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Today I’d like to give a warm welcome to my author friend Anne John Ligali who is very shortly releasing her second short story in her series about Friendships Online. If you missed her first story – The Big Event – it is available here.

In this A Cup of Conversation interview Anne shares the next story with us as well as how supportive she found The London Book Fair 2018 to be and how her daughter has accepted a Grammy Award on her behalf! 

1. What genre do you write in and how did you choose this genre for your short stories?

I currently write in the romantic comedy/women’s fiction genre (although I have future plans to write some children’s books). I chose this genre simply because I really enjoy reading about women and their lives and how they survive through the ups and downs and how this makes them better people in the end.

The pay-off is so important. I have always been an admirer of this genre ever since reading my very first rom-com back in 2004.
It was one of Sophie Kinsella’s books, Shopaholic Ties the Knot. Out of all the books I had browsed in Borders bookstore that day, I picked hers up. I laughed from the beginning to the end, and that’s what encouraged me to try my hand at this genre for my short stories.

2. What is your favourite reading genre?

Well, the same genre that I write in, but I do love a gripping psychological thriller if I’m in need of something to have me on the edge of my seat! Time Slip novels (not time travel, although I love Back to the Future more than anything) are one of my other favourites. I love the idea of blending a present day story to one in the past and somehow they link perfectly. For me that’s a work of art and I also find time slips stories never seem to sag in the middle. One of my favourite time slip novels is The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey, which was also in fact my very first audio book. The story blew me away as it is based on a true event when an apartment in Paris was abandoned for 75 years, was only discovered not too long ago.

3. How did you choose the title of your book series?

Friendships Online, I chose because it really is about a group of people that have been friends in the virtual world for a number of years and eventually they meet up in the real world at a Christmas party. Once in the real world they still rely heavily on social media to communicate, sell themselves, brag and go about their daily lives. I had fun writing this series because I do spend time on social media as a blogger and now an author.

There have been many great, funny and not so funny things that has happened to me that I’ve tried to include in the three parts. However there’s still so much more I can write about. Although the series will come to an end later this year, this does not mean the end of Constance and friends. After all there are six friends in total, which is a lot, and they’ve already told me from the page how they each have their own individual stories that they would love to share one day. Watch this space. The culture of social media is such a huge one, and I would love to keep on writing about it and have more fun.

4. Tell us a bit about your upcoming release ‘The Weekend Spa Break’.

The Weekend Spa Break is part two and it begins on the same night about an hour after The Big Event party ends at The Dorchester. So I would recommend reading part one first, (which is great because it’s so short and you can catch up in just ten minutes) In part two we meet up with the friends again, but the story is more centered on Constance and Estelle’s friendship as it blooms while they get to know each other better at Glitzy’s Hotel & Health Spa. There are a few new interesting and the odd quirky character and I really tried to capture what it could be like visiting a luxury spa in the English countryside. Again, carrying on with the theme of social media, unlike part one’s theme that looks at vanity, and self-obsession, part two looks at how the culture of social media is/has transformed other parts of our society and how being too open online may or may not be a good thing.

5. What are you working on at the moment/what’s next?

I am in the final stages of the third and final part in the Friendships Series that is due out later this year. And I am also finishing off my romantic comedy novel set in the Caribbean, on an island that I used to live on. I am about 80% in as it’s a project I started back in 2014, so most of it is done, I just need to finish it now.

6. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

I love writing at home. But if I choose to write away from home, then I love writing at Leon’s Diner. I do have a favourite location as I find the space to be perfect for me to get my head down. I actually wrote most of The Weekend Spa Break at Leon’s and by the end of it, I felt like a member of the Leon’s family.

7. What steps do you take to ensure your writing is ready for release? 

I have recently changed my editing process. I used to rely on writing groups at my local college which were fabulous. But I find because it is a class, I’d have to wait two weeks or more before it’s my turn to read my work out. But now since releasing The Big Event, after I do my own personal edit, I now do a round of beta reading, which substitutes what my writing group would have done, then I pass it onto my editor, then I proofread it again and again until it’s as perfect as can be.

8. You visited LBF 2018 this year. What support did you find there and how does this inform your writing journey? 

Like previous years, the support at The London Book Fair has been incredible. Author HQ is the place for authors who are starting out on their writing journey as this will enable you to have any questions you have answered, and also prompt new ones.
This year was very different because it’s the first year I had gone as a published author. Not only did I have general questions, but it this time I was armoured with a different set of questions, mainly to do with marketing and finding a plan to reach more readers.
My questions also lead me to ask about distribution, contracts, membership enquiries about groups that support authors and printing costs for when I eventually decide to print my books.

9. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

I would have to say during the final editing stages when there are a number of deadlines on the horizon, that’s when things start to go wrong, things that are usually out of my control. The list is endless. But I find, after having two books published, the same things have happened and it sends me into a flurry, but I get there in the end.

10. What two things frustrate you the most about the writing industry?

To be honest, not a lot at this moment in time. And I think it’s because of these two reasons:

  1. I am still new to the industry, so I have more to discover.
  2. I made a decision to self-publish, at the moment, so I am happy and in full control.
    I have not gone down certain routes that have frustrated other writers such as writing off to agents and not hearing back. Writing a book your way then to be told it has to be written a certain way in order for it to be considered for publication. That could be frustrating, and it may not be for all.

       11. What’s on your current to-do list?

Send an extract of The Weekend Spa Break to my friend and author, Rebekah Louise who also write rom-coms, print off more paper copies of WSB for family and friends, planning my next summer bumper giveaway for June/July for my Books and Authors UK blog, and buy more coffee.

       12. What was the last thing that made you ‘Laugh Out Loud’?

My seven year old daughter wearing a pair of my high-heels pretending to be me, by giving a really long speech and accepting a Grammy award. A Grammy? LOL!

