Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – #Reviews – Frank Prem, C. S. Boyack, Stevie Turner and Judith Barrow.

Thanks to Sally Cronin at Smorgasbord for my shout-out today.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the first of the Cafe and Bookstore Updates this week with more reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first author is Frank Prem whose latest collection Devil in the Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires is receiving wonderful reviews.

About Devil in the Wind

Devil In The Wind is an account of catastrophic fire and its immediate aftermath.

In this 21st century, the whole world seems to be on fire. America burns. Europe burns. Greece is reeling after its own tragedy of fire.

And Australia burns, as it has always done, but now so much more fiercely.

In February 2009, wildfires burnt through entire communities, taking 173 lives and injuring hundreds, while destroying thousands of houses and other buildings. Up to 400 fires destroyed 450,000 hectares of forest, native fauna and habitat, livestock and farmland.

In the aftermath of the fires, the voices of people…

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Good Luck With That

Luck… that elusive ingredient. Great blog from Nicholas C. Rossis.

Nicholas C. Rossis

I remember having a dialogue with a writer friend a few years ago. She was chastising me for stressing the importance of luck in publishing. Her argument was that, if you work hard enough, you’re bound to succeed.

At the time, I was wondering if she was right and hard work was all it took.

After a decade in this game, I changed my mind. have now added prayers to luck as the most important factors helping with your career.

Now, it looks like I’m not the only one to think so. J.A. Konrath, one of the best-known Indies in the world, recently shared a sobering post called, Your Book Marketing Plan Won’t Work.

Even though you may think he methodically destroys all of your dreams, what he really does is debunk the myth of writing being some sort of get-rich-quick scam. Konrath himself used to make 800K a…

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Notes From a Small Island – Noise.

Just gone midnight this morning and it started again – thump, thump, thump.  It sounded like the workmen were in; an excruciatingly loud noise that passes for music if you’re under the age of 25.

It had happened again on Friday night, but we had just returned from the festival at that time and were tired and managed to sleep despite the noise.  However, last night it woke us up and sleep was impossible – the ‘music’ sounded even louder.  After about an hour of it I realised I was living the nightmare that Leigh and Eve Chandler experienced in The Noise Effect.  As I became angrier, my heart began to beat faster than the thumping bass.

Sam was all for getting dressed, seeking out the inconsiderate culprit, and flicking the circuit breaker switch on the outside of their van.  I dissuaded him from this reckless idea, as who knows how many young, fit blokes might have been inside?

I turned on my mobile phone and dialled the number for the park’s security team.  A deep voice answered straight away, and I explained the problem.  There was a laugh at the other end.  The man replied that several other holidaymakers had complained too, and Security had checked around the site that night and the night before, but found out that the loud bass/drum ‘music’ was coming from the festival.

I nearly dropped the phone in surprise.  Newport is in the centre of the Island and our van is over on the east side, about 12 miles away.  This made me wonder whether the noise could be heard all over the Island!

So what becomes of the young people’s eardrums inside the Big Top who are standing right next to the speakers?  Of course they’re young and they don’t worry about the future where they might find themselves hard of hearing.  However, it should be the responsibility of the D.J to keep the sound levels within reasonable safety margins.  We’ve been to many festivals at Seaclose Park, but have never heard any noise from them on returning to base.  What about people living in Newport who were trying to sleep?  On both nights the ‘music’ had not finished until about 1.30am.

It’s the last day of the festival today.  We haven’t got tickets, and are hoping the ‘music’ finishes a little earlier!  I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had been rock music, blues or reggae, but that drum/bass crap just winds me  up and makes me angry!







Streets Ahead Street Team Promotion – Miriam Hurdle

This week on Streets Ahead it’s the turn of Miriam Hurdle and her book ‘Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude‘:

Songs of Heartstrings plays the melancholy tune of the suffering and transcending to the melody of serenity and peace. It is a road traveled with optimism, hope and appreciation amid heartache circumstances and an unpredictable cancer. It also celebrates true love and fulfilling relationships.

