Silver Bells and Reindeer: A Short (very short!) Story for Christmas by Eva Jordan

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Lauren stared at the crackling fire, comforted by the rhythmic rise and fall of its amber flames. She sighed. Jamie was upstairs cleaning his teeth and Matt was outside securing the horses for the night. Christmas was less than a week away and Jamie had been asking questions. Said the kids at school had been saying things about Santa, questioning his existence. Concerned, Lauren and Matt had talked. Matt suggested it was time to come clean. Lauren agreed. However, watching her son, who had now swooped into the living room, dressing gown flapping behind him like Superman’s cape, she wasn’t so sure; felt overcome with sadness. Thorax tightening, she swallowed the plumb now lodged in her throat and smiled. Jamie grinned back, pointing to her mobile, now busily buzzing on the coffee table.        

            ‘It’s Dad,’ he said, picking it up and passing it to her, Matt’s cheery smile filling the screen.

            ‘Hey,’ said Lauren, putting the phone to her ear. ‘Everything OK?’

            Matt sounded concerned, explained how; about to lock up for the night, he’d come across a small deer.

            ‘He’s injured,’ Matt continued. ‘So I could do with your help to get him inside. He’ll freeze out here, otherwise.’

            Lauren and Jamie shrugged on their coats and raced outside to help. Next to the stable door appeared to be a small deer with a broken leg. Trembling, it stared at them through huge frightened eyes; kept making a strange bleating noise every time Matt tried to approach it.

            ‘Here, let me,’ said Lauren. Jamie watched in awe as his mother got down on her hands and knees and crawled towards the little deer until, eventually, it allowed her to stroke him. ‘There, there,’ she whispered. ‘We only want to help.’

            Between the three of them they carefully carried him into the stable and made him comfy for the night. The following day the vet visited, said the deer’s leg was sprained, but not broken. She strapped it up and under her guidance, Matt, Lauren and Jamie nursed the little deer back to health. Jamie loved looking after him, and the little deer loved letting him. Plus, the only time Santa was mentioned again was when Jamie pointed to a shiny silver bell hanging from a collar around the deer’s neck, saying, ‘I think he belongs to Santa.’

            On Christmas Eve it was time to set the little deer free. Jamie knew it was the right thing to do, but still, it wasn’t easy. However, wiping his tears with one hand and waving with the other, Jamie watched how, with one last glance back, his friend disappeared into the woods behind their house.

            On Christmas Day, stuffed from eating Christmas dinner, huddled on the sofa next to the twinkling Christmas tree, Lauren and Matt asked their son what his favourite gift was.

            ‘The silver bell at the bottom of my stocking,’ he replied, without hesitation.

            ‘That was so sweet of you to do that,’ Lauren whispered to Matt.

            Matt frowned. ‘Wasn’t me… I thought you’d put it there.’

©Eva Jordan

Merry Christmas everyone! X

Book Review –The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by @charliemackesy published by @EburyPublishing

“Sometimes,” said the horse.

“Sometimes what?” asked the boy

“Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.”

Well folks, we’re well into December. The final month of what can only be described as an interesting year! However, before we say goodbye and good riddance to 2020 let’s not forget, for those of us that celebrate it, Christmas is fast approaching. Therefore, this month, unlike previous years when I’ve read and reviewed some very lovely Christmas themed stories, I thought I’d take a look at something different. Something simple yet poignant, and something that, if you’re looking for gift ideas for the book lovers in your life––whatever the age of the recipient––might just be the perfect solution because, unlike most books, this one is both ageless and timeless.

As the title suggests, this beautifully illustrated hardback is a tale about a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse, with the author and artist being one and the same. For younger readers it’s easy to follow the journey of these four very different friends, sometimes across great mountainous landscapes or beneath vast star-studded skies. While at other times they venture into the darkness, or attempt to navigate the clouds, and at others still, the focus is on the simple joy of eating cake. For older readers, however, I see this more as a collection of unassuming, yet inspiring quotes. Especially during moments of uncertainty and self-doubt, particularly during these troubled and ambiguous times, reminding us that, no matter how dire or dark things might seem, when observed through the eyes of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, we know there is always love, hope, and friendship.