Links: (in addition to those linked within the interview)

 

Twitter: @AnneJohnLigali

Instagram:  anne_johnligali

Facebook: Author Page

LinkedIn: Anne John-Ligali

Website: www.annejohnligali.com

Book Blog: www.booksandauthors.co.uk

Books and Authors UK Facebook page: Books and Authors UK

THE BIG EVENT BOOK TRAILER: You are welcome to share this video

Books and Authors UK blogsite: Twitter: @BooksNAuthorsUK

Welcome to A Cup of Conversation! This is one of the most wonderful interviews I’ve done since I began the author interview series. Chris Toedt, has been so thorough and honest in sharing his thoughts and writing processes with me in this interview post. He is wise and clever and has connected with authors I come across often on my Twitter feed too! He is clearly passionate about his writing and his journey. He has had a lifetime of inspiration and experience-building through his father’s own involvement in writing a column for a newspaper and says he always new he would write and be a published writer one day. Come and join me for this inspirational story behind Chris’s writing. 

1. When did you start writing creatively?

Soulla, my first attempt at penning a masterpiece was in 1959, I was in the third grade. It was my rewrite of The Wizard of Oz. Well at least I managed to turn out 30 pages, but it wet my appetite for writing. The ink in my blood, came from the influence of my father, Dale Toedt, who was the first Landscape Architect in Oklahoma in 1954. Dad wrote a column for the Tulsa Daily World newspaper, a monthly issue titled, “Landscape For Better Living.” We all helped in picking out photographs of jobs he would use in his articles, taking the finished copy upstairs to the editors office or our friend who was the typesetter at the newspaper. Early on I knew I would write and be published one day.

Of course we were all extremely proud of dad’s work and he wrote for over fifty years and finally retired to the ranch in 2000. He’s ninety now and still “Going Strong.” I have encouraged him to write a book about his life.  We call Dad affectionately, “The Frank Lloyd Wright of Landscape Architecture.”

He designed the Oklahoma exhibit at the 1964 Worlds Fair in NYC. In fact, Dad brought me home bronze cow and goat bells from Greece’s exhibit. Little did I know I’d end up spending many years in Greece.

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

WOW! Of course I have several favorites but I have two authors who have their books in more homes around the world than all other author’s combined. They are Job and King David from the Bible. They influenced me and got me inspired to look at the spiritual side of everything.

Job’s take on life, how he loved God but mainly how he handled his afflictions so well. That’s why I used him in the book.

Job was a perfect man, not a sinless man. Jobs illness and afflictions lasted about one year and it was a horrible chain of events.

King David knew how to love and serve God and how to bless those around him, even though he had sin in his life. He went through a lot of hard times and penned some beautiful scripture known by much of the world. Those two men sold more books then the rest of us will ever dream of.

Of recent authors, Tom Clancy and one of my favorite male Author’s, The Hunt For Red October is one of my favorites.

Ellie Douglas, a great female author, living in Auckland, New Zealand. I was not a big fan of horror before I read her Anthology. Wham! Totally addicted now. She recently published an awesome ten book anthology, I was literally transformed into a follower and we chum when we both have a little time to pause and catch up on things.

MJ LaBeff is one of my very favorite female authors in the top three of my 100 best female authors on Twitter. I enjoy her detailed accounts, she never misses a detail in her writings, especially in crime stories. Having a law enforcement background, I’m quick to pick up on accuracy.

Jennifer Irwin and awesome female author living in LA and writing some great romantic books is one of my favorites. I enjoy her style. In her book, A Dress The Color Of The Sky, soon to be a movie, I was in each characters shoes, from the first page.

I was that bead of sweat running down her back. Her writing style grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let you go!

3. What was the last book you read, what was it about and why did you choose it?

The book is “Broken” by a dear friend and one of the best modern day female authors, Donna Siggers of England. My name is going to be “mud” now with the other ninety nine on my current top 100 female author list I post on Twitter from time to time but I’ll take my chances.

Broken is one of the Warwick Cooper Thrillers, an action packed writing. I highly recommend this book, I bought my first copy as soon as it hit the market. The duo of Katie-Ann Warrwick and Sam Cooper’s relationship heats up as they work together again on a kidnap case looking for Kate’s friend, and it never let’s up. I strongly recommend you read this book.

Donna’s a dear friend, who has influenced my writing, pushing me into another genre. I’d had her book on my “to read list”and I knew from reading the short sample on Amazon, it was going to be a Classic. Donna’s style is amazing, her writing flows and pulls you into the story like a riptide. She’s going places mark my words, she’ll be a top selling author soon, and a movie would not surprise me. I encourage her along and I know she has the knowledge and background to pull many more out in the future.

I bought four paperback copies on my second order for gifts, and everyone loved the book. One copy was for my co-author Amy Michelle, who just about has it memorized. My housekeeper is reading a copy and I get her oral review every Tuesday and Thursday like clockwork.

4. What is your favourite reading genre?

My favorites are constantly evolving; Thrillers, Romance, and Health are my favorites. But I enjoy  anything in Travel, Cooking, Entertainment,  and Poetry.

5. How did you choose the title of your book, ‘Me and You and a Man named Job’?

Funny you should ask. I love music and one evening I was humming a tune while I was writing and I jotted down the name of the song.
Me And You And A Dog named Boo, by Lobo.
https://youtu.be/aTbBvPoxUkk

I quickly penned the title, Me And You And A Man Named Job. Chronic health issues touch so many people and this title felt right.

6. Can you tell us something about your book.

There are three verses of scripture which have been with me since I started writing this book. I was awakened in the night with a refreshing breeze blowing through a “closed window”. Not that these were prophetical, but more of an inspiration which with the loving encouragement from my co-author would not allow me to put down my pen.

Job 19:23:-:25

23: Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
24: That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!

25: For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.

The purpose of my book is to share with the readers how I have handled my chronic illnesses and pain. I chose to use Job because he was a man all too familiar to us, with his many afflictions and agony. His battles, were much like mine, and those of anyone else fighting chronic health issues.  Job literally went through “Hell On Earth”.  He lost everything in the first day of his calamity; all ten of his children, servants, thousands of head of livestock, homes, everything but his wife. His physical and mental agony lasted about one year. Can you imagine losing all that and still loving and not blaming God?

