Empathy Day 2018

Empathy Roundel18 Final OutlinedToday, I feature on the Empathy Lab’s blog tour featuring all kinds of wonderful authors sharing their thoughts on empathy and the power of using stories to teach kids empathy. The blog tour so far has been incredible with some amazing authors sharing their thoughts! Check out the blog tour for more details and go check out their posts. Today I’m hosting Margi McAllister, author of 15 Things Not To Do With Granny, which is featured in Empathy Lab’s 2018 Read for Empathy Guide.


Empathy Lab is one of the most important developments in education today.  For years we’ve educated children to learn facts, to reach targets, to do things that we can measure on a chart and put on the league tables.  Did anyone put a priority on educating hearts and minds?  Have we assumed that the whole process of learning about yourself and how you relate to the rest of the world will happen by accident?  At last we have an Empathy Day.  One day isn’t enough, I know.  Empathy is something children – and adults – need to be aware of every day.  But here’s a day when we can celebrate it.

 It’s simple.  The question is – what does it feel like?  How did I feel when I was ill and missed a party, when my best friend wasn’t my best friend any more, when the dog died?  How did I feel when I won the race, when I made a cake all by myself, when my teacher read out my poem to the class?  And if I feel like that, how do other people feel?  What is it like to be them?  If we want a healthy, happy society we need to know how to react to each other wisely and compassionately.

 The Fifteen Things series – Fifteen Things Not To Do With A Baby/Granny/Puppy began as a light-hearted idea and turned into a warm, funny way of looking at caring.  What does Granny really want?  She might not be too keen on a crocodile for her birthday or squashed jelly beans on toast for breakfast.  She needs a bit of time out so she can read, sleep, or practice her karate.

 When I wrote The Summer Lion, I began with a community rather than a heroine.  I had Granny Annie, Daffodil Thumping-Jolly, Billy Will-Do and the Snapdragon family.  The village of Twidings thrives on co-operation, and fights back together against the crafty new landowner who’s only out for money and power.  By the end of the book he would happily ban all lions, grannies, and children, especially Drina Snapdragon.

 Something I love in a book is a ‘no, no, don’t!’ moment.  One of my favourite authors is Eva Ibbotson.  She writes warm, empathetic heroines that make you root for them.  Time and again I find myself thinking, ‘Don’t listen to her!’ ‘Come back!’ ‘Get her away from there!’.  And the heroines can’t do it all themselves.  They need the friends, the allies, the community to do their bit.  Empathy is never all about one person.  It’s about each other.

 It’s about each other.  That seems like a good place to finish.

 What are your favourite books for empathy?


Empathy Twitter 2b (2)

What is Empathy Day?
Empathy Day was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab. With hate crimes at their highest level since records began, it uses stories to help us understand each other better, and highlights empathy’s power in our divided world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hate-crime-statistics). Empathy Day 2018 is on 12 June.

Empathy Day’s calls to action
READ – because reading in itself can make us more empathetic
SHARE – because sharing perspectives through books can connect us in new ways
DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your community

How to join in  

  • Share ideas for empathy-boosting books using #ReadForEmpathy @EmpathyLabUK
  • Use the free Read For Empathy Guide to 30 children’s books – at www.empathylab.uk
  • Follow this blog tour to hear the powerful voices of the authors and illustrators involved
  • Hundreds of schools and libraries are already taking part. Gt a free toolkit from info@empathylab.uk
  • Use the ideas and free downloadable resources at  http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-day-resources

Blog Tour 7


BLOG TOUR: My Dad, The Earth Warrior


Today is a very exciting day. Today you get another brilliant author guest post! Today, Gary Haq, author of the brilliant ‘My Dad, The Earth Warrior’ is featured on my blog. Gary has a passion for engaging children in talking about and learning about the environment. As a teacher, this is REALLY important to me, so I hope you enjoy Gary’s post!

On Writing

As an environmental researcher, I have written scientific papers and reports, non-fiction books and Op-Eds for the regional and national press but never fiction.

