Saturday, 30 September 2017

Spotlight: Black & White by Nick Wilford

So I have come to the very last day of my tour for Black & White, and it’s great to be spending it here at The Writing Greyhound. May I say, what a superb name for a blog, especially for a proud father of five fur babies like myself. I thought I would close with some thoughts about what this whole writing journey might mean and what drives me to keep pushing forward into the unknown.

I’ve had a think about it and come to the conclusion that it’s the glorious unpredictability of it all that excites me, and the possibilities that are ever present. How else can you summon entire new worlds from basically nothing, and characters that live, breathe and act like real people? Whole series, thousands of words, can result from a random collision of thoughts one day that I might not have had if I’d been in a different place and doing something else.

Obviously, there are times when writing can get very frustrating when you’re on the fifth rewrite of that WIP and that perfect rewrite seems permanently out of reach. But then the solution might present itself when it’s least expected and it all falls into place. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a seemingly intractable collection of scenes finally coming together.

Of course, as a writer, you get to go on amazing adventures, see things you never expected and meet extraordinary people (some of whom you would never wish to meet in real life), all from the comfort of your desk. What’s not to like about that?

So as I put the finishing touches on my current series, I’m already looking forward to finding out where my next writing journey will take me. I don’t know where that’s going to be yet, but that’s all part of the fun!

About Black & White

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Image: Nick Wilford
What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.

Black & White is available to buy now.

About Nick Wilford

nick-wilford, author
Image: Nick Wilford
Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those early morning times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working, he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. 

You can visit Nick at his blog or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 29 September 2017

Interview: Holly Seddon

It's a brand new day which means it's time for a brand new blog post! Today I'm welcoming thriller author Holly Seddon to The Writing Greyhound for a chat about her novel Don't Close Your Eyes.

Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a British author, living in Amsterdam and I’ve had two novels published: Try Not to Breathe (2016) and Don’t Close Your Eyes, which has just come out. Before I was an author, I was a freelance writer and consultant. I have four kids, so I don’t have a lot of spare time but I love working out and cooking. And eating, mostly eating.
How did you first become interested in writing?
As soon as I could read. Reading was such an escape, such a friend that I wanted to extend that and live inside of it even more. I wrote little books when I was tiny and never really stopped, they just got longer.
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Image: Holly Seddon
Tell me about Don’t Close Your Eyes.
Don’t Close Your Eyes tells the story of Robin and Sarah, twin sisters who are chalk and cheese. In childhood, the actions of their parents had far-reaching consequences that they’re still living – and struggling – with today. Robin is trapped in her house, a new danger knocking at the door, while Sarah needs Robin to help her repair tears in her own family.
How do you get inspiration?
I get it everywhere, all the time. A little throwaway remark, a funny scene in the street, a news story, a historical cold case… I think writers are magpies, we grab little shiny things (ideas, quotes, experiences) and stash them away for later use.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
I didn’t realise I was writing a thriller the first time! I just found the premise of a girl in a long-term vegetative state interesting and enjoyed exploring the character of Alex Dale (the troubled journalist investigating her story). With Don’t Close Your Eyes, I knew very well I was writing a thriller and I loved playing with the expectations and ideas of what a thriller can be. But at the heart of everything I write is the character, that’s more important to me than anything.
What’s your writing process?
I start with a basic premise that can be summed up in a sentence. I’ll roll it around my head for a bit (I often get ideas while I’m working on a different book so I can’t do anything about them for a while). Then I’ll flesh out an outline of what might happen and who the characters are. Kind of a proof of concept to make sure there’s a whole book there. Sometimes there isn’t really a full novel, but it would make a good short story (that’s what happened with my Alex Dale Christmas story). 
But if there is a full novel there, I plan it all out in Scrivener chapter-by-chapter and then every day I write about 1,000 – 1,500 words, one scene at a time. When I reach the end, I edit and then send to my agent to see what she thinks… Then there’s a lot more editing!
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Hmm.When something’s not working and you have to ditch a character or a scene or even a whole point of view. Killing your darlings, it’s rough sometimes!
What do you love most about writing?
When you write a scene that you just know, in your gut, will grab people by the throat.
holly-seddon, author
Image: Holly Seddon
Which authors inspire you?
God, that’s so tricky. I love Kate Atkinson, she’s the queen.

Growing up I loved Douglas Coupland, Martin Amis and Peter Carey but I’m nothing like them in style. I recently read The Power by Naomi Alderman and the zeal and freshness that she injected into that book, wow.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
It’s a craft, keep at it. Nothing is wasted. And keep reading, read everything you can get your hands on.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
That’s so hard! I honestly don’t know if I have one, because – like favourite songs – it depends so much on my mood.