Since the book of Genesis is in the front of the Bible, many people think it was written first. Actually Job was written first and most agree it was most likely written by Job and shortly after he was healed, his family restored with ten new children, and his livestock losses were returned doubled. Job 42:10. Someone said to me they thought Job was shorted by God. I asked why? He said, scripture didn’t say his family would be doubled.

Job had been afflicted once by Satan, 20 children would have been a handful. Job didn’t have a family Bible to go to and find some comfort and soltice in his time of suffering. Yet he stood up for his beliefs, and served God and his health was restored, he lived to two hundred and ten years old, his losses restored, and he lived a good life.

My co-author Amy Michelle and I both know that not all of the answers with our chronic health issues are going to be found in the doctor’s office. We are “physical, mental and spiritual brings” Soulla. Doctors can help with some of this but we’ve found other sources which we share in this writing and more in two more in this series we’re working on.

Chronic Pain, Illnesses and Conditions are issues lasting at least three months. Acute illnesses are short term issues. Chronic issues wear on you physically and mentally.  Understanding your personal issues helps not only know what you are dealing with but helps you know how to deal with it. My co-author and I had 58 medical diagnosis between us. Mine started in 1980. We wanted to be able to share with others suffering, how we have not only survived but thrived in our battle. In this the first in a series we started telling how we have dealt with our problems.

When I was first diagnosed with SLE Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Sjrõgrens Syndrome, RRMS Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis I was searching for answers. I was looking for more than what the pamphlets the doctors were handing out from the government, patting you on the head and saying, “it’s going to be alright.” Like Hell! My MS worsened to SPMS or Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. Amy and I started looking for our own solid information to help ourselves.

I began to think about Job and his trials and tribulations, all of the horrible pain, suffering and losses he had sustained and yet he did not blame God. Through it all, Job loved and served God. Jobs wife suffered emotionally those very same losses as Job went through his ordeal.

When she said, “Why don’t you curse God and die,” the words she used translate “Bless God and die.” And Job’s friends weren’t much help in their attack on their “friend”, blaming Job for him having probably sinned and brought this all upon himself. With friends like that, who needed enemies?

People who do not have a Chronic health condition haven’t a clue what it’s like to live in pain and suffering, day after day thinking there’s “no end in sight.”

Thanks be to God, our deep down determination to survive and find a solution to the problem and mans God given wisdom, we can learn to “rise above the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Most recently, I found about a year ago, a YouTube video series, by Dr. Robert O. Young, a Bio Chemistry specialist who developed a theory that our bodies are supposed to be in an alkaline state, yet most of us are on an acidic state with our blood way over acidified.

He’s been juicing green vegetables and green fruits for over thirty years. In his sixties, yet he looks, “ the picture of health”, like a forty year old man. I started following his theory and within a month, people were saying, “Chris you look amazing.”

I felt amazing and I had gone from taking 100% of my nutrition through a Mic-Key Button feeding tube, to drinking green juices, cut from 38 daily medications to 6 medicines a day including my pain medications.

This is the subject of the next book in our series. Friends, there is Hope?

7. Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment Chris?

My passion is presently centered on the love story of my life. My years in Greece and the book, “I Just Met A Girl Named Maria”. It’s a beautiful story of an American commercial saturation diver and my Greek goddess Maria Diana Molokyias, covering the five years we were together. The setting is in Athens and on Mykonos Island. I’m about two thirds of the way through writing the manuscript and by all indications it will probably be two or more books. I will of course be writing the romantic stories under my nom de plume. I don’t want to embarrass those still living.

8. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

I write at an antique drop front secretary desk in my living room. I bought it one Saturday morning as I was passing a little shop in the antique district and when I was looking at the quality of it a salesman said a rediculous price which I look. Obviously they didn’t know what they had, solid Cherry wood, and it weighs about 275 pounds. I paid less than $100.00 for a $1,500.00 desk. Lots of big and small drawers, cubby holes, hand carved drawer pulls, brass hardware, wood dowels, and glued, the only screws are in the two hinges. The drawer pulls are worth about $50 each and there are 8 of them.

9. What steps do you take to ensure your writing is ready for release?

Research: I research my topic first if I don’t know my subject. M.J. LeBaff a dear friend and female author in Arizona is possibly the most accurate writer I know. She has an eye like an eagle and researches, diligently.

Outline: Sometimes I use an outline, but most of the time I do not. I get into my writing mode and the words start rolling out of my heart.

Write the first and last page, Fill in the blanks, and Soft editing.

After I write it and do a little editing, I let it season in a drawer and I go on to another book for 2-3 months then read it and hard edit like it was someone else’s book.

Write, let it rest, read it and be hard on it. I either edit hard or someone who doesn’t love it will. The seasoning time gives me time to partially forget and detach from it. Then I see the flaws a good editor would.

Hard editing: This is a time you have to be brutally honest with yourself and look at your manuscripts as the readers will and ask one question. Would I pay good money for this particular piece of literary work? If not, you have a few options.

  1. Cut what’s not worthy of being in the manuscript, even if you must bleed it and then gut it like an Elk hanging by its hind feet in the tree, or
  2. Scrap it and start over.

Before I send it to the publisher I have someone read it who will be honest and honestly tell me what it needs.

10. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?

I eat, drink and breathe for my coffee and dark chocolate! I grind fresh coffee beans from the Repúblic of Panamá everyday. One of my admirers from Panamá City, Panamá, sends me a good supply of beans regularly. Nothing better than fresh strong coffee, and Panamá is known for great coffee (café). I’ve always enjoyed my coffee and the Greeks are known for making awesome coffee in a Briki over a gas stove. I learned from my driver in Athens, back in the 1980’s the finer points of creating a perfect cup, with a pinch of sugar.

