lives with her father and brothers in a village. Her mother died recently and she is obviously still grieving. Adunni knows there is a better life for her somewhere, a life with choices. I loved the thread where a bloke arrives in his car asking for her mum. This is the start of Adunni’s quest, and she is so sweet she dreams of making a better life not just for herself but her family too.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Adunni’s village is in Nigeria, in 2014. Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a much older man. This means that Adunni cannot follow her dreams. (I’m not spoiling here – this is in the blurb).

A heart-breaking tragedy follows and this catapults Adunni into yet another new life. She must run away from her marriage and accept employment as a maid.

Everything she has been through does not break her spirit (or her voice). At this point in the novel, I had enjoyed the rich characters. The characters that come next are even more gripping and real. I felt like I was there, in Adunni’s little bedroom waking up at five in the morning to complete thankless tasks.

I wanted to know what made Big Madam the way she was.

I loved Adunni’s journey, she used her voice and she learned to listen.

I wondered if Kofi was the friend who would listen to Adunni – he was not the only one.

The language made me smile, and made me ‘see’ the characters.

The ending is just awesome, and I cried. I cried tears of happiness, tears of hope, (and I felt a bit sorry for myself because the book ended).

Recommending books is tricky – but I AM recommending you read this one.


Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

Honestly, I can’t do this book justice. It is my new favourite. I’ve told my daughter she MUST read it (she is 24, doesn’t read but definitely wants to read this).

I was left feeling lucky that I went to school, that I’ve had the opportunity to make choices about my life. I will never ignore a book, just because it has been ‘hyped’. And I will always use my voice – Adunni would want me to.

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

A Curmudgeonly Christmas

Every summer, I notice writers talking about their Christmas books on social media. A bit upside down, I thought. But last December, I brought Curmudgeon Avenue to a close with the final book in the series ‘A Curmudgeonly Christmas’. 

Curmudgeon Avenue has been going on for quite some time, some would say for longer than reasonably necessary… In this Curmudgeonly final, the nincompoops of Curmudgeon Avenue would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Gordon Bennett is obsessed with the pothole growth on the street as we get proper emosh at Wantha and Ricky’s wedding. But! Did Wantha ever get to find out who her daddy is?
Christmas is coming, and Francesca is getting fat meanwhile Zandra may have overdone it with the scented candles. And the ghosts are immune to any and all lockdown restrictions.

Put down the selection box and the sausage rolls, A Curmudgeonly Christmas is a perfect end to the Curmudgeon Avenue series and the year!


Don’t just take my word for it, I noticed a fabulous review has popped up for Curmudgeon Avenue #1 – my cheeks are hurting I’m smiling so much! 

If you are enjoying the most wonderful time of the year, maybe you would like to have a look at this Christmas book promotion : https://books.bookfunnel.com/christmasjuly21/p2re6562xn

Just a quick post from me this week because I’m doing my packing for our Christmas holiday... I mean summer holiday (in the UK).

Happy reading, Samantha.

Literary Fiction is Not Dead (and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise)

KathyWilkins1212.jpg

I love books, reading has saved me, and writing has provided me with a true sense of self after my career ended.

So imagine my surprise when I read (a communication) that ‘no one reads anymore’, it was as though the internet was saying ‘what is the actual point of you?’ I will not have it!

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Our modern brains may not be as geared up to settle down with a lengthy novel, we have been raised on television and we have the internet and social media to fill our minds with. I presume that readers who are already ‘into’ reading are still novel lifting (I know I am).

In Dickensian times, folk had less time to read, People often worked six days a week for eighteen hours per day (thank you source). And really, it was only towards the end of the 19th century that literacy improved in Britain. Rich folk had all the tea to drink (see photo), but those lengthy classics that we see today were mostly serialised – even in Victorian times, readers were choosing an accessible medium.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Books are an essential tool to tap into if you are feeling under the weather mentally.

You may feel that you are unable to commit to reading a full novel, or most likely reading sounds off putting because you are struggling to concentrate.