Five Big Stars from me!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Merry Christmas everyone, and remember, “Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses”.

Book Review–F*ck, That’s Delicious: An annotated Guide to Eating Well by @ActionBronson and @rachelwharton Published by @ABRAMSbooks

“Food has been a part of my life, always.”

I can safely say this cookbook is, without a doubt, unlike any other I have read or reviewed before. Written by Ariyan Arslan, better known by the stage name Action Bronson––an American rapper, writer, chef, and television presenter—this unique cookbook was a birthday gift to my son from my daughter, partly inspired by his love of rap music but mostly because of his recent interest in cooking. He was thrilled when he received it and immediately took to the kitchen to try his hand at one of the recipes, which I have to say looked and smelled remarkably good.

Born to an American Jewish mother and an Albanian Muslim father, Bronson—described in the foreword as a “dude that looks like a cross between Godzilla, a handsome 1950s movie star from Europe, and a cult Mexican wrestler”—grew up in a small two-bedroomed apartment in Queens, New York, with his parents and grandparents. Home life, he says, was hectic, but always filled with love and the smell of good cooking. His grandmother, or nonna, who the book is dedicated to, would often bake three times a day, and it’s clear her love of food rubbed off on her grandson.

However, unlike standard cookbooks, this one is not just a compilation of illustrated recipes, of which there are a number, ranging from bagels to pizza, burgers to opihi, and bebidas to coffee cake, it is also jam-packed with pages of Bronson’s tours and travel, as well as some of his favourite eateries, both locally and around the world. But be warned… if you’re looking for healthy food, you won’t find it here. These recipes are all about flavour. Sprinkled with wit, swearing, and humorous back-stories (as well as a whole page dedicated to toothpicks), this colourful culinary journal is the perfect gift for all rap music and foodie enthusiasts alike.

You can purchase your copy below on Amazon

Pumpkins and Dragonflies: A Short Story for Halloween by Eva Jordan

Sally’s brother waited for her by the school gate. Arms folded, he was grinning, watching the other students file past. He was fatter in the face now. Looked more like the Ben from before. Before he got sick… before the cancer. He spotted her, raised his hand and waved. Sally waved back. Two girls walking beside her looked to see who she was waving at: exchanged glances and sniggered. Sally blushed; turned away.

            ‘Hey,’ said Ben, when she reached him. ‘Are those girls being mean?’        

            Sally waved her hand dismissively. ‘Nothing I can’t handle. They just think I’m a bit… weird. Anyway… how’s you?’

            Ben’s face deflated like a balloon. ‘OK… I suppose. Can’t wait till I’m well enough to start school again, though. Then I won’t have to listen to Mum and Dad arguing all the time.’

            ‘Did they argue this morning?’

            ‘Yep. As soon as you left. Then Dad stormed off and Mum started crying… again… before falling asleep. I wouldn’t mind, but she keeps sleeping on my bed for some weird reason?’               

            Sally’s heart sank.      

            ‘Do you think they’ll split up?’ continued Ben.

            Sally shrugged, unease fizzing in her belly. ‘I hope not. C’mon, let’s go home.’ They walked in silence for a few minutes; a copper carpet of leaves crunching beneath their feet. It was Halloween and scary looking pumpkin faces glared at them from the windows of the various houses they passed.

            ‘Do you remember that year we went Trick or Treating and you dressed up as a dragonfly?’

            Ben laughed. ‘Yeah. I do. I love dragonflies.’

            A sudden gust of wind stirred the leaves at their feet, scattering them like confetti. Giggling, Sally threw her hands up; caught a handful. Amongst them was a white feather. ‘Look,’ she said, showing Ben. ‘It’s a sign. It’s Nanna.’

            Ben rolled his eyes. ‘You don’t still believe in that rubbish do you… about angels and ghosts?’

            Sally shrugged. ‘Maybe…’

            At home, their mother, eyes red and still wearing her dressing gown, said she needed a nap. Sally made herself something to eat, then sat beside Ben at the table. He was studying the white feather she’d brought home.           