I enjoy a little hummus and pita bread, and I try to keep it on the light and healthy side so I add a few Greek olives. I watch my weight so I too can maybe see 99-100 like the rest of the men in my family.

       11. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

Yes, the waiting: The wait after turning in my manuscript to the publisher until I hear it’s ready for POD. As an author you’ve carried your “baby” to nearly full term in your womb, then you ship it off and wait. I’m doing better now about waiting, I always have several other books in the oven baking or on the back burner.

        12. Did your job as a diving instructor and professional diver inform your writing in any way? How?

I think my work in diving, especially on the professional level, influenced my writing and gave me a style. I had a lot of responsibility and keeping accurate records with lots of details was, extremely important. Lots of paperwork, bids, dive log books, technical reports, ship surveys for a major marine insurance company, owners and buyers of vessels for sale, government regulations. I also periodically wrote short articles in trade publications.

        13. What two things frustrate you the most about the writing industry?

Contracts.

Making sure what you have in the contract is carried out without any hitches. Read every word on the contract, get an attorney to check it. Know whats industry standard. My current contract is solid and unusually in my favor. My attorney said it’s solid and we did have any problems with it, we’d own the publishing company. I own all rights, movies, everything, a two year contract. They pay all expenses including advertising. Printing cost come out of the books sale price. I give up less percentage of the royalty than I is normal as I received preferential treatment. I’m very pleased.

Agents: Not being disrespectful, but some of the agents I’ve encountered were more like a fly by night used car salesman. Your money in his pocket and where did he go?

I know an agent can do a lot for your career and at some point in the near future I need to look into retaining one.

        14. Are you a planner or a pantser?

Most of the time I’m a planner, knowing what I’ll be doing at midnight, when I’m eating breakfast at 05:00hrs. But sometimes I’m a pantser like when the poop hits the ventilator, I step up to bat and knock a home run, saving the day. That’s how commercial salvage diving can be, you can have the best plans in the world on a $35M project, you better be ready for the unexpected, it’s coming. Always have a plan B ready!

       15. What’s on your current to-do list?

I’m planning on a republication of this book, turning it into a series after the current contract expires on April 20, 2019.

I’m also cranking out a love story of the two and a half years I spent in the Florida Keys which happened right after Greece. I was teaching recreational diving, doing technical diving, and had the privilege of working with some expert “free divers” (breath hold).

I dated a gorgeous school teacher from Jacksonville the entire time I was there.

A wonderful woman, she made the nine hour drive, each way every Friday through Sunday afternoon to be with me and stayed most of the summers and vacation time. All names will be fictitious.

The second biggest book or series is going to be set on Viento Frio, the Repúblic of Panamá.
I have notes from the fourteen years I spent in in the village of Viento Frio with a wonderful woman and her three children and grandson. Passion, diving, great food, monsoons December till April, eating plantains, rice and beans, living in a third world country as one of three white men, two years without indoor plumbing, no running water, undependable electric, nearly dying from all four types of classic Dengue Fever and Malaria. The humidity is like Southeast Asia, 90°f feels like 130°f if you are not in the shade and, I’d do it again in a heartbeat

Links:

Twitter: Chris Toedt Author @christoedt1

I Just Met A Girl Named Maria @christoedt

Facebook: Toedt Publications @authorchristoedt

LinkedIn: Chris Toedt, Author

Website: www.toedtpublications.com

www.newmansprings.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com

I am wanting to start a Blog soon.

Blog:

Amazon link to books: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Toedt/e/B077Z25W9Q

YouTube link for trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7ijGhCpLhA

Welcome to my weekly blogpost!

I wanted to share with you the festival and traditions of a Greek Orthodox Easter. Pascha, Easter, is on the 8th April this year and represents the biggest religious holiday in Cyprus and across Greece and many Eastern Orthodox countries.

It doesn’t always fall at the same time as English Easter and this is because the Orthodox religion follows a different calendar. The Easter date is based on the Julian calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar that is followed by many western countries. Therefore, the Orthodox Easter period often occurs later than the Easter period that falls after the time of the March equinox.

I remember as a child how I always marvelled at the fact that some years I was lucky enough to celebrate two Easters living in London! English Easter for us meant literally over a hundred chocolate Easter eggs lined up across every available surface in my parents’ home. This was the biggest most exciting thing about English Easter. In contrast our Greek Easter was punctuated with traditions of fasting and baking, buying new outfits, preparing our homes for guests and going to church.

Lent is characterised by a 40-day fasting period of no meat, poultry or dairy products. In Cyprus hundreds of bakeries cater for those who fast by adding dairy-free, egg-free and meat-free pastries and cookies to their already busy kitchens. As a child I would fast for three days and generally, fasting today is followed more strictly in the villages of Cyprus than in the towns. 

Thursday of Holy Week, which is today, is traditionally the day when flaounes are prepared and baked. (I baked mine yesterday with my mum and my sister). Pastry is rolled out and pressed into washed and dried sesame seeds and then filled with a mix of flour, eggs, cheese, mint and raisins or sultanas. These are shaped into triangles, squares or circles with crimped edges before being baked in the oven.

Eggs are hardboiled and dyed red and this is a tradition highlighted in my newly-released novel The Summer Will Come:

Elena stayed by the stove and watched as the water bubbled and the orange dye miraculously stained the shell of the eggs a dull cherry-red. Elena scooped them out with a slatted spoon into a bowl, careful not to break the outer shell.

‘They don’t look nice,’ she said, disappointed her efforts had not produced the shining glowy red eggs her mother always made.

‘Let them cool and then you can polish them with olive oil,’ said her mother. ‘That’s what brightens them.’

The eggs are used in a game where they are tapped against each other and whoever is left with an uncracked egg wins. The breaking of the eggs is symbolic of Christ breaking free from the tomb.

On the Friday morning before Easter flowers are collected and used to decorate the four-post canopied wooden litter in which the icon of Christ, the Epitaphio, is placed. That same evening a solemn service is held where the decorated Epitaphio is carried into the streets, for a short procession.