But that all changed when my mother died. Clearing out the family home I came across my Nana’s large well-worn black patent leather handbag. We had kept it for years in the back of the wardrobe, and for some reason,  the bag became a repository for all the important family documents.

Inside there were death and birth certificates of grandparents and relatives, a telegram from the Ministry of Defence informing that my grandfather was lost at sea in the Second World War, a letter of from King George honouring his service to the nation, and my primary school reports in a battered brown envelope.

In my old school report, there was a statement from my primary school teacher that said  how much I enjoyed writing stories.

As an academic researcher my career has been all about facts and referencing evidence. I had totally  forgotten the joy of making up stories.

I therefore decided to revisit the imagination I had as a child. Once I had opened that door in my mind, I was flooded ideas for a children’s book. Then one day, I was dancing around the living room being silly trying to calm my baby daughter, and thought how embarrassing she would find this if she were older.  It was then, I had the idea for a story about a boy who has an embarrassing father

Someone said that writing is about 10% putting words on paper and 90% editing – it’s true! It took me six months to write my first draft and six years editing it!

Since I have a busy home and work life, I try to find pockets of time to write and edit throughout my day. I do try to write at home but this has become increasingly difficult as my daughter grown older.  But here are a few places where I do manage to put pen to paper.



Being temporarily based in Italy at a European research Centre, my workday begins by taking the bus to work, where I try and write and edit. 





In Italy you can’t start the day without your morning coffee. I visit a café before work to have my morning café macchiato, write a little and watch the array of characters that passby.



At lunch time, when fellow colleagues go to the canteen to eat together, I go alone so I can use the time to work on my book  although, my view is not always a concrete pillar!

What a brilliant post! Thank you so much to Gary to writing a blog post! It’s brilliant. Check out the rest of the blog tour below!

Blog Tour banner

You can also check out My Dad, The Earth Warrior out now!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Company of Eight

Today, I have the absolute pleasure of hosting Harriet Whitehorn, author of The Company of Eight, on my blog. She’s here to talk about something I was SUPER curious about when I was invited onto the blog tour: 

My Top Three Female Led Fantasy Stories

Little Red Riding Hood

Fairy tales are almost always about girls, and I presume, historically were used as a method to indoctrinate young ladies in how they should behave – for example, if they did a lot of housework without moaning they might end up with a handsome prince.   Most of the heroines are drippy beyond words but I have always had a soft spot for Little Red Riding Hood in her attention seeking red cloak, who wants a little bit more out of life and strays of the path in search of adventure and excitement with the Big Bad Wolf. 

Alice in Wonderland 

Alice is another girl in search of adventure, and what a time she has of it with the array of amazing creatures she comes across in Wonderland- the sinister Cheshire Cat and the tyrannical Queen of Hearts are my personal favourites .  And what I love about Alice is the practical and no-nonsense attitude she retains in the face of the chaos of CS Lewis’s crazy world.   

Lila in The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s best known heroine is Lyra in the Northern Lights, but I rather like Lila in his earlier story, and she is every bit as brave and tenacious as her more famous counterpart.    Despite being told by her father that being a firework maker it is an unsuitable job for a woman, Lila is determined to be pursue her dream, and goes on a quest to prove it, ending up winning both The Firework Festival and her father’s approval of her career choice.  

Thank you so much Harriet for your brilliant post! Massive thanks to Stripes for inviting me to be part of the blog tour too!

Everyone should go check out The Company of Eight – I read it a while back and absolutely adored it!

Image result for the company of eight

When Ravellous’s Circus Ship comes to Minaris, Cass is determined to audition despite her guardian Mrs Potts’s disapproval. But when her chance is snatched away from her, Cass refuses to give up. She sets out to follow the Circus Ship and the journey leads her into dangers that challenge even her adventurous spirit. Will she succeed in following her dream, or is her destiny something altogether different? 

I am Day 1 of the blog tour! I can’t wait to see the rest of the posts on the tour, check out the banner below to see who else is on the tour and check out their posts when they go live!

