Eva Jordan in conversation with writer Wendy Fletcher

In convo with Wendy

 

I’m currently reading a beautiful memoir called The Railway Carriage Child, written by the lovely Wendy Fletcher. Look out for my review in next month’s magazine. In the meantime I thought we’d get to know Wendy a little better…

 

Hi Wendy, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, I live in the railway carriages just outside Whittlesey, the last ones still occupied in this area – as far as I am aware. These have been in my family since 1935 and I spent my childhood there with my parents and grandmother; attending school at King’s Dyke and March. I returned to the carriages in 2009. Then my mother died and I realized how much history was lost with each generation. I started to record my memories, originally just for the family. Edward Storey, well-known chronicler of the Fens, suggested that this might appeal to a wider audience and The Railway Carriage Child evolved.

 

Your memoir is beautifully written. Have you written any other books and do you have plans to write more in the future?

This is my first book. I am currently collecting material for a book on the social history of King’s Dyke, which I hope to publish as a tribute to the families who lived and worked in that small community just outside Whittlesey. I am also 12,000 words into writing a novel and have started two children’s books. I am enjoying having a variety of projects and swap from one to the other, as inspiration takes me.

 

Finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of writing a memoir?

My first experience of writing was very lonely and isolating. I was surrounded by piles of notes and half-remembered images from more than fifty years ago. I found the balance for this by setting up a creative writing group (U3A Whittlesey Wordsmiths). Through them, I have met like-minded people and received support and encouragement. My advice to anyone considering a similar project would be ‘You don’t need to do it on your own’.

 

You can purchase The Railway Carriage Child here at Amazon or locally (when they re-open) at the Whittlesey Museum, and Parkers Newsagents. Plus, if you’d like to read more by Wendy, you can read a number of her short stories in two anthologies published by the Whittlesey Wordsmiths, Where the Wild Winds Blow (read my review here) and A Following Wind, also available at Amazon and at the Whittlesey Museum.

 

 

 

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with author @AuthoJon @EyriePress

 

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Last month I reviewed the beautiful novella Silence and Songbirds (which you can read here), a thought provoking tale that transports the reader across the sea to the beautiful islands of the Marlborough Sounds, written by author Jon Lawrence. This month we get to know him a little better…

 

  1. Hi Jon, thanks for chatting with me. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? I understand you used to be a singer-songwriter?

 

Yes, I trained as a musician and ethnomusicologist (which has fed quite nicely into my writing). I was lucky enough to perform all over the country and Europe as singer-songwriter. I released a number of albums, then my literature work started to take over. However, I still teach music and I enjoy writing musicals every year for the school I work with.

I was born in Pontypridd, so I am a child of the valleys. I moved out east with my work as a music lecturer, where I taught song-writing and world music. I have a wonderful wife, Kerry-Ann and two children, who always support me.

I love working with young children and have written some illustrated songbooks for them. Children are a huge inspiration for me. The way they view the world is unique and they represent an innocence that I have been searching for in my writing since I started writing books.

I am interested in all areas of written expression and I don’t feel pigeon-holed in any area. I have published poetry, plays, children’s books, essay and magazine article because I simply love to write.

I am also interested in travel. The world offers many wonderful landscapes which intrigue me. I have a particular fascination with New Zealand – a place which has a special place in my heart. I have based two novels there (Silence and Songbirds and Playing Beneath the Havelock House). Indeed, in all of my novels and novellas, stories have come out of the landscape. When I see a desert, a forest, a mountain range or an island, I ask myself, ‘Who lives here? What is their story?’

 

 

 

  1. You’ve recently completed a touring show called “Good Grief” – can you tell us what that was about?

 

My father died of cancer just over two years ago. Before he died I promised him that I would do five 100k treks on five deserts on five continents to raise money for a cancer charity. So, between August 2018 and April 2019 I walked the Atacama in Chile, the Sahara in Morocco, the Rangipo in New Zealand, the Wadi Rum in Jordan and finally, the Mojave in America. My journey gave me a lot of time to think about my father and the sometimes difficult relationship we had. It afforded me a little time and space to work through my grief.