On Easter Saturday the main church service starts at 11 p.m. Just before midnight the lights in the church go out and the choir sings the story of the three women who arrived at Christ’s tomb only to find it empty. The lights are switched on again and the priest asks the congregation to “take from his candle the light which never dies.” The flame is passed from person to person until everyone is holding a lit candle. After midnight the service continues into the early hours of Sunday for another two and a half to three hours.

The celebrations really begin on Easter Sunday as the 40-day Fast is broken. Feasts of souvla, large pieces of lamb or pork cooked on an open charcoal fire, as well as salads, breads, cakes, biscuits, sweets, flaounes and wine. Lamb is the traditional Easter meal as the early Christians adopted this symbol from the Jews who sacrificed lambs for their Passover celebrations.

From Sunday lunchtime until Tuesday night, in village squares and churchyards, traditional food, games and live traditional Cypriot music are to be found. Everyone, Cypriot and non-Cypriot, is welcomed!

And on that note thank you for joining me and I will leave you with our traditional Easter greetings of Kopiaste! Christos Anesti! and Chronia Polla! – Welcome! Christ is Risen! and Happy New Year!

(This post was originally written for my book blog tour celebrating the release of The Summer Will Come and can also be read here.)

Your words ringing in my ears
Sensitive to pain as to light
Foreboding layers, my grey fears
A veiled cloud across my sight
 
Anxiety invades in frantic bouts
Strangling, clenching tight
It is not how it should be I doubt
Yet I have no more inner fight
This love feels now like darkness
Irrational emotions over boiling
Strangling me and you no less
As a sticky panic begins choking
What’s happened to our joyous joy?
All those bubbling feelings inside?
Is this disquietude a cruel ploy?
I’m all edginess descending a slide
As you take me in your arms
The trepidation slowly subsides
The tension no longer me harms
And love reappears on all my outsides.
Thank you for reading my poetry…Id love to hear your comments, so please feel free to leave your thoughts below.
And if you’d like to read some more my poetry collection Sunshine after Rain is available on Amazon.
Much love, Soulla x

Huge thanks and gratitude to Cathy of What Cathy Read Next for her wonderfully perceptive and in-depth review of my newly released novel The Summer Will Come, available on AMAZON.

4 * AMAZON REVIEW – posted on 20th March 2018

Emotional, engaging story set in 1950s Cyprus and London

“The Summer Will Come tells the story of two Cypriot families both affected by the unrest on the island resulting from the struggle for Cypriot independence that took place in the 1950s. The reader sees events from the points of view of Elena and her mother, Evangelia, and Christaki and his father, Loizos.

The author does a great job of communicating the atmosphere of rising tension and fear on the island as families and communities are split by support for one side or the other. Supporters of the nationalist organisation EOKA risk arrest, internment, interrogation (and potentially worse) by the British authorities as they smuggle coded messages and hold secret meetings. It’s a time of curfews, informers, repression and often violent reprisals.

However, the book is not all doom and gloom. There are wonderful descriptions of the landscape of Cyprus and, for those of us in the United Kingdom currently enduring snow and overcast skies, enticing depictions of blue skies, hot days and balmy nights. In addition, there are some evocative descriptions of food that literally made my stomach rumble as I was reading them. ‘Elena imagined paklava, galatoboureko, pitoues, daktila and kateifi, the sweet filo and shortcrust pastries bursting with chopped pistachios, almonds and thick yellow custard sitting together in a warm goo of syrup’. (By the way, there is a really helpful glossary at the back of the book including, for those not on a diet, mouth-watering descriptions of Cypriot pastries and desserts.)

Eventually both families are forced to leave Cyprus to seek a new life in England. For Elena, her twin brother, Andreas, and their mother, Evangelia, the journey offers the prospect of being reunited with their father, Kostas. For Christaki, his brother and sister and, in particular, his mother, Anastasia, it’s a chance to leave traumatic memories behind.

However, the move to England brings fresh challenges for both families. The author brilliantly conveys the contrast between their life in Cyprus and their experience of London. There are obvious things like the cold weather and different food. ‘She felt like she was always shrouded in grey; she could barely see the buildings, the streets, the sky, the landscape from a few hundred yards away.’ But also less obvious things, such as the dirty, dingy housing, the multi-racial nature of London and the noise. ‘It was not the peaceful sound of the lapping waves of the sea in Limassol. No, it was a different world, a noisy one.’ And they find it difficult to adjust to the different pace of life as well. ‘Loizos noticed how those around him seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere; a complete contrast to life in Cyprus, or at least life as it used to be before the Cyprus tragedy, with trundling buses, slow donkeys and hours spent in the kafenion.’

I loved the little details like the families’ surprise that in England olive oil is only available from a pharmacist! There’s a lovely sense of the atmosphere of the 1950s – the fashion, the music and things like the opening of the first Wimpy Bars! However, there are also forceful reminders of the darker side of life.

Conflict arises as the younger members of both families – especially the female members – seek to take advantage of the freedom enjoyed by their peers whilst their parents cling to the traditions of Cyprus, including the custom of arranging introductions between members of the opposite sex and the expected behaviour of girls. ‘The women in the village were raised to be passive and accepting of their role in life; to marry well, be respectful wives and loving mothers…’ When connections within the Cypriot community eventually (and perhaps inevitably) bring two members of the families together, this reader certainly had a clear idea of the resolution she desired.

I really enjoyed The Summer Will Come. I loved learning about the culture and traditions of Cyprus. My only minor niggle (and it is minor) is that the book felt slightly longer than it needed to be. For instance, there was a section set in Blackpool that I felt could have been removed entirely. However, I found the parts of the book set in Cyprus absolutely fascinating and the story of the two families once they moved to London really compelling. If you love historical fiction that is rich in cultural detail and rooted in actual events, then The Summer Will Come will not disappoint.”