The Company of Eight BLOG TOUR BANNER

Happy reading!

S x

BLOG TOUR: The House With Chicken Legs

Today I have the absolute joy of hosting the brilliant Sophie Anderson, author of the gorgeous The House with Chicken Legs, on my blog. She’s here to talk all about one of her favourite Russian fairy tales and what it means to her. 

House with Chicken Legs jacket

The House with Chicken Legs is BRILLIANT. My review will follow in the coming days, but I can not wait for you all to read it because it’s an incredible story which kids and adults alike can adore. Can we also appreciate that cover please?!

Fifteen Russian Fairy Tales and What They Mean to Me

The Cat Who Became Head-Forester (on the dangers of a single narrative)

‘If you drop Vladimir by mistake, you know he always falls on his feet …’

In this Russian fairy tale, retold and published by Arthur Ransome in 1916, Vladimir is a tomcat who is always fighting. He has lost an ear in a fight and is ‘not very pretty to look at’. His owner decides to get rid of him, bundles him into a sack, and abandons him deep in the forest.

Vladimir tears his way out of the sack and sets off to explore the forest. He was head-cat in the village he came from and decides he shall be head of the forest too, so walks along like ‘the Tsar himself’. He finds an abandoned forester’s hut and moves in. When hungry, he catches birds and mice in the forest, and when tired he sleeps in the hay loft. But he is not content, as he must catch all his own food and do all the work for himself.

One day, Vladimir meets a pretty young vixen and tells her his name is Cat Ivanovitch and that he has been sent from the far forests of Siberia to be Head-forester over all. The vixen is impressed and invites Vladimir to her earth, where she feeds him tasty game. She asks to be his wife, and spends each day catching game for her grand husband.

While hunting, the vixen meets her old friend Wolf and tells him about her new husband, the Great Cat Ivanovitch, Head-forester over all. Wolf wants to pay his respects, so the vixen tells him to leave a sheep near their earth. Next, the vixen meets Bear and tells him to leave an ox as an offering to her husband, the Great Cat Ivanovitch.

Wolf and Bear leave their offerings near the earth and decide to hide nearby, hoping to get a glimpse of the Great Cat Ivanovitch. Wolf hides amongst dead leaves beneath a bush, and Bear climbs to the top of a fir tree.

Vladimir emerges from the earth and begins eating the ox, purring as he does so. Wolf moves his head, attempting to get a better look, and the leaves around him rustle. Vladamir stops eating and listens. Thinking the rustling is a mouse, Vladamir leaps onto Wolf’s nose with claws extended.

Wolf yelps and Vladimir, startled, darts up the fir tree. Bear, at the top of tree, thinks the Great Cat Ivanovitch is attacking him and jumps down, breaking branches and bones along the way. Wolf and Bear run off, terrified and …

‘Ever since then all the wild beasts have been afraid of the cat, and the cat and the fox live merrily together, and eat fresh meat all the year round, which the other animals kill for them and leave a little way off.’

When I first heard this tale, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I started off feeling sorry for poor Vladimir, abandoned in the forest. But he lands on his feet, and by the end of the story is head of all the forest. I wondered if I was meant to admire his tenacity and resourcefulness; his ability to turn his luck around.

But how he achieves success is morally questionable. He lies to the vixen, and is lazy, making her do all the hunting. By the end of the story I felt sorry for the vixen, the wolf and the bear, who had all been lied to and tricked into hunting for Vladimir. However, I also felt they were partially responsible; for believing Vladimir without question, and for wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Great Cat Ivanovitch. I felt particularly cross with the vixen, as she offered to marry Vladimir simply because he was Head-forester, and she perpetuated his lies. 

It seemed to me they might all be in the wrong; Vladimir for lying, and the others for believing him. But then again, it didn’t seem fair to blame the others for simply being trusting. After all, I don’t think it would be good to assume everyone we meet is lying to us. The story made me think about trust versus suspicion, and at what point it is important to do some fact checking.