I documented each part of the trip and published a book last year called Good Grief. To promote the book, I have been performing a one-man show around the country telling the story of my adventures around the world and how the journey helped me to come to terms with things. The show contains video footage from my trips, photographs, anecdotes and music specially written for the show. It’s light-hearted, informative but also moving (I hope). I resume the tour in Stamford Arts Centre on February 4th with the tour visiting Diss, Bungay, Wells-next-the-sea, Doncaster, Birnam in Scotland, before concluding in Auckland, New Zealand in April.

 

  1. How does writing songs compare to writing books?

 

The thing about writing songs, is that you have to compress what might be a huge subject (life, death, world peace), into about twenty lines, sometimes less. You have to be able to move someone emotionally in two, verses, a middle-eight and a chorus. It has to get to the listener’s heart straight away. There’s no time to set scenes, establish characters or consider subplots. You have to be very clever with words. That’s why Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is so brilliant. It gets you hooked form the first line and by the time it has finished it has you questioning everything you ever thought you knew about life!

Conversely, when you write a book, you start with what might be a small idea – a quote, a title, something you have seen – and then expand it to establish the bigger picture.

Some people might say that a song only takes fifteen minutes to write (such as ‘Every Breath You Take’) but some songs take months even years to shape and mould into the final version (Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Thunder Road’ are perfect examples of this).

They are both tremendous art forms.

 

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer?

 

My view is that everyone is a writer; some people just have a go, some people never do it for fear of what others might say. If you write a diary, you are a writer – you express your thoughts and feelings through words. In the first instance, write for yourself.

Then when you have a story, make sure you plan it. If I have a story idea, I go through a number of planning stages before I start to write (despite the desire to get writing straight away). A book might take up eighteen months of your life so you need to know that the story and the characters will still be of interest to you at the end. I have made the mistake of starting stories without proper planning, only to lose my way three months in. That’s a lot of time to waste.

Just have a go!

 

 

If you’d like to know more about Jon, click on the links below:

Website

Facebook

Book Reviews – And How To Get Some

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Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

So, it’s January 2020! Whatever your plans for the year I hope you see them through, including those of you that have decided to make this the year you sit down and write that book that’s been rattling around in your head for a while. However, once written and published, either traditionally or as an indie author, the next hurdle for most writers is drumming up interest in your book and generating honest reviews. In fact, “how can I get more reviews for my novel” is one of the frequently asked questions put to me by newbie authors. As the current published author of just three novels, I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I have learned a few things during my writing journey, which I’m more than happy to share with you.

However, before we begin, the first rule of thumb is to remember that lots of reviews don’t necessarily equate to lots of sales, but they can help, and here’s why.

Reviews help build your credibility and integrity and encourage new readers to try your books. Plus, reading reviews of your own work can help you as a writer, hone your skills by giving you a better understanding of what your readers are looking for – answering questions like, what readers enjoyed about your work? What they think is missing? And what they connected with? Which does a lot to help you understand your audience.

So for those of you just starting out, here are my top tips.

 

Build like-minded friendships. Before you even think about approaching anyone to review your book, I strongly recommend you join the reading, writing and blogging community online. Twitter is a good place to interact with the book world – try using, or searching various hashtags like #writingcommunity #BookReview #booklove #bookbloggers #FridayThoughts #FridayFollow and #FridayReads. Facebook too, is a great place to find lots of fab groups where readers, writers and reviewers can all interact together (see some my recommend groups below). Just be aware though, each group has a different set of rules (and some do not permit random self-promotion posts) so please be sure to read the group rules of each one you join. This gives you the opportunity to build friendships with readers, writers and reviewers and eventually reach out to those you think might be interested in reading and reviewing your book(s).