I tell you what actually, the book I loved the most as a kid was called The Railway Cat and Digby. The Railway Cat lives in the train station and basically works behind the scenes to get stuff done. He’s awesome, and he’s called Alfie. And my first son is called Alfie so it obviously had a very lasting effect on me.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I just want to get better all the time, I never want to regurgitate or dial it in. Someone once said to me that, if you’re clever, you can more or less rewrite the same book over and over. I cannot think of anything worse, for a reader or a writer. I want to be excited by everything I write because you work on each book for a good year or more; I want to love it at the start and the end!
What are your interests outside of the written word?
I love lifting weights. I love the reward of working to build a muscle or correct a weakness, purely by repetition and effort. It’s like science in action! I love cooking too (mostly for the eating). 
Living in the Netherlands, I really love getting on my bike and cycling along the canal by myself. Quiet time by myself is a novelty in my household! And I love a good TV drama, I’m currently waiting for all the episodes of the latest series of The Americans to rack up so we can binge them.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just sent my latest edited version of book three to my editor and am waiting to hear if it needs another go or if we’re moving it to the next stage of the process – copyediting.

I’m also in the early stages of drafting book four, which I’m obsessed with but can’t yet say anything about!
What are you reading at the moment?
So Happy It Hurts by Anneliese Mackintosh. I absolutely loved her first book, Any Other Mouth, so I’ve been very excited to get my hands on this.
Don't Close Your Eyes is available to buy now. For more information about Holly and her books, you can check out her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Event Review: NFL International Series - Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars

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Image: Lorna Holland
First things first, before I get into my review of the game, there's an important issue which needs to be addressed.

The Politics

Following former 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 2016 protests against racial inequality, particularly with regards to the US' police system, 'taking the knee' became a symbol of protest within the NFL. When more and more players started to follow Kaepernick's lead, current US President Donald Trump caught wind of the protest, and in typical Trump fashion, managed to twist what was formerly a peaceful protest and turn it into something that it was never meant to be about.

Trump decided that taking the knee is disrespectful, saying that players who chose to take the knee were disrespecting their national anthem, their flag, their country and those who died fighting for it. Irrespective of the facts and refusing to listen to the players themselves, he went on to say that, in a nutshell, any player who takes the knee should be sacked. As if that wasn't enough, he then urged the public to boycott both the league and teams who participated in the protest - something which, sadly, some of his followers appear to have taken to heart.

The Protest

In a combined show of defiance, teams, players and coaches across the NFL proudly stood together and took the knee before Sunday's games. All but one of the Steelers stayed in the locker room and refused to come out onto the field during the national anthem. Players, coaching staff and even team owners stood and knelt on the field, linked arms, and displayed a sense of unity that rose above the usual inter-team rivalries. Even across the pond at Wembley, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan came out and stood arm in arm with his players, conveying his message and showing his support. On Sunday, the NFL stood as one to defy Trump's incendiary, bigoted views and to support the real cause behind the movement.

To President Trump and those following his lead: it's about time you opened your eyes to the real issues facing your country at this moment in time. And let me tell you - football players exercising their right to a peaceful protest is certainly not one of them.

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

The Game

Now that we've got the politics out the way, on with the review and the real reason for this post.

My fourth NFL game and the first in the 2017 London International series, the Baltimore Ravens were visiting Wembley as guests to their hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars. London's adopted team were looking hot and feeling fresh, coming off the back of their recent run of good luck over here in the UK, yet the Ravens were still widely tipped to be the victors in this match-up.

Somehow, though, the Ravens didn't seem to have arrived by the time of kick-off. Maybe they were jet-lagged (despite reportedly crossing the pond by boat) or maybe they just weren't used to playing outside the US, because the Jaguars had them by the scruff of the neck from the get-go.

Featuring some outstanding Jags plays, passes and runs, by the end of the game, the home team had racked up an impressive 44 points. Compared to their opponent's measly 7, the Ravens' score came in the final stages of the game at the tail-end of the fourth quarter - too little, too late. In scenes similar to the 2015 International Series game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions, one team was easily able to overpower and dominate the other.

The Result

Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles had a fantastic game, but his Ravens counterpart, Joe Flacco, couldn't have had a more different game if he'd tried. Suffering from incomplete pass after incomplete pass, not to mention the humiliation of sacks and two interceptions, the Ravens just couldn't seem to hit their stride.

A comfortable win for the Jags leaves them 2-1 in their season so far, yet Baltimore's lacklustre performance also leaves them 2-1 heading into week four. Wembley may have been a walkover win for Jacksonville and a disappointment for the many excited Ravens fans who travelled especially for this game, but from Ravens coach John Harbaugh's mouth, we're unlikely to see a return trip from Baltimore again in the near future.

Did you see the game? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Spotlight: Wicked Takeover by Tina Donahue

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Image: Tina Donahue
She’s just inherited a tattoo parlour…and the hunk who comes with it.