Certainly, before you marry someone, or work for them, or repeat what they have told you as fact, I think it is a good idea to be sure they are being honest. The vixen, the wolf, and the bear, only ever hear Vladimir’s story – that he is Head-forester – and accept that as fact. But if they had checked his story, done a little research, listened to the thoughts and opinions of others, perhaps they wouldn’t have been fooled so easily.

As I have grown older, this lesson has become only more relevant. The internet has appeared and grown to unbelievable proportions. Endless information is out there, easily accessible, yet still people are fooled by cats like Vladimir. Still people share information without fact checking, like the vixen. And still people rise to power through morally questionable actions.

Perhaps if we all sought out and listened to more than one side of every story, then cats like Vladimir (or Trump) wouldn’t have so much power.

The Cat Who Became Head-Forester can be found in Old Peter’s Russian Tales, written by Arthur Ransome, published by Puffin.

Sophie Anderson - new author pic

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson publishes in paperback, 3 May, £6.99 from Usborne.



Go check out the rest of the blog tour, there are sure to be more incredible stories like this one to be shared! 

Chicken Legs Tour Graphic

S x

BLOG TOUR: Matt Killeen

Today I have the utter pleasure of hosting the author of Orphan, Monster, Spy on my blog: Matt Killeen! He’s here today to talk to you about one of his female heroes! The rest of the blog tour has been fascinating and I have loved reading all of Matt’s other posts! When this one arrived in my inbox I was very excited to read it!

I hand you over to Matt’s words now…


Ada Lovelace

Some visionaries are so ahead of their time that they can seem laughable, even insane. One such man was Charles Babbage. In 1822, he designed a sophisticated calculating machine that promised to change the world but just could not get his crap together. So intricate was Babbage’s Difference Engine that it was forever unfinished, exhausting the pockets and patience of the British Government and London society that once fêted him, even as he dreamed of the Analytical Engine which was, basically, the first programmable computer.

People like this need an early adopter. There was one person that truly understood him, and his inventions and she was also a visionary. She went far beyond the cogs and gears of the physical and predicted the entire information technology age.

Ada Gordon was born the daughter of “mad, bad & dangerous to know” poet Lord Byron and maths geek Annabella Milbanke, after a whirlwind and disastrous marriage of science and the arts. With a childhood designed to mitigate any of her father’s “poetical” or chaotic tendencies that bordered on abusive, she inherited her mother’s love of logic and mathematics, but also more than a little of his imagination.

She was fascinated from an early age by machines and mechanics and the numbers behind them, which is why, at 18 years old, she ended up at a party where her mentor Mary Somerville introduced her to Babbage. Babbage’s machines were so complex that few people could even understand the basic principles, let alone see what their application might mean, so they became firm friends and collaborators. For Babbage it was all about the numbers, but it didn’t take Ada long to swap those numbers for broader more metaphysical concepts. What she saw was a world where machines could be told to think. Make decisions. Write and perform music.

The scale of her contribution is hotly debated. It is widely believed that she wrote the very first computer programme, and certainly she perfected it. Her work directly influenced Alan Turing, whose work helped define the information age, although she didn’t believe in conscious machines or computers that could create, a contention that it took Turing 107 years to rebut. Seven decades later we’re still arguing about what that might mean. Indisputably, she was a prophet. She saw the future and she described it. How it would work. What it would do.

Her wealth and privilege allowed her to study with some great minds and to promote Babbage’s ideas, but this was no substitute for real academic rigour and research. One can only guess at what her brain would have created had she been born in a different era, of equal educational opportunities and longer lives.

And she was not without her vices…she was Lord Byron’s daughter after all. She had a string of affairs and sexual encounters, as well as a serious gambling problem and it was the latter that highlighted her limits – it transpired that she did in fact have some. She simply refused to believe there wasn’t a mathematical solution for effective betting on the horses. In pursuing finances for Babbage’s work, she became mired in financial scandal, losing a fortune of her syndicate’s money and then chasing her losses. She was bemused and frustrated by her inability to unravel this Gordian knot, when so many other mathematical mysteries uncoiled themselves effortlessly in her brain. It was an ignominious and uncharacteristically unsuccessful end, coming as it did just a year before she died of cancer at just 36.