Firstly, about concentration. Remember, reading is a solitary hobby. NO ONE IS MARKING YOU, You are under no obligation to give what you are reading your full attention. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but you are reading to relax, for fun, you deserve it… you will not be expected to write an essay about what you have read. Imagine the sense of achievement you will feel after finishing a book (even if that means ‘I gave it a try, and now I’m finished with it’). It is only natural to feel guilt for not finishing a book, but it is also freeing to let it go and have a look at another book (there are plenty to choose from). And if you can’t – no biggie, come back to it or try something else… But…

The benefits of escaping into another world are even more important now.

Don’t give up! The book on the side in your bedroom that is covered in dust? You will get to it eventually. Reading became difficult for me when both of my eyes (at different times) were affected by MS. With lighting, modern technology (Kindle) and a good old fashioned trip to the optician’s I can read as long as I don’t overdo it and look after my posture (I am on about my neck). I am breaking away from the sick role, if I can adapt and find a way to do something I want to do – I will.

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You don’t have to commit to a lengthy novel. Again, no one is marking you, so it does not matter what you read. Reading is a very personal thing. People do recommend books to one another, but soon, you will be choosing your own. It does not have to be literary fiction.

You can always try audio books.

Go with the cover you like – that is fine people DO judge books by their covers.

There is no law that says you have to finish a book – even if you don’t like it.

PE-dontbelieve.jpg

I refuse to believe this hype about ‘people not reading anymore’. Stories are what makes us human, after all. The evidence is all around us, and as for me there IS a point and I will continue to write.

The following are links to reading evidence that springs to mind when I think about this subject.

Research finds reading books has surged in lockdown source The Guardian 2020.

BBC Radio 4 Book Club (running currently)

Nearly half of young people reading more in lockdown (Source: Penguin)

The Graham Norton Book Club on Audible

Between the Covers BBC2

Richard and Judy Book Club

The Only Way is Essex Book Club

20 Inspiring Virginia Woolf Quotes on Knowing Oneself

Happy reading everyone, Samantha.

PS I wrote these books:

The Final What’s in a (Character) Name #Guestpost with Christopher Wilson @mojo_books + #BookReview #IARTG

Hi Everyone!

Did I mention that multi-award-winning author Christopher Wilson is my second cousin? You can read all about how I found out about my dad’s side of the family in last week’s blog HERE

Finding out that I have a cousin who is an established author has been a valuable inspiration to me. It is a bonus that I think his books are awesome!

This will be the final in my ‘What’s in a (Character) Name guest posts and I am absolutely honoured to welcome Christopher Wilson

Christopher P. Wilson

I’ve been involved in naming two children, a few cats and dogs, a wife who needed a stage-name for Equity, and a rude horde of fictional characters. It’s always tortuous, with frequent revisions, and a terminal sense of failure. But there’s reassurance too in the problems other writers meet – even some greats.

Some splash the fluorescent paint in primary colours. Some are just plain explicit. With ‘Little Miss Naughty’ or ‘Mister Tickle’you know you’ll get what you pay for.  Holly did Golightly. And Miss de vil was indeed Cruella. And in Ian Fleming’s mind, Pussy was Galore. Dostoyevsky could be pretty upfront too, with characters that translate from the Russian as Bone-crusher or Mister Marmalade. And (surprise, surprise) in ‘Catch 22’, Major MajorMajor getspromoted to become Major MajorMajorMajor

            Dickens was shameless too, offering usSerjeantBuzfuz, Charity Pecksniff, Mr m’Choakumchild, Uncle Pumblechook, Uriah Heep,DecimusTite Barnacle, Master Bates and Dick Swiveller (who ‘ejaculated with difficulty’ in chapter 7).

Sometimes, innocuous names can gain an added twist as Time plays unkind tricks. I’m thinking ofJane Austen’s Fanny Price (that wasn’t intended, surely?), or  Panty in E. Nesbitt, and Titty in Swallows and Amazons.

            For Graham Greene character names became painfully problematic. As soon as he published a new novel people with the same surnames would form an orderly queue to sue him. So he started calling his characters Smith, Jones and Brown.

There’s a dryer game authors play with readers – of being suggestive with characters’ names without being blindingly obvious. I remember feeling wryly suckered when I’d failed to spot at the outset that Louis Cyphre in ‘Angel Heart’ would turn out to be Lucifer.