Hurdle in her poetry collection includes nine themes: Songs of Nature, Songs of Dissonance, Songs of Physical Healing, Songs of Marriage, Songs of Parenthood, Songs of Tribute, Songs of Reflections, Songs of Challenge, and Songs of Inspiration. Each of these themes covers various aspects of her life experience. Many poems are illustrated with her photos and watercolor paintings.

The poems in this collection are inspiring to the mind, heart and spirit. The readers will resonate with these experiences.


5 stars by Frank Hubeny

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
As I woke this morning what came to my mind was Miriam Hurdle’s watercolor in the middle of her book introducing the “Songs of Parenthood” section. In the watercolor you see the backs of a mother and her child walking away hand-in-hand. The peacefulness of those two summarize my experience of this book: one woman, since there is always a perspective, and a world of others creating blessings as they walk together through life.

The next poem, “Beautiful Tiny Baby”, presents the story of the author risking her own life when offered an experimental drug that would give her premature baby a better chance to breathe upon birth. That decision focused the many willingly-taken risks involved in giving birth in one decisive moment of “Yes”.

That’s all I could ever want – that watercolor and that poem – for this book to be worth a favored place in my memory.

But there’s more. Here are two others, among many, worth mentioning for their memorable descriptions. In “Chill and Shiver” the author presents her helplessness while waiting for the manifestation of an expected side-effect of a drug. In “Loved and Missed” she describes a neighbor’s tears of guilt and grief at the tragic death of her pet.

Miriam Hurdle’s presentations of the world through poetry, photography and art are beautiful gifts of awareness.

Notes From a Small Island – Rain Stopped Play.

The rain is quite relentless. All night long it pounded on the roof of the van, and as of Thursday lunchtime it’s still going strong.  We went into Newport this morning to do some shopping, and scores of bedraggled festival goers were queueing for the buses to take them up to the site.  Some of them looked miserable, cold, and ill-prepared for the weather.

In one shop, the assistant said with a hint of a gloat – “I’ve heard it’s like a mud bath up there already.  That would put me right off for a start.”  Well, we haven’t got tickets for today, and the weather looks to be improved by tomorrow, and so we can only hope…

The shops we went in seem to be cashing in on the festival.  One shoe shop offered wellies at £11.99 a pair, and Morrisons had hundreds of bottles of water and cans of beer situated right by the cash tills.  Clothes shops had frilly, flouncy things in the window that  you’d only wear to a festival, and surprise, surprise, there was a big display of umbrellas right by the door!

We were going cycling along Ryde seafront this afternoon, but we’ve come back to the van to warm up.  The bikes are getting wetter and wetter out the back – what a difference to last year’s baking summer.  This year the U.K is living up to that famous saying: ‘You can tell when it’s summer in Britain, as the rain is a little bit warmer.’

The wind is cascading another shower of wet leaves onto the decking.  The thermostat that Sam put in last year is turned up high, and we’re watching the sea rolling and crashing down onto the beach below.  Thank goodness I’m not on the ferry!  Happy days.


There’s Nothing Worse than a Wet Festival…

Oh no, looks like it’s going to be a wet festival.  We’ve packed wellies, plastic ponchos, and a groundsheet to shelter under!  Let’s hope the ground isn’t as wet as when we attended the  Download festival back in 2012:

Myself with my eldest son (right) and his friend at Download, 2012.

Download 2012 a

The mud back then was like thick gravy.  My boots became stuck, and the boys had to pull me out as my boots were too heavy with mud for me to lift them!  Sam was almost falling over with laughter as he took this photo.

Download 2012 b

OOh-er… see you soon.  The cases are packed, bikes are on the rack, and we’re right ready to rock…

Choosing the Right School

This is the last regular post for a week or so, as I’ll be having a JOMO moment and will be rockin’ at the Isle of Wight Festival.

I had the inspiration to write this post after reading Ellen Hawley’s blog regarding when King John (and others) signed a document.

Ellen mentioned that Keir Hardie, the first leader of the Labour party, started work at 8 years of age and was the sole support for his family for at least some of his childhood, and taught himself to read and write at the age of  about 17.  He never went to school, which was typical of working class children in the 1850s/1860s.