            ‘Before she passed away,’ said Sally, ‘Nanna used to say that a ghost is the spirit of a dead person stuck in this world because a loved one can’t or won’t let them go… and the only way for the ghost to move on is to give their loved one a sign; let them know they’re OK.’

            Ben looked stunned.

            The following day Ben didn’t meet Sally outside school, which saddened her a little, but it was a relief to see her Mum dressed and smiling again.

            ‘Look,’ said Sally’s mother, pointing to a picture of a dragonfly in one of Ben’s books. ‘It opened on this page when I picked it up. Then I heard a tapping noise at the window and when I looked up, I saw the most amazing dragonfly. And I knew, Sal… I just knew Ben was OK.’

©Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan In Conversation With @SELynesAuthor @bookouture

My book review this month, The Lies We Hide (which you can read here) is written by one of my favourite authors, Susie Lynes. It is both an emotional and moving story, exploring the fall-out of domestic abuse and the far-reaching effect it often has on all those involved. It is also, Susie explained, her sixth published novel, but was in fact the first book she ever wrote, making it very close to her heart. Here we find out why… and get to know her a little better…

Welcome Susie, thanks for chatting to me today. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself – I understand you used to work as a producer for the BBC?

I used to be a radio programme producer for the BBC in Scotland. I started by making five-minute features and progressed to producing a weekly magazine show. I left the BBC when I moved to Rome with my husband, Paul, and two kids, Alistair and Maddie. We lived there for five years before moving to Teddington. By this time we had our third child, Francesca. After settling the troops, I did a creative writing course at my local adult college then an MA in creative writing and went on to teach creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College. I wrote four novels before I broke through with my debut, Valentina.

Did you always want to be a writer, and if so what writers have inspired you?

Nothing in my working-class upbringing would have led me to aspire to writing novels; I would have felt embarrassed even mentioning it. Becoming an author is something that has happened on the side, while no one was looking. I just kept plugging away, returning always to the fact that I loved doing it. I have been inspired by many writers – Pat Barker, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Gillian Flynn, Patricia Highsmith, Hilary Mantel, Barbara Vine and Sarah Waters are but a few.

How does the discipline of writing compare to teaching it?

I used to get so nervous before teaching that all I could eat beforehand was cake but there was no choice as to whether or not I turned up. When I teach, the discipline required is more along the lines of keeping the classes focussed and varied. I do get nervous before I sit and write sometimes, particularly if it’s a new project. The discipline consists of making myself sit at the desk, even if I’m not in the mood. It can take over an hour to get in the zone. I work best in solitude because I am naturally quite gregarious. I leave my phone in another room!

Do you believe taking a Masters in Creative Writing helped you? Is it a path to writing you would recommend to others?

It helped me personally because I struggled with confidence, especially after having children and leaving my career to live in Italy. But the MA gave me more than validation. I learnt the craft and even now I am quite a technical writer. I would recommend an MA to anyone as a worthwhile journey to take for its own sake but not as a way of getting published. It’s not necessary.

I’ve now read three of your novels and I’ve loved them all! But for me, The Lies We Hide was particularly good. Why is this story so close to your heart?

Thank you! The Lies We Hide is my only non-thriller so perhaps there was more latitude, more depth. It is close to my heart because it is pulled from my roots. When I spent a day in Lancaster prison for research, I found I didn’t need to change anything about my character Graham because I went to school with boys like him. TLWH is the first book I ever wrote and I was grateful to Bookouture for publishing it for me. The final version benefitted from all the elements of craft I’d learnt over the years through writing thrillers.

And finally, the question I love to ask all writers! For anyone thinking of becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

Write every day. Set yourself a time and don’t agree to anything else at that time. Write before you do your chores because they will always get done while your writing will not. Take it seriously. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re taking it seriously; this can be your secret. Only do it if, when you sit down to write, you ‘awake’ hours later with no awareness of time passing. If you never get around to doing it, it could be that writing is not for you. It’s not for everyone, and there is no shame in that. Try and hold onto the fact that being rubbish or thinking you’re rubbish is part of the process. Ask yourself: do I enjoy it? If the answer is yes, carry on. The rest is vanity, after all.