            When I started writing, I then tried it for myself.  Gallimauf was a French speaking philosopher. Count Baa Mindeberg was a bleating  Scandinavianaristocrat and  total stranger to his psyche. Duckworth was an undervalued Amazonian foundling. Saint Odo of Here and There had two bodies that went their own ways. Gob was the first human-beingever to speak. FrankEnstein Ph.D. created a monster. Yuri Zipit couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Joey Blueglass saw the world through a perpetual erotic filter. Liselotte Berg probably lied a lot.Leifur Nils Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton was the biggest challenge because, through the course of the novel, s/he had to die and be reborn, change skin colour,  gender, and  sexual orientation, before growing wings to turn into an angel. So maybe I missed a trick with her/him/them.

            I’ve got a new novel on the go. The central character is half human and half something else. I haven’t quite got the name yet. It’s something like Hugh Mobo.

 

Wow! Thank you, Christopher, that post is awesome. he ‘wrote it in a rush’! Genius!

I have read seven of Christopher’s books so far and it is difficult to choose a favourite. I know that his latest WIP is titled ‘Hurdy Gurdy’. His most recent publication is The Zoo  . The setting is Stalin’s last days and is a brilliantly cutting satire told through the voice of one incredible boy. 

The Zoo by [Christopher Wilson]

It won prizes: An Observer and Spectator Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Historical Writing Association Gold Crown Award

The Blurb:

Meet Yuri Zipit.

A boy who’s had a bang on the head in a collision with a Moscow milk truck.

He has a kind face, makes friends easily, and likes to help. People want to tell him their secrets.

Including the Great Leader himself, who takes a shine to Yuri when he employs him for his natural talents.

In his new job, Yuri will witness it all – betrayals, body doubles, buffoonery. Who knew that a man could be in five places at once? That someone could break your nose as a sign of friendship? That people could be disinvented . . .?

The Zoo is a brilliantly cutting satire told through the voice of one incredible boy.

What I thought:

*****

Shhhh

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 1 August 2017

A great read, I was really drawn in by the believable characters. I have read a tiny bit of Russian history during my degree, and I enjoyed this satirical take.
Well, I didn’t say much when I read it in 2017, I must have been in a rush, three years on, I do remember this book. There is nothing like a memorable book. I enjoyed how it was told by the boy, whose father sort of gets kidnapped. Yuri does get to meet (and chat to Stalin) but he never quite knows who is who because of the Stalin body doubles. Christopher’s dry sense of humour comes through in his writing a cutting social satire.
The Ballad of Lee Cotton Kindle Edition
The Ballad of Lee Cotton  is one of my favourites, a Bildungsroman first-person narrative from Lee’s birth, his formative years and his (several) transformations.
The blurb:
Review –

Written with all the imaginative gusto of a heavy-weight novelist (FT MAGAZINE)

Exuberant (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Wildly entertaining (DAILY MAIL)

An exuberant, joyful ride. Outrageously funny, it combines high farce with biting satire (INDEPENDENT)

Book Description –

A brilliant, funny novel about survival and identity in the tradition of Jeff Eugenides’ MIDDLESEX.

“[Wilson’s ] sense of humor and snappy pacing make this an appealing tale of a bygone America where truly anything can happen.” —People
* A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
“If you re looking for a breathless ride of a novel, one that s filled with more plot twists than most authors could even dream of, let alone include in one 320-page book, don t miss Cotton . . . Irresistible.” –Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust
Meet the unforgettable Leifur Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton (you can call him Lee). Lee is a black boy born white-skinned in segregated Eureka, Mississippi, in 1950. As if that weren t trouble enough, he s also inherited the ability to hear les voix spirits from his Mambo grandmother. By the age of twenty he has fallen in love with a Klansman s daughter, been kicked senseless and left for dead on a northbound freight train, and gotten drafted into a psy-ops corps in Nevada. Before he returns to Mississippi, he will experience up close and personal the women s liberation movement and the dawn of the Lesbian Nation.
Lee Cotton s voice equal parts Delta Blues and Motown takes us on an exhilarating freedom ride through the upheavals of three decades, and whispers its secret: The freaks and oddities of this world may well be divine.”Huck Finn meets Myra Breckinridge? Candide meets Yossarian? . . . [Cotton] is, paradoxically, a complete original.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Brilliant, scathing and hilarious . . . Cotton is an odd, inventive, entertaining and whip-smart novel–a rare combination in fiction. Enjoy it.”–The Denver Post

 

Shortlisted for the Whitbread prize.