 

Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

Author Joanne Harris suggests that writers should:

“Engage with the book community. It’s not a question of “us and them”: many of us are readers, authors and bloggers all at the same time”.

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Book Bloggers. Reviews by Book Bloggers can be extremely influential. Again, I refer to Joanne Harris, and number one on her list of #TenThingsAboutBookBloggers – which she tweeted last year:

“Over the past ten years, book bloggers have gradually overtaken print reviewers when it comes to informing readers about books. That’s because bloggers are passionate readers, with no editorial agenda to push.”

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However, not all Book Bloggers review all types of books. Most prefer to read and review the genre they like best. So if you do reach out to book bloggers, PLEASE read their review policy beforehand. Book Bloggers are inundated with requests, so I cannot stress how important it is to do this! Click here to read editor Emma Mitchell’s useful guide on how to approach Book Bloggers. You’d also do well to remember that bloggers don’t get paid for reviews, therefore, as Joanne Harris suggests (above) they also have no agenda. If a blogger does agree to read an ARC of your book, it is in exchange for an honest review, which is no guarantee it will be a glowing one. Joanne Harris suggests:

“By all means thank a blogger for a good review. But don’t argue over a bad one, even if you think it’s unfair”.

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Book Bloggers don’t owe authors good reviews.

 

Book Blog Tours. I’m a huge fan of Book Blog Tours. My publisher, Matthew Smith, at Urbane Publications kindly arranged the Book Blog Tour for my third novel, Time Will Tell, with the lovely Kelly at Love Books Group Tours. They’re also a great idea if you don’t feel confident enough to approach individual reviewers or book bloggers yourself.

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However, I do feel it’s important for writers to get grips with the true value of Blog Tours, which doesn’t necessarily equate to more book sales.

In 2016, author and blogger Barb Drozdowich wrote a post for ALLI (Alliance of Independent Authors) here, mainly in response to some of the negative comments she kept hearing from authors who were clearly disappointed with the results of their Blog Tours, particularly those that couldn’t see a relatable rise in book sales. Barb wrote, “let’s be clear right up front: BOOK BLOG TOURS DON’T SELL BOOKS”.

Ok, fine, you might be saying if you’re reading this, why should I invest in one then?

Well, let me tell you.

A Book Blog Tour is about social interaction. A virtual meet and greet version, if you will, of some of the (real life) author/blogger meet ups I’ve attended. It’s the coming together of a group of likeminded individuals with the aim of sharing information about books.

Going back to Barb Drozdowich’s post, she quotes Aimee, a blogger who arranges blog tours:

“I know when you think ‘Book Tour’ most authors immediately think ‘book sales’ but it’s not true.  I always try to tell my authors that book tours don’t sell books, they get people talking about your book, which in turn may help sales at some point but really it’s about getting you as the author and your book out into the interwebs to be found!”

Which is true, readers are always looking for new recommendations from sources they trust. So, while a Book Blog Tour may not result in an immediate spike in book sales, as Sandra Poirier Smith points out here in her Bookbub guest post, Tips on Using Blog Tours for Book Marketing, “a nod from a book blogger with an avid fan base in your genre is pure gold”.

You will, of course, be charged a fee if you ask someone to arrange a Book Blog Tour for you (see my list of Book Blog Tour organisers below) however, it’s also important to remember that the book bloggers that take part in these tours (many of whom have full time jobs and busy family lives) don’t get paid – they do it for one reason, and one reason only – the sheer love of books. So always be polite, and don’t forget to say thanks.

 

ARC Groups. Crime writer, Tony Forder suggests that “forming your own ARC (Advance Reader Copy) group on Facebook works well. If you can get 30-40 interested readers who will provide an honest review on Amazon in exchange for the ARC, then it can really give you an early boost. Amazon, of course, are notorious for changing their rules and how they apply them, so sometimes reviews won’t be accepted for reasons Amazon will not reveal, so you tend to need more readers in your ARC group than you might think. All you need to do is create a locked group on Facebook and invite people, explaining how it works”.