If you’d like to know more about Susie, you can find her and her books at the following:

Amazon          https://goo.gl/HjLcMD

Kobo              https://goo.gl/hqp8so

iTunes            https://goo.gl/QLP25K

Facebook       http://goo.gl/fvGGpK

Twitter             http://goo.gl/WCuhh3

Book Review – The Lies We Hide by @SELynesAuthor @bookouture

“The truth can set you free, or make you a prisoner”

Susie Lynes is fast becoming my “go to” author for a guaranteed page turning read. The Lies We Hide, the third book I’ve read by this brilliant writer, didn’t disappoint.

Years ago, I worked for a short time at a Women’s Refuge, covering their ‘out of hours’ phone rota on a voluntary basis when I left, which I continued to do for a number of years. It was a sobering experience and one of the main reasons that drew me to this story. The author’s note explains how the seeds for this cautionary tale were sown way back in the 80s when she was a reporter for the BBC and was given an assignment to look into domestic violence. She visited a refuge to interview two women who had fled the abuse of their husbands. One of them explained how her husband had held her under the bathwater, and how she was convinced she was going to die. She vowed to herself, if she survived, she’d leave that night, which she did, taking her two young sons with her. This in turn inspired the author to write The Lies We Hide.

Listed as psychological Literary Fiction, this is a family drama narrated through four main voices, namely Carol, her two children Graham and Nicola, and Richard, a prison chaplain. As stories go it is an uncomfortable read. However, it is written with such compassion and authenticity it’s difficult to put down. This in part is because, rather than just focussing on the day-to-day fear of living with an abusive partner, which the author does chillingly brilliant at times – “his anger [she thinks] will write itself on her body later, invisible ink that reveals its black message by degrees” – she also pans back, showing us the much wider picture. Including the terrible decisions that those affected by domestic violence sometimes choose, or feel forced to make.

When confronted with long-term domestic violence, whether directly on the receiving end of it or simply witnessing and/or hearing it on a day-to-day basis, everyone copes and reacts differently. Carol, an abused wife, will do anything to protect her children. Whereas Graham, Carol’s son becomes, “silent, since speaking was difficult; violent, since no one speaks out against a fist; mean, since kindness got you nowhere”. Later, Graham finds himself in prison for murder, but eventually finds redemption by confessing to Richard, a voluntary chaplain who, it turns out, is struggling with his own demons. Then there is Nicola, Graham’s sister and Carol’s studious daughter. Nicola is younger than her brother, and is therefore less exposed and somewhat shielded from her father’s violence. She chooses a different path to Graham and makes her escape through hard work and education. However, when her mother passes away, Nicola discovers the true extent of the sacrifices made on her behalf. The lengths her mother and brother went to to protect her, enabling her to become the successful city lawyer she eventually becomes – which in part is influenced by her brother’s incarceration.

The lies, in fact, they have hidden from her…  

You can find The Lies We Hide here on Amazon.

Book Review—Live Green: 52 steps for a more sustainable life by Jen Chillingworth Published by @QuadrilleBooks

“Less buying, more doing, less wanting, more enjoying.”

I can’t stand unnecessary waste, or littering, especially plastic. An invention I both love and loathe in equal measure. Cheap and durable it is believed that 8.3 billion metric tonnes of the stuff has been produced during the last 70 years alone, 79 percent of which has been thrown away either into landfill sites or the general environment, including 8 million tonnes into our oceans every year. Estimates suggest that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our seas and 99 percent of all seabirds will have consumed some. For this reason alone I believe we owe it to our planet to act and think a little greener, but not just with plastic but all aspects of our daily life. 

Live Green is a handy sized and thoughtful collection of 52 tips, one for each week of the year, offering ideas about the changes we can make to our home and lifestyle including the reduction and recycling of plastic. It looks at things like cleaning products and the advantages of making your own, and the benefit of mindful shopping and eating green. It also addresses personal care, including how to create a capsule wardrobe and buying vintage, plus some helpful advice on hair care, cosmetics and beauty routines. 