Admittedly, I can’t think of Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace without thinking of Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. This glorious fictionalised account of her work, culminates in them using the completed analytical engine to fight crime for Queen Victoria in an alternative timeline. It always felt like the future she should have had, rather than the hobbled, overlooked and all-too short time on an Earth that would come to depend on the things that she envisioned.


Check out the rest of the blog tour – there’s some amazing bloggers and some brilliant blog posts to read too! My review is coming soon too, so keep an eye out for that! 


S x

DesertIslandBooks – notsotweets


As I said in the last #DesertIslandBooks post, there are only a few left! Today features one of my newest twitter pals, Liam who tweets over at @notsotweets. I hope you enjoy! 


DIB rules

Right, just six books. This is where I regret how many times I’ve called other people out for cheating by taking collections, isn’t it?

Ok, book one is The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien. This is the fantasy epic of fantasy epics. A book so vast in its scope that it starts with creation and the entirety of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is recounted in the last three pages. Yet it’s full of amazing characters, tragic romances, huge battles, heroes with fatal flaws and a villain so terrible that Sauron is his lieutenant. Oh, and an elf lord taking on a dozen balrogs.

Book two is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This is the true story of a woman whose life is totally falling apart, who takes herself off to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in western america alone. I first read it at a very low point in my own life, and it inspired me to get outside, go walking, go camping and to find something I could use to start to rebuild myself.

Book three is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I adore this book. The magic in it is so subtle and so beautifully realised. The story unfolds before you like a complex, wondrous puzzle. Each scene is described so perfectly. I don’t want to go and live in a fantasy world, I just want one night in this magical circus, and every time I read this book that’s what I get.

Book four has to be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It’s my favourite comfort reading, and I’ve got about half a dozen copies with illustrations by different people. My current favourite is the Arthur Rackham illustrated one, so I’ll take that.

Book five will be American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Some books are genre-defining. This one is genre-defying. It won major awards for crime, horror and fantasy genre fiction. It’s deep, it’s complex, it’s often emotional, it’s mysterious. It’s also pretty long.

Book six will have to be a bird guide. I’m really into birding, and the idea of being on a desert island and not being able to identify all of the birds I see is a frightful one. My Collins guide to the birds of Britain and Europe has been up mountains, through gales, spent nights in forests, and crossed seas with me, and it looks like it has too. But I’ll take whatever book is appropriate depending on where this island is, please.

You are allowed to take a snack of your choosing: this will be provided in an unlimited quantity. 

I normally prefer savoury snacks to sweet ones, but the best accompaniment to reading has to be biscuits, particularly biscuits in an unlimited quantity! If I had to pick I’d probably go with a classic like custard creams, but an assortment would be great.

You may choose from unlimited supplies of tea or coffee. 

Tea please! 

You are entitled to carry with you 1 music album/playlist (not surpassing 15 songs).
This was actually a lot harder than the books!

Things the Grandchildren Ought to Know – Eels
Take Me to Church – Hozier
Once Upon a Dream – Lana Del Ray
Invitation to the Blues – Tom Waits (this one is like a crime noir story in five and a half minutes!)
Avenue of Hope – I Am Kloot
Walk Unafraid – First Aid Kit
Letters From The Sky – Civil Twilight
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye and the Grant Lazlo Orchestra
Wish for Something More – Amy MacDonald
If You Could Read My Mind – Johnny Cash
Set The Fire to the Third Bar – Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright
Should I Fall Behind – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Black Parade – My Chemical Romance
PS You Rock My World – Eels

You MUST CHOOSE ONE BOOK and ONE SONG from your playlist/album that you get to keep when the Desert police come along. 