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Others: I haven’t actually tried all of these myself (so there may be some pitfalls) but some of my writing buddies suggest taking a look at the following to help generate reviews:

GoodReads

BookBub

Reedsy

Kindlepreneur

NetGalley

 

Good luck. I hope this helps.

 

Some of my recommended Facebook groups:

The Fiction Café Book Club

Book Connectors

THE Book Club (TBC)

Chick Lit and Prosecco (Chat Group)

Writers authors and readers

Women Writers, Women’s Books

Good Housekeeping Book Room

Crime Fiction Addict

 

Book Blog Tour Organisers:

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Kelly Lacey – Love Books Group Tours

 

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Anne Cater – RandomThings Tours

 

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Rachel Gilbey – Rachel’s Random Resources

 

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Emma Welton – Damppebbles

 

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Sarah Hardy – Book On The Bright Side

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with bestselling author @darrensully @HQDigitalUK

Eva in conversation

 

Back in September I was lucky enough to do a joint ‘Ask The Author’ event at Peterborough City Library with bestselling author, Darren O’ Sullivan. It was a great success and I’m pleased to say we both had a lovely afternoon, including plenty of audience participation. It was fascinating to learn about Darren’s journey to publication compared to mine, and I was surprised to learn that his love of books, unlike mine, came later in his childhood. Therefore, for those of you that missed our event but are keen to know more about Darren, read on…

 

  1. Hi Darren, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you please introduce yourself?

 Hi, I’m Darren O’Sullivan, Author of Psychological thrillers, Our Little Secret, Close Your Eyes, Closer Than You Think, and Dark Corners.

  

  1. How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

 I have been writing for about 18 years, I started my career as an actor (it was hardly something you could call a career) so my writing journey began with my dabbling with stage plays. But despite writing shows, I didn’t want to be a writer; I hoped that by writing I would find a way in to be a more successful actor. Even the idea for my first book came from a play called Pact. I wrote it, had actors in to workshop it, and at the end of the first session we all knew the play was terrible. But, the characters were good, and I couldn’t shake them. It was then I contemplated writing a book, not knowing if I could. When I started, I was hooked and knew in that moment, I wanted to be a writer.

 

  1. So you were an actor? What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being an actor and how does that compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer?

I guess, reflecting, my acting career didn’t reach the dizzy heights (or any height) because of self-confidence. I was capable, but I wasn’t good at putting myself forward for things. That was the hardest part. Weirdly, being a writer feels more vulnerable, huge parts of my identity are poured onto the page, but I don’t have the same fear. Or if I do, I am more willing to face it. I love everything about writing, I love the challenges, the editor feedback, I love opening my laptop every morning and diving back into a world I have made up, I am an addict to the art of trying to be good. But writing is a slow process; it takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of isolation. I found the transition from being in a busy, fast moving theatre to my desk on my own the most difficult part. Even still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer?

The only advice that means anything is very simple; to write, you have to write. A marathon runner cannot complete 26.2 miles, if they just decided, on the day of the race to do it. You have to run, a lot, for months and months before entering. Don’t get me wrong; I am not a marathon runner, not even close. But I do the same with words. I wasn’t a good writer when I began; in fact, I was terrible. But I did it, every day; I put down words and finished pieces that would never be read. I ran. And I’m still running now. Get enough miles under the belt, and you will finish the race.

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Eva Jordan in conversation with retired nurse and author Joy M. Lilley

Eva in conversation with Joy

 

Today on my blog I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Joy M. Lilley, author and former nurse.

 

Hi Joy, thanks for chatting with me today. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself? I understand you’re a retired nurse?

 Hello Eva, yes, I worked in the NHS for a long time. My nursing years were wonderful. I enjoyed every minute. Caring for others gave me much satisfaction. And I made some wonderful life-long friends.

Taking on three stepchildren along with one son of my own when I married, while working to train as a registered nurse was hard work. At that time I already had seventeen years under my belt nursing as a State Enrolled nurse. That training no longer exists. Looking back I wonder how I did it.