With a fab section at the back containing useful links to other green sources of information and helpful recipe ideas (including a great sloe gin, and a rather lovely sea salt and lemon and lavender body scrub) scattered throughout, Live Greenis an easy to read and beautifully illustrated guide to help start you on your way to a more healthy and eco friendly lifestyle. 

Smile… It’s Good For You!

“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald  

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

As lockdown restrictions continue to ease and everyone looks forward to what’s left of the year, it’s tempting to swap one lot of worry for another. After all, no one can predict the future, and at the moment it’s hard to understand what the real toll recent events will actually have on us all. What the cost will be for the everyday person in terms of job losses and business closures, not to mention much needed, and still now postponed surgery and healthcare issues. These and other burning questions are, I’m sure, everpresent amongst many of us at the moment. On a personal level, I have, and continue to believe there’s a lot that doesn’t add up, questions that are not being addressed. This has prompted me to seek my own answers, carry out some of my own in-depth research, which has proved interesting to say the least. I’ve learned a lot. But for now, all I can safely conclude is, all is not as it necessarily appears to be. Except an agenda perhaps to keep us fearful, even divided. Which isn’t good for anyone’s health? So for now, like so many others, I’m concentrating on getting back to some sort of ‘normality’, which I’ve vowed to do with a smile.

Here’s why… 

Facial expressions have an enormous impact on mood. We are born with the ability to smile; yet as we age, we smile less. Research suggests that on average, a child will smile 400 times per day compared to adults who smile just 40-50 times per day. When we naturally feel good, we smile. However, we don’t have to be in a good mood to smile, it’s a tool we can use when we’re feeling down to bring us back up. Science has shown that the simple act of smiling has the power to boost a person’s mood by signaling to the brain to tell it we are happy, which in turn releases cortisol and endorphins into our bodies, thus lowering stress levels and bringing about a sense of mild euphoria. 

Other health benefits include:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased endurance
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced stress
  • Strengthened immune system

“when we smile we activate neurons in the brain that fire a synchronising feature. You’ll notice that one smile will lead to additional smiles, not just for you, but for those around you.”

Also, according to an article by Earlexia Norwood, M.D. (2017) smiling, as I’ve long suspected, is contagious. Norwood explains that, “when we smile we activate neurons in the brain that fire a synchronising feature. You’ll notice that one smile will lead to additional smiles, not just for you, but for those around you.” In other words, when we smile, the world smiles with us.

My advice? Take a break from social media, turn off the news, and smile. Why? Because it’s good for you!

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Eva Jordan in conversation with @nholten @OneMoreChapter

Although we’ve never met in person, I’ve been an online friend of Noelle’s for over 5 years now, and like many bloggers and writers, I’ve found her to be both extremely supportive and encouraging to all those linked with the book world. Today we get to know her a little better…

  • Welcome Noelle, thanks for chatting to me. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself – I understand you used to be a probation officer?

Hi Eva! Thanks so much. A little about myself – hmmm. By day I am the PR & Social Media Manager at a leading digital publisher in the UK – Bookouture and by night I write the DC Maggie Jamieson series for Harper Collins imprint, One More Chapter and read/review on my blog: CrimeBookJunkie. Yes, I was a Senior Probation Officer for nearly 18 years. I managed two teams of officers and one of the teams was based in a police station. I left in 2017 when my dream of working for a publisher came true!

  • Did you always want to be a writer, and if so what writers inspired you?

The short answer to that is no! I always wanted to work in the criminal justice field. I used to write morbid, teenage poetry in my youth and a few short stories in high school but I never believed I could actually write a novel myself. I was an avid reader from a young age and my favourite genre has always been true crime/crime fiction. My interest in writing came when I was about 44/45 yrs. old and every crime author I read (there’s been a lot) are the ones who inspired me. I was in awe of their talent to pull a reader into a story and I wanted to see if I could do the same. So far, so good! My series isn’t for everyone, but that’s the great thing about books – some people will love them, others won’t but there are plenty of great crime writers out there to choose from!

  • How does writing compare to probation?