What I thought:

Shhhh

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 August 2018

Verified Purchase

 

The most recent book I read by Christopher Wilson is Nookie which is about the 1960s Profumo affair.

Nookie: A novel of the Christine Keeler Affair by [Christopher Wilson]

Those Christine Keeler photographs are famous, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I was aware of just how young she was when the scandal happened. Written with Christopher Wilson’s wit, this is not non-fiction, although it is based on a true story.

The Blurb:

It’s the early 1960’s. London’s set to swing. Sex has just been invented. They’re a strange set of bedfellows – Christine, a hungry, chaotic teen, with the looks of Aphrodite, fleeing the tedium of suburban Staines; Percy, who runs a Soho Burlesque Club by the rules of a girl’s boarding school; Bill, Lord Astor, whose wives don’t understand him (though his dominatrix does); the slum landlord, and concentration camp survivor, Peter Rachman; Mandy, the feisty, giggler from Birmingham who’s skilled at pleasing rich, old men; Stephen, friend of stars and royalty, a charming osteopath, and modern Pygmalion, who picks up waifs and strays at the kerbside and nurtures them into models, actresses, celebrities and trophy-wives; the Kray twins, East End mobsters; Yvgeny, charmer and diplomat-cum-spy at the Soviet Embassy; John Lewis the defrocked Labour MP who plays games with prostitutes and guns; Mariella, sexual athlete and amateur social-worker, who organises West End orgies for the great and the good; President Jack Fitzgerald Kennedy and his brother Bobby who can’t always remember who they’ve met in bed; J Edgar Hoover, curator of sordid secrets; the passionate Johnny, jewel-thief, pimp, shebeen owner, with anger-management issues and a penchant for firearms; ‘Lucky’ the jazz musician who gets in the way of his razor; Bob, the peer of the realm, with a taste for rent-boys; Francis the Fleet Street crime reporter who can sniff a sexual act half a mile away; Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister, whose wayward wife, Dorothy, causes him concerns; Jack Profumo, rising star of the Conservative Party, husband of film actress Valerie Hobson, and Minister for War; Stanley the freelance assassin without a pension-plan; Sam the flexible policeman, who becomes unaccountably rich in the course of his investigations; Keith, the well-meaning, vegetarian, civil servant, who does his best for MI5; Colin the dentist from Cockfosters, who’s indulging his wife Charmian, while simply looking on: Alfred, Lord Denning, whose report on the shenanigans shamelessly exonerates anyone official, prominent, powerful or aristocratic. And from the mix of this cast you get enacted that Great Sex Kerfuffle of 1963, the Profumo Scandal – perhaps better styled the Stephen Ward Affair.

This novel of the scandal gives voice to all the major characters, and affords them the time and space to explain themselves. The account sets out to do justice to Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, spirited teenagers, who became the targets of a raucous, national hypocrisy and took the blame for the misbehaviors of the rich and powerful men who bedded them. The novel also sets out to redeem the admirable Stephen Ward – sensualist, artist, free-spirit, and convivial character – who, in the course of the scandal, lost everything that mattered to him – his friends, his reputation, and finally his life.

Christopher Wilson is the author of eight previous novels and has been shortlisted twice for the Whitbread Fiction Prize.

What I thought:

Shhhh

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 March 2020

Verified Purchase

 

Well, I have spotlighted three of Christopher Wilson’s books, I don’t want to go on too long. Apparently, long posts put people off…

Oh! But I forgot to mention Blueglass which was long-listed for the Booker Prize, in the 1990s.