My nursing skills were required at home too. My husband was diagnosed with critical coronary heart disease aged 45. It was in 2008 I retired, when he needed his third major heart operation. Thereafter, I was able to get on with a goal I’d dreamt of for years, namely to write and publish my first novel.

I am a Grandmother of 6 and a great grandmother (gosh).

As well as writing, I also work as a voice over recording artist. I work mainly for the U.S. market, some European and the U.K. I have a British, mature voice and can manage most British accents and some others.

   

How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

Seriously since 2008.And yes, I always hoped I’d end up writing novels.

 

What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a nurse and how does it compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer? 

Interesting question. Nursing during the 60’s was hard slog compared with the modern era. Don’t get me wrong; nurses still have to work very hard, but there are a number of better systems in place now. We had to hand wash out the catheters of each prostatectomy every 30 minutes, with likely three patients having had the operation that day, along with 28 other patients to care for – it was exhausting. And wow betide any nurse who reneged on that duty as the patient could go into clot retention and need to return to theatre. There was only one trained nurse on night duty. Thankfully, that situation no longer exists as patients are now connected to a continuous infusion, releasing the nurses to cover all their other duties.

Perhaps not so much a comparison, but thinking through an appropriate, readable story to tell is frustrating to me, along with the discipline required to sit down and write.

 

And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a nurse or a writer?

If you are thinking about becoming a nurse the most important skills you need are compassion, empathy and patience. Be prepared for much study and a whole lot of giving oneself to others. Five GCE’S are required before the colleges will accept a student. The rewards are immense and as a Registered General nurse you will need a degree under your belt.

As for becoming a writer, similarly you’ll need empathy with your characters. Much patience is required when the rewrites take over. As is the need to go over the script, time and time again. I would also say it’s imperative to get an editor. They are often able to see the ‘schoolboy howlers’ we don’t.

 

Thanks for chatting to me today, Joy. 

 

If you want to know more about Joy’s books you can read about them here

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with publisher @janefspencer @EyriePress

 

Eva in conversation with Jane Spencer

 

Earlier this month I reviewed the wonderfully illustrated children’s story The Hospital Hoppities (see my review here), published by Eyrie Press. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a chat with Jane Spencer, the publisher and managing director behind the local press who published this lovely children’s story. 

 

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  1. Hi Jane, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and about Eyrie Press?

 

Hi Eva. I’m an editor and proofreader living in March, Cambridgeshire. I home educated my four children and realised there weren’t many books that featured home educating families, at least not in a positive way, so I decided to address that and publish some! I set up Eyrie Press as a social enterprise and then broadened its horizons to publish books that take a non-tokenistic approach to featuring other communities underrepresented in fiction, or books by writers from East Anglia. We also run local writing and publishing workshops from time to time and have an annual short story competition exclusively for East Anglian writers.

 

  1. The Hospital Hoppities is such a lovely, beautifully illustrated book and is the perfect companion for small children that have to spend time in hospital. How and why did Eyrie Press get involved with its publication?

 

Charlotte, the author, submitted it to us and it was such a lovely idea that we knew straight away we wanted to publish it. As a story which aims to make families in hospital feel ‘seen’ in children’s literature, and which empowers its main character with a helping role rather than a dependent one, it very much ticked our boxes! We put out a call on Facebook for an illustrator and were delighted to find Anjalee, who did an amazing job of bringing the story to life. We could hardly believe this was the first book she’d illustrated!

 

  1. And finally, for all those budding writers out there, I understand you are open for submissions. What, ideally, is Eyrie Press looking for?