Compare that to the MPs of today.  Most (if not all) come from a grammar school or private school background.  Have there ever been any parliamentarians  to emerge from a failing state school?  Jeremy Corbyn, current Labour leader, went to a private preparatory school and then to a grammar school, as did Theresa May.  However, Mr Corbyn was one of the few who did not attend Oxbridge.  It seems the current batch of MPs began life at a prep school, and then it was private school and afterwards on to Oxford or Cambridge.

Does this mean that there are no children at state schools capable of running the country?  Of course not.  There are many kids from working class backgrounds who could probably do a much better job than the buffoons who are currently in charge.  However, they lack two things; money and the right connections.

Having parents with enough money enables a child to have a privileged private education that gives them the right ‘Old Boy’ connections to ensure they have the first dibs on a career ladder that ultimately leads to top job offers that any mother would be proud to put on Facebook.

I went to an all-girls’ school.  In fact it was the very first purpose-built comprehensive school in Britain and a bit of a showpiece.  Soon after I left boys were admitted for the first time, but years later it sadly lost its good reputation.  However, when I was there in the early 1970s, guess how many girls went on to Oxford or Cambridge?  One girl out of 2000, and she was exceptionally brainy.  My husband laughed like a drain when I asked him how many kids had gone to Oxbridge from his state school.  He said they probably went on to stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure instead …

I saw a programme on TV recently called ’63 Up’, where they interviewed children aged 7 and then every 7 years the adults they subsequently became were interviewed again.  One 7 year old boy told us very confidently in a cut-glass accent back in the 1960s that he was going to ‘Charterhouse’ (a private school) and then on to Trinity College Cambridge.  Guess what – he did!  His future was all laid out for him, and did very nicely for himself in the world of law.

Another less fortunate boy from a state school was a failed jockey, and then took the ‘Knowledge’ and became a black taxi cab driver.  He seemed quite content with his lot, but I suspect back in the 1970s it would not have been possible for him to gain entry to Oxbridge and become a Justice of the Peace, an MP, or a Company Director.

Nowadays Oxbridge has had to become less elite and accept students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and this is all to the good.   Who knows what brilliant young minds might emerge from state schools who otherwise would not have had the opportunities normally only afforded to the rich?

My sons never went to University – they didn’t want to go.  It suited us, as we couldn’t have afforded to send them.  They started 5 year apprenticeships down on the factory floor – sweeping up and making tea.  Twenty years on one is a General Manager and the other is a Regional Manager.  It took them 20 years to get there, but if they’d gone to private school or Oxbridge I suspect the journey would have been much shorter.  However, it does prove that you can get there eventually if you work really hard … and they have.   Could they have got into Parliament?  Who knows?  Neither of them ever considered it.  We had no connections and not much money and they messed about in school (the eldest son’s school career was abysmal) but luckily they still came out okay.

So… is success due to the right school? Yes, it helps enormously,  but if a child is prepared to put in the hard work I think they can still make a success of life whichever school they go to.




Male Mystique

This is a wonderfully accurate description of men by Aurorawatcherak. Also don’t forget the male map reading skills and the female preference to have the map facing the direction she’s going in…


What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?


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What an interesting question to ask and answer, especially from an Alaska woman’s perspective.

I essentially grew up in a foreign country. Alaska in my childhood was a rugged frontier world that got limited television. The male-female ratio was four to one. Even today, Alaska has a fairly male-oriented culture. Women certainly participate fully in the society…

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Streets Ahead Street Team Promotion – Karen Payton Holt’s ‘Awakening’.


This week on ‘Streets Ahead‘ it’s the turn of Karen Payton Holt’s ‘Awakening’, which is the first in a series of 5 vampire books set in post-apocalyptic England:

Karen wrote this book description below:

‘I wrote this series after reading ‘Twilight” and wishing that I knew more about Edward Cullen than Bella. He seemed two dimensional to me, and that was such a shame. After all, we all know what being human feels like, but a vampire? Now, there’s the story.