The only murders I now have to deal with are those I create myself on the page! Probation can be a very stressful and emotional draining job. Even though I left in 2017, I still consider myself a probation officer – albeit an ex one! It is challenging and the rewards can be few. I admire all my colleagues who still go in and do their very best to ensure the public are protected. I loved my time in Probation but once politics became involved and split us into Public/Private sectors – I knew my time was limited. What I love about writing is I can still be ‘involved’ in probation and other criminal justice fields – without the stress.

  • And finally, for anyone thinking of starting a blog, or becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

For starting a blog, I’d say – just go for it! Be yourself, read and review what you love and make it your own. There are no rules!

In terms of writing, I would say read as many books in the genre you want to write about as you can. See how your favourite authors keep you turning those pages. I would also suggest that if you seek any advice, by all means take it on board, but find what works for you. If you don’t have a thick skin… develop one! You need to be able to accept constructive criticism, rejections as well as negative reviews. And finally, persevere! Not everyone gets a book deal the first time around. You may have to keep at it for years – but if it is something you are serious about, think of it like a job – you need to keep doing it and hopefully you’ll find that agent or publisher who sees your potential. There’s always the self publishing route too – but I’d suggest that you make sure you invest the time and money into making your self publishing journey as successful as possible – like Mark Dawson, L.J Ross or M.A. Comley to name a few!  

To read my review of Dead Inside click here

Connect with Noelle on Social Media here:

Twitter: (@nholten40) https://twitter.com/nholten40
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/noelleholtenauthor/
Blog FB page:https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/
Instagram:@crimebookjunkie (https://www.instagram.com/crimebookjunkie/
Website: https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk  
Bookbub Author page: https://bit.ly/2LkT4LB
Newsletter:https://bit.ly/3glVZlO

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2Y1kCM1

Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/37P4t0C

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2Y1lQ9Y

Harper Collins Website: http://bit.ly/2OAnBYJ

Buy Links – Dead Inside 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PtcKk7 

Apple: https://apple.co/2SBRpqt 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2DZwZ2M 

Googleplay: http://ow.ly/T17w30nCWp3 

Audiobook: https://adbl.co/2qiQVJR 

Eva Jordan reviews Dead Inside by @nholten40 published by @OneMoreChapter

“The crash at the bottom of the stairs woke me instantly… I didn’t want to move. I couldn’t, I was paralysed with fear. I had always accepted the verbal abuse that was thrown at me. I could take that. It was the physical abuse that filled me with shame.”

Dead Inside is the debut novel of award winning blogger, and writer, Noelle Holten, and the first in her DC Maggie Jamieson Police Procedural series. Written in the third person (except the prologue), the central theme of this story is domestic abuse, a subject matter the writer handles with great sensitivity and professionalism. The cast of characters is large, so it’s important to keep up with who’s who; otherwise you run the risk of becoming a little confused. However, the chapters are short and snappy, making it easy to read as well as adding to the pace of the storyline.

Some reviewers have said there is one main protagonist in this killer thriller, however, I’d argue there are two. The first is Lucy Sherwood who, based on Noelle’s own career experience, is a probation officer. In her professional life, Lucy comes across as a tough, no nonsense individual: a given for a probation officer dealing with offenders who have abused their partners, which is also rather ironic when juxtaposed to Lucy’s private life. The second protagonist in this story is DC Maggie Jamieson who, like Lucy, is a strong individual, the right balance of firm but fair, and it’s her job to solve the recent murder of a man connected to a domestic abuse case.

However, when a second body turns up, followed by a third, and the discovery of a connection between the said individuals in that all three men had either been previously charged, or linked to separate domestic abuse cases, it quickly becomes apparent there’s a serial killer on the loose.

With the clock ticking will DC Maggie Jamieson and her team find their suspect? I suggest you buy the book and find out!

A fab debut and a great start to a new series.

For buying links, or if you’d like to know a little more about Noelle, click here where you can read my brilliant Q&A with her, including a fascinating insight into her former career as a Senior Probation Officer, as well as a wealth of knowledge and advice on blogging and writing… which I strongly urge you to take a look at.