Many thanks again to Cathy and to all of you buying, reading and reviewing The Summer Will Come and if you have any questions or would like me to answer any questions about the book then please contact me. I’d love to hear from you!

If you would like to connect with Cathy her website can be found here.

The Summer Will Come is available here.

 

 

During the troubles in Cyprus, in the 1950s, many school children were caught up in the hype of achieving Enosis (unity) with Greece. Too young to be swear their allegiance to EOKA – the main group behind the fight – they often bunked school and planned their own crude attacks on the British military and even the Cypriot police. They often demonstrated with home-made flags and shouted anti-British obscenities as they marched in the streets.

In this extract, one of the main characters, Christaki, discovers that his sister Melani, and her school friend, Katerina, are involved in a planned ambush of British servicemen and vehicles close to the village of Ayios Tychonas, where they all live. 

‘When I say “ready”, throw your ammunition,’ commanded Katerina as her words carried on the chilly breath of the wind.

Christaki wondered who she was talking to and struggled to catch her words. He couldn’t see anyone around, but then in the far distance he saw Melani. He recognised her yellow dress and floppy summer hat she wore to protect her from the morning sun. She looked like an ordinary young girl taking a hike across the hills overlooking the sea. What was she doing? He wondered. She should be at school. Suddenly she waved a blue scarf in the air, waving at someone. Christaki made out a boy on his bike on the road directly below. When Christaki peered back, he caught sight of Melani scrambling over the hillside. She’s going to the secret cave, thought Christaki.

The boy pedalled like mad towards Katerina and the others. Christaki could see the sea breeze blowing into his face.

‘Please God let this not be what I think it is,’ Christaki prayed. He peered back to where Katerina was now half-crouching, and noticed the other children, some as young as nine or ten, but most of them from high school. They too squatted low behind the boulders and rocky crevices of the mountainside. The more he focused, the more children he saw.

Within minutes the boy appeared at the foot of the disused field.

‘They’re on their way. Melani waved four times,’ he said, catching his breath. He threw his bike to the ground and joined his school friends crouched behind an abandoned truck.

‘So there are four trucks,’ Katerina’s distinct voice carried on the wind as she addressed the hiding students.

‘There are four trucks,’ she called out this time in a half-whisper. ‘You know what to do. We’ve got about five minutes.’ There was a commotion as the young people moved into position. Some children hid behind rocks and boulders, others crouched low, camouflaged by bushes and thickets.

Christaki saw the Keo beer delivery truck trundle past and take a right into the road leading to Ayios Tychonas. Two older men on their mopeds whooshed past, sending a billowing cloud of dust into the air. A small convoy of British military vehicles followed.

‘Ready?’ called out Katerina. ‘Now!’

What happened next terrified Christaki and he was unsure what to do. He pushed his moped over and lay low. He scrambled over the rough terrain to where the children were hiding. He caught his elbow on a jagged rock and winced from the pain. Blood seeped through his shirt sleeve. Their action stunned him.

The thuggish children sprang out shouting and screaming. They bombarded the military trucks and jeeps with rocks, bricks, stones and sticks as they drove by. A rock hit the first jeep’s windscreen smashing it instantly. It came to a sudden halt. A screech of brakes filled the air as the trucks behind swerved and collided with it.

Christaki, his eyes fixed on the target, saw one skid, its side and windows indented and crushed from the flying rocks. It ended half way in a ditch on the other side of the road. The soldiers rushed out and ducked behind their battered jeeps; both the back tyres blown. There was no movement for a few seconds. Doors clacked open and banged shut as the soldiers got out, shock on their faces. Two showed signs they’d been hurt. One held his arm and grimaced from the pain and the other who wore no beret held his head where an open wound gushed blood.

‘British out! British out!’ yelled one of the boys and the others joined in with him as they waved their crude home-made banners in the air. A white bed sheet painted blue with the Greek flag, the initials EOKA and the word Enosis painted across it flapped in the air. A smaller flag made from scraps of blue and white silk, sewn together to form a white cross on a blue background, waved high above their heads.

Thank you for reading the extract and if you would like to purchase the book, The Summer Will Come, it is available as an e-book Kindle download and as a paperback via Amazon.

This week I’d like to give Jackie Baldwin a very warm welcome as she joins us in A Cup of Conversation! Jackie and I have connected through a Writers’ Support Group on Twitter and although we have never met in person (a date in Foyle’s is still hovering in the diary!) Jackie’s quick wit has kept me laughing for a long time after our snippets of ‘conversation’. In this interview she shares a great deal of knowledge and wisdom and I’ve discovered I have another two things in common with her; cream cakes and chocolate! So with the taste of sugar on our lips and a nice cup of tea let’s join Jackie as she talks about all things writing. 

1. When did you start writing creatively?

I remember writing melodramatic stories from the age of seven.

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

Gosh, that’s a hard one! I would have to say Jane Austen because she focalises not only on the action but on the feelings of the character which is the way I like to write. As I started off writing monologues, I was also influenced by the playwright Alan Bennett and his ‘Talking Heads.’

3. Many writers dream of having an agent/publisher; how did you secure your book deal/contract?

It had never occurred to me to send my book direct to a publisher before. I tried to get an agent a number of years ago and a few of them requested the full MS but didn’t take me on. It went in a drawer for three years. I then dusted it off, did a substantial rewrite and had just finished that when I saw on Facebook that Killer Reads, Harper Collins were open to direct submissions. I sent it off with no expectations but two weeks later, they sent me an acceptance. It was as if my body went into shock and I couldn’t stop shaking.

4. How did you choose the title of your latest book or book series?

I didn’t. My first book was meant to be called ‘The Penitent’ and my second was meant to be ‘The Art of Death’ but my publisher felt that these weren’t commercial enough. I have to say the new titles have grown on me though. I respect their knowledge of the market.