Think ‘Twilight’ meets ‘Game of Thrones” and you are in the right mind-set to enter the world of ‘Fire & Ice’.

If you want to enter the dark and, at times, harrowing world of Doctor Connor and experience his human obsession, then you can find it here. ‘Fire and Ice: Awakening” begins a journey which spans 5 novels and is much more than a vampire tale, it is an emotional roller coaster ride.

If you hate vampires, or hunger for something different – something that grips you and will not let go – then read the first chapter…

London, 1910. Bram Stoker’s Dracula had made barely a ripple in the pool of human consciousness, and it would be another 12 years before Nosferatu breathes life into a vampire on the big screen… but even then, in human society, vampires existed. Like a seam of gold running through the coal, they are there, but you have to look for them.

For centuries, vampires were content to exist as creatures of myth and legend, barely making a footprint in the shifting sands of human consciousness, until Mother Nature unleashed the global pandemic which wiped out most of humanity.

A predator emerges and humans become a valuable food source. Vampire survival instincts have an edge of desperation, and they are forced out of the shadows. The London of 2010 becomes a vampire hive as they cluster around their decimated food supply, and ‘survival of the fittest’ is a stark reality.

Humans wish their world had ended, when, as a protected species, they are imprisoned, farmed as cattle, and siphoned for blood.

The cloud on the vampire horizon is that humans age and die. Suddenly, vampire immortality has an expiration date.

Connor is that rarity, a vampire and a doctor, who can treat a bleeding human – and not kill them. Tending to stricken vampires remains part of his duty; immortality has always been a tightrope walk over an abyss of insanity, and there are always those who fail to get it right.

After a century of living on his wits and feeding on humans he considered deserving of death, Connor views the human farm with distaste. His passion is to find a synthetic blood substitute.

Against this dark, forbidding backdrop, Doctor Connor does the unthinkable; he falls in love with a human girl.

When he treats Rebekah, alarm bells ring. He realizes she is a free-range human, and hiding her carries the death penalty. ‘Turning’ her in is a no-brainer, and yet…

Their worlds collide when Rebekah awakens in a vampire hospital and faces her worst fears — discovery and capture. Her euphoric relief, when it seems the beta-blockers have protected her from detection, turns to terror.

Connor grips Rebekah’s arm and her thundering heartbeat resonates through him. The tingling joy of being alive rushes through him again, and his journey into madness begins. His admiration for the human spirit punches a hole in his shell of indifference.

Rebekah cannot escape without the doctor’s help. Her fear of vampires tilts on its axis as Connor becomes her safe haven.

Connor’s stagnant existence is shattered as he embraces the feeling of being alive once more. Outwitting the vicious intent of a vindictive councilor, surviving attacks by the vampire councils’ guardsmen, and being sentenced to locked-in syndrome were never in Connor’s wildest imaginings and falling in love with a human girl was something he never expected.

Flying in the face of everything he should do, Connor risks everything and embraces the exhilaration of saving Rebekah and her group.’

Verified Purchase Review:

‘A dark dystopian novel with a great backstory and a fresh slant on vampires, love and survival.’



Open Book Blog Hop – 10th June


This week’s topic is:

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Having a husband and two sons definitely helps when I write about characters from the opposite sex. Two of them (Sam and Leon) are the alpha male types, practical, abrupt and down-to-earth, and the other one (Marc) is rather more sensitive, arty and musical.  I know how they think, and sometimes even what they’re going to say next.  As for what they feel I can only guess, as the two alphas tend to be stoically silent on that front, but  Marc has a brain very similar to my own.  We’re like two peas in a pod.

Yes, sometimes my male characters say exactly what my husband or sons might have said.  I also dredge up memories of my father, also grandfathers, uncles, male cousins and male work colleagues to help me form my characters.  My male characters are a combination of all of them!

I was an only child who went to a all-girls’ secondary school with mainly female teachers.  It was rather a shock when I left school and had to meet men!  However, 45 years’ on from that I’ve lots of memories and experiences to call on when I get around to inventing a new male character.

Do other authors have difficulty when writing about characters of the opposite sex?  Click on the blue button below to find out, or add a comment.


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