Blueglass by [Chris Wilson]
There’s no doubt about it. Joey Blueglass is a talented man. How many people can sing any song after hearing it once, read a newspaper then repeat its contents word for word backwards, or recall their life in the womb? Joey can and makes it pay by performing as a Memory Man in the smoky music halls of Victorian London, until it turns out there are some key events that Joey has forgotten…

What I thought:

Shhhh

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 November 2016

Verified Purchase

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the final ‘What’s in a (Character) Name’ guest post. I have. Please have a look at the rest of Christopher Wilson’s books HERE on his website mojo-books.com (click on the word HERE for the direct link). And/or buy read and review them Books available from Christopher Wilson’s Amazon page. And just to make sure, here is the link for Christopher Wilson’s Goodreads page

 

Who knows where my ‘writerly rambling’ posts will take me next. I do need a bit of time now to write book number five of my series. For the time being, I will continue to report on the goings on in Curmudgeon Avenue.

Happy reading, and stay safe everyone! Samantha xx

A Thank You and a Special Announcement For my Final What’s in a (Character) Name Guest Post Slot

Hello there,

During the previous module of my Creative Writing degree, I learnt about the importance of naming your characters. Naming all of your characters avoids confusion for your reader. You wouldn’t want to read a book that had too many ‘he’s’ in, would you.?

This degree is part-time and has a while to go yet. This year I learnt the opposite of the above naming advice because this year’s module was about fairy tales. With lots of stock characters the sister, the carpenter and the step-mother.

With all these theories floating about, last year I had an idea to ask some of my fellow indie authors what’s in a character name? I would like to thank you all today, and after I have posted some pictures of my guest posters I have a really special announcement about next week’s final ‘What’s in a (Character) Name’ guest post.

36290599._SY475_lizzie-lamb-new-email-signature-300px

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TO CATCH A WITCH_FRONT_RGB_150dpi

51wKrNmupRL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_One By One by [Hosby, Yawatta]1561630467184c1e82edfdd2145ac67b171da1b202

91g3HS7c2pL._AC_UY218_ML3_9780993073700Jessica Redland - The Secret To Happiness

The Hive: A dark, spine-chilling thriller to keep you turning pages Kindle Edition

 

Wow! That was a lot of books and a lot of words! Thank you once again for joining me on my writerly rambling posts. I have been honoured to include my indie author colleagues.

Now for my special announcement. 

I don’t know any of my dad’s family but I grew up knowing of them. Dad had a cousin who used to write books, her pen name was Jane Hope and her most famous book was called ‘Don’t Do It! : a Complete Guide To Teaching’.

When I had to give up nursing for health reasons, I started writing. I asked Dad about my childhood memory of his cousin, the famous author. Imagine my surprise when he told me that ‘She wasn’t famous‘ (!) Well, to dampen my disappointment, my dad gave me a book written by another cousin but this was not a book for public consumption; it was a family book that his cousin had written after researching the family history.

Dad let me borrow the book and I was astonished to find out that I have a cousin who ACTUALLY IS A FAMOUS AUTHOR.  ‘I knew it!’ I said to myself, creative genes are coursing through my veins!  My (second) cousin is Booker prize shortlisted author Christopher Wilson I read all of his books straight away. They are awesome. I think my favourite is The Ballad of Lee Cotton No! Wait! My favourite book by Christopher Wilson is Blueglass…. no, no it’s Zoo

Ah they are all brilliant, I can’t wait until next Wednesday when I share with you my very last guest post about character names written by Christopher Wilson  (did I mention he’s my cousin?) Christopher’s post is awesome – please join me!

Happy reading, thanks again to the guest posters and stay safe, Samantha xx

What’s in a (Character) Name? #Guestpost Nico J. Genes @NicoJGenes #IARTG

Hello and thank you for joining me on my rolling character naming writerly rambling posts. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of my internet writing friends Nico J. Genes. We ‘met’ on Goodreads. I have found Goodreads to be a really useful place for support from other indie authors. I have read two of Nico’s books – you will find my 5* reviews for both of them on Amazon . Definitely worth a read.

Thank you, Nico

Nico J.Genes

 

Hi! My name is Nico and I’m a writer. Throughout my life, I’ve been called also Nicole, Niki, Nicu, but somehow Nico has a warmer touch to it. So, Nico, it is. It is all about feelings, you know.

Let’s see how I came up with some of the names from my novels.