5. A Dead Man’s Prayer is Book 1. Tell us a bit about the series…who is your favourite character and why?

It’s a police procedural crime novel set in a beautiful area of SW Scotland. It involves the murder of a priest and also the abduction of twin boys from a nursery. One is recovered unharmed. The other remains missing. It explores such themes as redemption and nature versus nurture and also explores mental illness through the eyes of the main character, DI Frank Farrell. He is my favourite character because he is very conflicted and not quite comfortable in his own skin yet has a strong moral compass.

6. What are you working on at the moment/what’s next?

My second DI Farrell novel, Perfect Dead, is out on 15th June this year. I’m also planning to write a serial killer novel set in New York.

7. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

I write in the same room as I see my hypnotherapy clients in so I have to keep it all very tidy and organised. I can’t indulge in post-its and flow charts all over the walls. I don’t have a writing routine as everything has to fit round my work and the hours vary.

8. You’ve mentioned an editor so I was wondering how does that work in terms of edits and making changes? Do you agree with everything he asks you to change? 

I’ve been very fortunate in my editor. He flags up inconsistencies or somewhere the tension needs to be tightened, that sort of thing. He also looks into the characters and their motivations. Why do they act the way they do and is it credible? He puts me on the spot with awkward questions and I have to wriggle like a fish on a hook until I can think of a way round something. It is very much a collaborative process and I am completely free to disagree.

9. What’s your favorite go-to snack when writing?

I would love to say carrot sticks and humus but sadly it is chocolate and, if I’m really up against it, cream cakes. My stress levels can be measured on a sliding scale of sugar.

10. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

I find promoting my book quite difficult as I have always hated to stand out. However, I do like to help others so, thankfully, I have become friends with a number of indie authors on Twitter who kindly retweet my stuff and who I help in turn. I am proud to be an ‘honorary Indie.’

        11. Does your work as a hypnotist inform your writing in any way?

Funnily enough, long before I was a hypnotherapist I wrote a short film script based on a revenge seeking hypnotist. Nowadays, I wouldn’t use such a plot as there are so many misconceptions out there about hypnotherapy that I wouldn’t wish to add to them.

        12. What two things frustrate you the most about the writing industry?

How difficult it is to secure an agent. I know a great many authors who have succeeded in obtaining publishing deals with publishers direct but still haven’t managed to snag an agent. An agent can help you take your writing career to the next level. The other thing that I find frustrating is that there is a sense of expectation that once you write a particular type of book then you must stay in that box, nicely labelled and packaged. I think that approach stifles creativity.

        13. Are you a planner or a pantser?

A bit of both, Soulla. I do a bit of brain storming on paper then I write an outline of the story from beginning to end on two sheets of A4. I might end up with something very different but that gives me the confidence to launch into Chapter One.

Thank you so much Jackie for joining me and my readers. I wish you all the best with your upcoming release of Perfect Dead on 15th June and hope to host you again in the future. Jackie’s links are below for anyone who would like to continue keeping in touch with her and her writing career.

Much love and keep reading, keep writing until next time. xxx

Social Media Links:

https://m.facebook.com/Jackie-Baldwin-Author-1702452086684407/

twitter.com/@JackieMBaldwin1

Book Links:

Amazon: Here

Amazon: Here

 

 

Thank you Aaron Brinker for joining me and my readers and welcome to you all to my author interview series – A Cup of Conversation. Aaron has been one of my writing buddies on Twitter for a while now and I just love the way he faces the challenge of writing with a sharp creativity and a realistic attitude. He is one of my first ever male authors to be featured in this special series so I hope you will give him a warm welcome as he shares his writing routines and plans for the future.

1. When did you start writing creatively?

I started writing creatively when I was in Middle School. It wasn’t until College that I started pursuing it for publication.

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

Ted Dekker has been a major influence. With reading a lot of classic Authors: Twain; Rawls; Bradberry; Lee; and even Faulkner, these have also lent analytical inspiration to some of my writing.

3. What personal experiences are reflected in your writing?

A lot of my personality, mannerisms, and painful experiences have been used in my stories.

4. How did you choose the title of your latest book or book series?

I haven’t yet decided on a title of my current Work In Progress. The title Second Chances was chosen due to a second chance to possibly make amends.

5. In your current book, either released or as a WIP, who is your favourite character and why?

        I’d have to say my favorite character from my current WIP would be the Archangel Michael. He is a total bad ass, yet a complete smart          ass at the same time.

6. What are you working on at the moment? What’s next?

I am currently working on the story following Mane of Redemption. My next project could be any of three choices: The story following my WIP, a sequel to Second Chances, or a Crime Thriller that has been itching to be written.

7. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

I had a pretty solid writing routine until we moved to Arkansas. I have an office set up and will hopefully be getting set in a new routine soon.

8. Who edits your work? Is it something you do or do you have a professional editor?

I tend to edit my own work. My wife usually edits after my first round except for Second Chances and other stories that aren’t her genre of choice.

9. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?

I honestly can’t remember my go to munchie when writing. Coffee is my drink of choice though.

10. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

With being a Self-Published Author, I would have to say trying to promote on a budget. I love the great interaction and feedback with followers, but it takes so much time away from writing. Twitter in general is one you have to be on frequently to get the largest reach.

       11. What advice would you give to someone looking to write their first book?

To the first time author, I would say to do your research, find the best fit for you, and be sure to challenge yourself in your writing.

        12. What two things frustrate you the most about the writing industry?

Probably the difficulty in actually selling books and getting very few reviews from those who have read your work.

13. Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m a mix. I outline each book with beginning, middle, and end. I use note cards for each scene or chapter and write a brief description           (less than a sentence) of what happens in each. I then allow the characters to write out their own instances within each scene/chapter.

         14. What’s on your current to-do list?

My current to-do list consists of a few crime thrillers, the sequel and possible third book following Second Chances, and the rest of the           Redemption Series.

 

Thank you so much Aaron and to you all for joining us and if you would like to connect with Aaron his social media and book links can be found below. Until next time, Happy Writing, Happy Reading!