My bird book and Walk Unafraid.

In addition to this book, you will be given the entire works of Shakespeare and the Bible (totally not stealing from Desert Island Discs, no sir) 

Excellent! The Bible gets a bit of scorn in these lists, but I’m looking at it as a 73 book series by a whole host of different authors spanning genres from history and law to some fairly steamy poetry and post-apocalyptic fantasy. And I know some Shakespeare, but there’s loads I’ve never read. I’ll soon be wandering the beach giving lengthy speeches to the crabs.

Thank you so much for choosing this journey on DesertJet. Remember the rules are simple, but strict. 

Thank you for letting me play. It’s amazing, one minute you meet a woman in a bookshop and excitedly explain the plot of “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.” to her, next thing you know she’s sending you to a desert island, miles away from anyone, completely on your own. Hang on, maybe I need to rethink my life…

Hahaha, that really is how Liam and I met. We had been friends on Twitter for a while and then I heard him talking about that book in Waterstones… then tweeted him about it! Thank you for playing, Liam!

S x

DesertIslandBooks – DadOfCrazyTwins

Today on #DesertIslandBooks, I have a member of my very own family! Everyone say hello to Graeme, known on twitter as @DadOfCrazyTwins. He’s the dad of my gorgeous goddaughters and his tales are wonderful! 
Check out his choices below!
DIB rules
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton 
The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness 
No Lifeguard On Duty by Janice Dickinson
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 
IT by Stephen King
Me Me Me by Charlotte Crosby (never read it but would be good for light trashy relief) 
My snack would be Corned Beef and Potato Pie but cooked following my Mam’s recipe
My album would be a random NOW compilation…any number will do as usually have a good mix 
When the police come I’d keep IT by Stephen King and Track 17 on Disc 2 of the NOW album as it’s usually an underrated trance gem 

Thank you for agreeing to be castaway! I hope you get some peace and enjoy your trance album! 

S x

p.s. remember to keep your eyes open for my very own #DesertIslandBooks post coming Christmas!

12 Days of Clink Christmas

Today I am hosting the lovely C.J. Bentley on my blog. She is here today to talk about her brilliant book ‘The Shield’ and she’s very kindly written a guest post about her inspiration for writing ‘The Shield’.

So without further ado:

Inspiration for writing ‘The Shield’ 

It was when our grandchildren were staying with us during the summer holidays a few years ago in the evening.  We had exhausted our saved supply of favourite children’s books as well as our imaginations making up stories each night at bedtime.  Our grandson was eight years old.  His two older sisters wanted to watch a movie and he was tired so requested a bedtime story and to be taken to bed.  I had the idea we might find something to read online so Googled a site for stories for eight year old boys.  What came up I deemed unsuitable for bedtime reading for an eight year old, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t feature zombies, vampires, or farts.

As I returned to Dubai later that summer to pack and move our belongings to Qatar, (my husband’s job taking us there) and having retired from my work in an International School, my ‘me time’ was spent making notes for the long ago ‘germinated seed’ of an idea for a children’s story, (which then led to other germs) being planted in my brain and so ‘The Finder’ series was born.  I had made the decision not to work in Qatar and initially I had plenty to do with the unpacking and making a home in the lovely villa my husband and I had chosen to live in for our time in that country.  We enjoyed our beautiful walled garden and I started to grow vegetables, something I had not been able to do living in Dubai with only a balcony to our apartment.  I started to write, I had spare time on my hands for the first time in my life.  Being a wife, mother and then grandmother, working throughout my life with children my time was used up by everything I had to do with being all of these things. 

Now time was mine and apart from keeping the villa clean and growing the vegetables I decided to write the kind of stories I would like to read if I was aged nine to thirteen, adventure stories, meeting people in different times as time travel has always fascinated me.  Old objects fascinate me too, as I hold something old I find myself thinking about who owned and used it and so the ‘germ’ for these stories grew.  As I find myself writing one book in the series the next is forming in my imagination and so on as I travel down this new road as an author.   I am currently writing book four in the series ‘The Ring’ lost in 1330 by an Arabian Princess and which takes place in the Middle East.