Magnetic Reverie & Reverie Girl:

Magnetic Reverie (The Reverie Book 1) Kindle EditionReverie Girl (The Reverie Book 2) Kindle Edition

The idea for my first novel struck me one day. It didn’t have many characters but I had to decide on the names as otherwise, it would have made it difficult, right? I couldn’t just go »she« and »he« as at one point not only the readers would be confused, but I would be the more confused one, the author. I didn’t think much of the names when I started. I did pick up Ana as the name of my main character. My mom’s name is Ana and I find it a really beautiful name, full of purity. It felt so smooth writing Ana whenever the main character came into the scene. I don’t recall now what were the other characters’ names but I’m sure I’ve changed them all.

You know, when I first started writing I didn’t even think it will be something that it will turn into a novel. I just penned down the beginning of something that later on will become my debut novel. When the story was evolving and the characters were being defined, as I didn’t want any of the people I had in my life to think there are any correlations between my work of fiction and my private life, I had to deal with the name thing. Ana, as much as I love this name, had to be replaced. I can’t write a bisexual/lesbian novel with some steamy scenes having one character named the same as my mom. Do you agree? Still, I had to replace it with something as smooth and soft so after some thinking it became Lana. Problem solved. The other characters were a tad easier, still not quite smooth. I didn’t just snap my fingers or took a three minutes break and came up with them. No. Having in mind that the story takes place between Slovenia, Croatia, and the USA, and all the twists and wonders that are not clear for the reader right at the beginning, I had to deal longer with the name for my second character. She was a woman from Slovenia, so her name had to sound Slovenian and American at the same time. And here comes Claire. Well, Claire is the American version while Klara is the Slovenian one. There is a perfectly fine explanation for that in the story and to me, she’s mainly Claire. The other characters got random names, still, I usually prefer short ones and I’m trying to avoid having very similar names so that the reader does not get confused. As I’ve said earlier, I’m trying to have all the names of my fiction works as different as possible from the people I know. Still, it can’t always be done easily as we do get to meet quite a lot of people in our lives. So here comes the claim: »This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.«

 

ADHD: Life is Beautiful

ADHD: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL: A True Story Kindle Edition
I cherish and hold dear to my heart all of my books, as they are my children, my creations. This one, being a true story, hits a higher place. The names though, except for mine, could not be used. As I mentioned in the claims: »Some places, names, and identifying details have been changed in order to maintain the anonymity of others.«, I couldn’t expose my friends’ names so I had to come up with substitutions. While I wrote the book, I have used the real names of my friends and only replace them when before publishing. I played in my mind for a few days with several names and not only that, they had to sit right with me, I wanted them to fit. My friends, a mother and her son, became Peter and Eliza. The real Peter didn’t like his name when he heard it and he asked me to mention in the book that the main character has this name against his will, hence without his approval. He made me laugh and his remark was totally in line with the content of the book. He wasn’t laughing, though.

In conclusion, there are many stories behind a character’s name and, we authors, don’t have often the chance to talk about it, so thank you, Sam, for the opportunity.

 

Useful links:

MAGNETIC REVERIE: Amazon: http://hyperurl.co/p2kdzt

REVERIE GIRL: Amazon(ebook): http://hyperurl.co/c23m4m

ADHD: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL: http://hyperurl.co/adhdlifeisbeautiful

Amazon profile: https://www.amazon.com/Nico-J.-Genes/e/B0767MFVZQ/

www.nicojgenes.com

Nico J. Genes has traveled and worked with many interesting and unique people of different nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations, all of whom helped her to understand diversity and to accept everyone just as they are.

With her first two novels, “Magnetic Reverie” and “Reverie Girl”, she broke the ice into writing successfully. From her readers’ feedback and reviews, Nico can proudly say she has a solid confirmation of her skills as an established writer. An important element of her writing is that she always has a message that she wants to transmit. This can be summed up by her motto: We are all different, and that’s okay!

Besides novel-writing, Nico also runs a blog in which she talks about life’s issues, and gives the kind of friendly advice that everyone needs at certain points of their life. The positive feedback of her readers became her inspiration for her third book, “Lessons in Life”. Continuing her mission of welcoming all diversity and pleading for tolerance and acceptance, she wrote the novel “ADHD: Life Is Beautiful”, based on a true story.

ADHD Life is Beautiful by Nico J. Genes EBOOK (1)

Follow your dreams

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Thank you so much Nico! Join me next time for more character naming, Sam xx