Links:

 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/aarondbrinker

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aarondbrinker

Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14780578.Aaron_D_Brinker/blog

Amazon link to books: Author.to/aaronbrinker (universal link…will take you to amazon page for your area of the globe)

Thank you for joining me this week as I share with you the inspiration for the title of my book.

The title of my novel The Summer Will Come has been taken from the poem written by Evagoras Pallikarides.

Evagoras Pallikarides was a hero and poet. He was born on 27th February 1938 and died on 14th March 1957, aged 19; he was hung for his involvement in EOKA by the British.

A day before his trial, and having decided to join the EOKA fighters in the mountains, Pallikarides broke into his school and left a message and poem for his fellow students to read the following morning:

‘Dear school friends, At this time, someone is missing from among you, someone who has left in search of the fresh air of Liberty, someone who you might not see alive again. Don’t cry at his graveside. It won’t do for you to cry. A few spring flowers scatter on his grave. This is enough for him…’

 

I’ll take an uphill road
I’ll take the paths
To find the stairs
That lead to freedom

I’ll leave brothers, sisters
My mother, my father
In the valleys beyond
And the mountainsides

Searching for freedom
I’ll have as company
The white snow
Mountains and torrents

Even if it’s winter now
The summer will come
Bringing Freedom
To cities and villages

I’ll take an uphill road
I’ll take the paths
To find the stairs
That lead to freedom

I’ll climb the stairs
I’ll enter a palace
I know it will be an illusion
I know it won’t be real

I’ll wander in the palace
Until I find the throne
Only a queen
Sitting on it

Beautiful daughter, I will say,
Open your wings
And take me in your embrace
That’s all I ask…’

 

He signed it Evagoras Pallikarides on 5th December 1955.

(He was to appear in court on 6th December 1955, the following day)

 

Thank you for the interest you have shown in my novel which is due for release on Amazon on 25th March 2018. 

Thank you for reading!

If you live in north London and would like to join me at my Celebratory Launch Party then please contact me by email for details of the date, venue and time: soullaauthor@gmail.com

I would love to see you there! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘It’s doomed. It’s doomed,’ repeated her yiayia over and over under her breath but loud enough for Elena to catch. ‘Doomed…like the journey of Odysseus…oh Lord be with us and keep us safe.’ She pulled her black head scarf around her and crossed herself.

‘Stop it,’ said Evangelia. ‘You’re going to scare the children. Enough. This is hard enough as it is without you and your superstitions.’

Elena repeated the name of the ship, painted in black letters on its side, Mesabia, Mesabia, Mesabia inside her head over and over again. This calmed her and she decided, despite her yiayia’s rambling, it was a lucky name. It was soft and gentle, an angel on water, she told herself just as much to convince herself as any.

‘Look at all the cars driving onto the ship,’ exclaimed Andreas.

‘And all those people already on board,’ said Elena as they filled the promenade deck, some shouting across the port and others waving scarves and sun hats in an effort to stand out from the milling crowds as they tried to attract their families left standing on solid Cyprus ground.

‘One, two, three, four decks,’ counted Elena out loud as she stared in awe at the huge rusty chains and worn cables dangling down the ship’s sides, clanking as they pulled on a wooden beam near the ship’s bow.

She bit on her lower lip and forced back the sudden urge to cry. She clasped her hands together and wrung them in and out of each other. Her heart was thumping in her ears and she wondered whether anyone else could hear it but no-one was giving her the slightest bit of attention, thank goodness. She stared ahead of her at the melee of white shirts and coloured summer dresses, the formal suits worn by some of the men and the pretty scarves worn by the women fluttering in the sea breeze.

Elena was wearing a yellow skirt and white blouse with butterflies on. The blouse stuck to her back as the sweat soaked through. It had been a parting gift from her classmates, chosen by her teacher. She had cried with delight when she opened the brown parcel tied with pink ribbon as she had been worrying about what to travel in.

They edged their way forward, the floating vessel looming above them, the sun beating down on Elena’s head. The noises around her were unfamiliar. Chains clanged and scraped and sailors yelled instructions to each other. Cranes moved around like giant iron arms as they lifted and then lowered huge containers and bulging mail bags to the men working on the ship, their engines sending a monotonous, thundering growl across the air. There was a constant hub-bub of talking as passengers were ticked off a list and walked along the wooden gangway, waving and shouting back at those left on the port side.

As Elena and her family neared the head of the queue there was a delay with the family in front of them. The man from the ship seemed calm but he had the same curt manner the Principal at school. Elena peered at his white uniform; all he’s missing are the wings and halo of an angel, she thought. She fixed her stare on the pretty gold stitching of the trim on the cuffs of his jacket and the shiny buttons glistening gold.

Elena fidgeted hopping from one foot to the other.

‘Stop it Elena!’ said her mother.

‘Why are they talking so long?’ asked Andreas, his fingers in his mouth again.

‘There’s a problem with their paperwork,’ said yiayia. ‘Have you checked ours Evangelia? Are you sure you’ve got everything?’

‘Yes, I have,’ said Evangelia but she took out the envelope from her handbag all the same and peered into the top of it, fingering through the folds of papers in it.

‘Please stand to the side. You will not be travelling today,’ said the Purser to the family of seven. There were raised voices and some swearing and scuffling between the Purser and the man who appeared to be the father. The woman, she assumed the mother, cried as the children stood huddled close by; pale white, speechless.

Elena noticed her mother’s face instantly colour. Elena knew she was panicking.

The Purser, who appeared calm given the continued barrage of raised voices around him, refocused on Evangelia.

‘Passenger names please.’

‘Surname Ellinas. Evangelia, Andreas, Elena. Surname Stefanides. Elena,’ said Evangelia, as yiayia held onto her arm.

‘Can I see your papers please?’

 

If you enjoyed this extract and would like to read The Summer Will Come then please log onto Amazon on 25th March 2018 – the book will be available in both e-book and paperback formats to buy.

And if you live in North London and would like to join me at the Celebratory Book Launch Event please contact me for further details by email: soullaauthor@gmail.com

I would love you to join me! 

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