The ‘germ’ for the first in the Finder Series came from a memory I had when I was ten years old fishing in the local stream with a friend.  We found a medieval shield in the silt under the water during the summer holidays.  It took us a long time to remove it from its resting place as the silt was deep and it was well covered.  It was dirty and heavy and we didn’t know what to do with it so we chose to put it back.  My story was taken from this memory about what could have happened if we had chosen to keep it and take it home.  As far as I know the shield we found is still under that stream.  This summer whilst in the UK and with the help of family and friends with a child’s metal detector we tried to find it but the topography around the stream had changed over the many years in between and we were unsuccessful.  We did visit the local museum mentioned in the book and a Curator informed us that yes around where I used to live as a child there had been a medieval settlement so the chances of a shield being discovered were high.  We may return at some stage to try again, this time with a higher class of metal detector, more men with spades and even greater research.

It was interesting for her to confirm that the time I had decided to set ‘The Shield’, 1340, was a time of great unrest in Northern England with the Scots invading down as far as York where most of the story takes place. The first three lots of King Edwards were each kept busy trying to stop the Scots from venturing further south.  I become totally immersed in the time I set the stories and I love the history.  I try to make each time come alive for my readers and this is the main reason why I love to write now.  I love the creativity of sitting down at the laptop, I never fully know which way my imagination is going to take me, I don’t plan in great detail as I write, I have the idea, do a lot of research for the time chosen and then sit at the computer and write.  It is only when reading back to myself, (always out loud) that I wonder at the process, I find it all very exciting.   As I continue to write book four the ideas for the next book are forming in my imagination so my notebook is continually being added to.  I feel at least another two in the series before the last book which will complete the adventures full circle.

The Shield Cover

The Shield

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again. A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time – to its original owner? With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his King, the safety of the Kingdom and the life of the daughter of his best friend.

The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife Philippa and their son, who will later become the Black Prince.

Purchase from Amazon UK – Amazon link

About the author: Originally heralding from the North of England, C.J Bentley has travelled extensively and enjoyed living in a variety of countries across the world from Dubai to Doha, Qatar and now the countryside in the South of France. A background in teaching and childcare she has always enjoyed creating adventure short stories. However, it was when she became a grandma and with her grandchildren growing up  that she discovered that books seemed to contain only stories of vampires, zombies and farts that she decided seriously to take matters into her own hands and put pen to paper which today she calls The Finder Series.

Website https://www.cjbentleyonline.co.uk/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CJBentleyAuthor/

Twitter https://twitter.com/CJBentleyAuthor

DesertIslandBooks: _rebeccastobart

Good morning!
How is everyone?! How is December going for everyone? 

Today we have one of the last few #DesertIslandBooks posts and today’s contestant is my lovely friend Rebecca, who blogs over at This Booky Place and you’ll find her on twitter (@_recebbastobart). Go give her social media a look… once you’ve read her post OBVIOUSLY. 

Reminder of the rules:

DIB rules


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus – my token contemporary

Snack: Prawn cocktail crisps

Unlimited Tea/Coffee: Tea

Part of one of my Spotify playlists 😛

Make A Move by Icon for Hire
This Is Gospel by Panic! At The Disco
Sugar We’re Goin Down by Fall Out Boy
House of Gold by Twenty One Pilots
Teenagers by My Chemical Romance
Gentleman by Psy
Harlem by New Politics
Heres To Us by Halestorm
Everybody Talks by Neon Trees
Drive By by Train
Some nights by fun.
Handwritten by The Gaslight Anthem
It’s Time by Imagine Dragons
One More Time by Maroon 5
Trouble by Pink

One book to keep: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

One song to keep: This Is Gospel by  Panic! At The Disco

Thank you Rebecca for agreeing to be castaway! There’s some incredible songs going on on your island! 