 

Going forward, we’re focusing on well-crafted novels and novellas in the genres of contemporary, historical and speculative fiction. We’d really like submissions that are by writers from East Anglia (which we define as Cambridgeshire, Peterborough Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire), or which feature underrepresented communities. There are more details on our website www.eyriepress.co.uk and you can get some hints as to what I like in a submission by reading the Q&A I did over at The Book Stewards blog! www.thebookstewards.com/qa-with-jane-spencer-of-eyrie-press

Jane Spencer

What Midlife Crisis?… A Guest Post by author @BevHarvey

Today on my blog I’m very pleased to introduce friend, fellow author and all round lovely lady, Beverley Harvey, whose debut novel Seeking Eden was published by Urbane Publications in 2017.

 

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Beverley’s second novel, Eden Interrupted, described by bestselling author Gina Kirkham as, “Entertaining and addictive, this story of life, love and intrigue in the suburbs is a delight!” is due for release this Thursday 6th June. Here, Beverley tells us a little about her new book and, as a woman of a certain age, shares her thoughts about one of the themes running through it––the midlife crisis!

 

But first, let’s take a look at the blurb for Eden Interrupted…

 

90s popstar Ben Wilde and his bride Lisa return from honeymoon to find a cuckoo in the nest and a surprise European tour in the diary.

Lisa befriends neighbour Rosemary, who is also home alone while husband Nigel travels for work. But will the women’s grim suspicions be confirmed, or does absence make the heart grow paranoid?

In the village, Eden Hill’s coffee shop is under new management with the arrival of divorced Mum, Chloe, and troubled teen son, Jake. But serving flat whites leaves Chloe feeling, well, flat until she meets Caleb, a widowed father of two; if only Jake and Caleb weren’t at loggerheads.

New to Eden Hill are Jan and Martin Bevan, but a frosty reception leaves them wondering if they’ve made a huge mistake.

From the writer of Seeking Eden, Eden Interrupted is another sizzling slice-of-life drama where paths and swords cross, and misunderstandings abound. Perfect for fans of Fiona Gibson and Marian Keyes.

 

Ooh, sounds intriguing! Now Bev, over to you…

 

What midlife crisis?

Have you seen my waistline anywhere? I seem to have lost it. Perhaps I left it in the same place as my eyelashes, my shiny hair and my self-confidence. Joking apart, if you’re a woman of a certain age, you might get where I’m coming from. Aging can be a tough call, as we adjust to different life stages.

Lisa Wilde (née Dixon), a leading protagonist in my new novel, Eden Interrupted (Urbane, from June 2019) finds herself ruminating on the passage of time. At forty-five, although she’s still fit and incredibly beautiful, Lisa realises that she’s no longer in the first flush of youth. These feelings are compounded when husband Ben, a come-back-king Rockstar, heads off to the bright lights of a European tour with his band. Lonely and bored, insecurity soon sets in; are Lisa’s fears justified, or does absence make the heart grow paranoid?

As with Seeking Eden, its predecessor, Eden Interrupted is set in home counties suburbia and takes a wry look at family life. In addition to Ben and Lisa’s marriage glitches, we meet Chloe, the soon-to-be-divorced Mum of a teenage boy, Jake; Martin and Jan, a couple who find themselves in early, unplanned retirement, and about to become grandparents for the first time; and Nigerian stay-at-home Mum, Rosemary, whose workaholic husband Nigel has a penchant for prostitutes.

It’s fair to say that both Eden books have a thread of mid-life crises running through them – although the pages are filled with characters of all ages – and even several cute dogs! But whether you drive an Aston Martin and live in “the posh gated bit” of Eden Hill like Ben, or pootle about in a Vauxhall and live in a modest house in Constance Close like Martin, you can’t outrun time.

For Lisa Wilde, the aging process adds up to some serious soul searching, some very embarrassing moments and finally some big changes.

Now where did I put my HRT patches?

 

Beverley Harvey

 

Thanks Bev, great post, and definitely one I can relate to! I wish you every success with your new novel.

Eden Interrupted will be available this Thursday 6th June 2019 but can be pre-ordered now here.

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To keep up with Beverley you can find her at the following places:

Twitter @BevHarvey_

Website www.beverleyharvey.co.uk