S x

12 Days of Clink Christmas

Today I have the joy of hosting Monikka Jephcott Thomas as part of the 12 Days of CLink Christmas! I hope you enjoy the post which describes the inspiration behind her brilliant book ‘Fifteen Words’.

Fifteen Words Cover

The inspiration for FIFTEEN WORDS 

I was doing some research into my family history, as most of us do at some stage of our lives and, also as most of us do whose parents grew up during the world wars, I felt their stories were the stuff of novels. Unlike many who will be reading this however, my parents were both German. They met during the Second World War and were eventually separated by it, as Max and Erika are in the novel – my father having to go off and serve as a doctor in the German army, not because he wanted to (he was not a supporter of the Nazi party), but because he was conscripted, like so many young men across the globe in the early ’40s. 

The novel is heavily inspired by the real-life trials and tribulations of my parents’ early married lives – simply because they are so inherently dramatic – whilst allowing me to depict the complexity of growing up in Nazi Germany among the potent forces of religion and fascism competing for young souls. It is also an exploration of the strength of human relationships, which the war tested greatly, in an age when letter writing was one of the few long distance forms of communication available to most; when the fighting separated husbands and wives, children and parents for extensive periods of time and over vast distances.

In the book, Max is a POW in a Russian labour camp on the edge of the Arctic for four long and painful years. I was shocked to find out, during my research for this novel, that German POWs in those Soviet labour camps were only allowed to send letters home if they contained a maximum of fifteen words. So, in the novel, Max struggles over how to express everything he wants to tell Erika with such limitations. He enlists the help of his more artistic friends to help him. But finally in despair he writes something damning. It becomes one of the themes of the book: how we can say so much in so few words to beautiful or destructive effect.

The book was written reasonably quickly, in just a few months, but that was mainly because I was steeped in all the stories from the research I had already done into my family history, which had unearthed all manner of letters, documents, photos and tape recordings. The real work was deciding which stories to follow in the novel. Apart from the themes I wanted to explore, the stories I eventually focused on were also the most gripping, page-turning aspects of the history. So the book has its fair share of explosions, air raids, prison breakouts, emergency medical procedures on the battlefield, not to mention a pregnant woman hanging on to the outside of a speeding train! 

Fifteen Words is however, primarily a love story. Anyone who likes World War 2 fiction will find it not only interesting but, I think, refreshing. This book is unusual in that there are not many books written in English about the German experience of WW2. Many early readers of the manuscript found it an eye-opener, informing them about the war in a way they never thought of before, without it being a text which tries to rewrite history. In no way does it attempt to say the Nazis weren’t to blame for the atrocities of the war, but it merely points out that not all Germans were Nazis. As with any war, which we see all too often today, there are many civilian casualties, from all strata of society. In this very human story I hope I have been able to reaffirm how all of us, from whatever nation, for all our differences, still suffer and rejoice in remarkably similar ways.

Want to know more?

Two young doctors form a profound and loving bond in Nazi Germany; a bond that will stretch them to the very limits of human endurance. Catholic Max – whose religious and moral beliefs are in conflict, has been conscripted to join the war effort as a medic, despite his hatred of Hitler’s regime. His beloved Erika, a privileged young woman, is herself a product of the Hitler Youth. In spite of their stark differences, Max and Erika defy convention and marry.

But when Max is stationed at the fortress city of Breslau, their worst nightmares are realised; his hospital is bombed, he is captured by the Soviet Army and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Max experiences untold horrors, his one comfort the letters he is allowed to send home: messages that can only contain Fifteen Words. Back in Germany, Erika is struggling to survive and protect their young daughter, finding comfort in the arms of a local carpenter. Worlds apart and with only sparse words for comfort, will they ever find their way back to one another, and will Germany ever find peace?

Fifteen Words is a vivid and intimate portrayal of human love and perseverance, one which illuminates the German experience of the war, which has often been overshadowed by history.

Monkika Jephcott Thomas

Purchase on Amazon UKCLICK click

Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002.