Lauren’s in a helluva mess. Not only has she lost her corporate HR job, she’s just inherited Wicked Brand, a struggling West Palm Beach tattoo parlour…along with the virile dude who runs it. Lauren’s full-figured, sorta pretty, and wanting him badly. Dream on. She’s here to sell the place as quickly as possible for some much-needed cash and score a new position in the corporate world.

Dante’s sinfully hot with a killer smile and beautifully inked biceps. He sees the heat in Lauren’s eyes despite her conservative appearance, recognising the dynamite woman she could be if she’d just loosen up and have some wicked fun. Dominance and submission. Making love in a public place. Having her lush body always accessible to and ready for his.

Unwilling and unable to keep their hands to themselves, Lauren and Dante turn to carnal games and seduction. Until lust turns to surprising need and friendship to something deeper that might just change their futures.

Wicked Takeover is available to buy now.

About Tina Donahue

Tina-Donahue, author
Image: Tina Donahue
Tina Donahue is an international bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for both indie and traditional publishers. She's won Readers' Choice Awards, RWA awards - Holt Medallion and NEC, and won a Book of the Year award. Before penning romances, she worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.

To find out more about Tina and her books, you can visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Film Review: Kingsman The Golden Circle

kingsman, the-golden-circle, film, review

Having really enjoyed the first Kingsman film, The Secret Service, I was excited to learn about the upcoming sequel to the 2014 comedy spy flick. And it seems I wasn't the only one, as The Golden Circle has been highly anticipated by fans across the world ever since it was announced.

Following the long-awaited UK release last Wednesday, I went along to see the movie the following day. Filled with action, adventure, love, loss and plenty of humour, the film certainly didn't disappoint.

A Taste of the Action

The Golden Circle stars Taron Egerton reprising his central role as Eggsy, a down-and-out youngster turned super-spy after the events of the first film. Having found his footing as a suave young gentleman spy, this new Eggsy looks to be cool, confident, calm and collected - a far cry from the familiar Eggsy we recognise from The Secret Service.

Through a chain of events that lead to the majority of the film's stellar all-star cast getting killed off within the first half an hour, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) find themselves jetting off to the USA. Once there, they come into contact with Statesman, an independent intelligence agency basically operating as the American equivalent of Kingsman.

In a plot similar to that of the first film, the duo, accompanied by Statesman resources and agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) is tasked with the duty of saving the world by stopping twisted CEO-turned-villainess Poppy (Julianne Moore) from succeeding in her convoluted quest for world domination.

Have We Been Here Before?

However, the plot isn't the only similarity that Golden Circle holds to the original. Much of the humour remains, as do certain references harking back to moments from Secret Service. In fact, this film simply seems to build on the foundations and success of its predecessor, hoping to capitalise through a formula which has already proven to be so popular. Unfortunately, however, it felt as though this was also the film's downfall. The original was so great because it was a spoof of the spy genre, yet it still felt grounded and realistic enough to be relatable. In contrast, Golden Circle takes things to the extreme, welcoming even more unbelievable scenarios and some scenes which are frankly quite ridiculous. Even the opening action sequence seemed to lack that unique sparkle that seeped from the first film, which was a real shame.

But this isn't to say that the film was poor. It was good, at times great, but it was always going to be a challenge to live up to the original, something which, sadly, wasn't achieved.

Characters, Cameos and Compassion

Although the story was engaging and the humour fun (in all honesty, Elton John managed to steal the show with his brilliant comedic cameo role) it was really the characters that made the film a success. We all know and love our main characters, and ever since the trailer was released, it was widely debated how Harry (Colin Firth) was going to come back from the dead. Of course, avoiding spoilers, throughout the film we watched how Eggsy's relationship with Harry changed as his character grew, eventually ending with a beautiful scene which really goes to show just how far Eggsy has gone since we first met him at the beginning of Secret Service. It's sweet, it's poignant, and it fits.

Weighing in at a lengthy 2 hours and 21 minutes, there's no doubt that there is a lot of unnecessary set-up and a lot that could be cut from the film. However, at times that familiar charm we all fell in love with back in Secret Service returns, making it easy to overlook the flaws as we fall back into a world of larger-than-life villains, international jet-setting antics and our favourite gentlemen spies.

Have you seen the film? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Interview: Poppy Dolan

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I am so pleased to be kicking off the blog tour today with a warm welcome to Poppy Dolan on The Writing Greyhound! Poppy's here to chat about her life, her inspiration, and her novel The Woolly Hat Knitting Club.

After you've finished reading her exclusive author interview, don't forget to check out the other fantastic stops coming up soon on the blog tour!

Morning, Poppy! Could you start by telling me a little about yourself?
Hello! I’m Poppy, I’ve always been a big reader (even the illustrated children’s dictionary when I was a kid. Once a nerd, always a nerd). I’ve been writing on and off for about 10 years. 
How did you first become interested in writing? 
I suppose it’s natural that if there’s a skill you really love and admire in others, at some point you wonder if you could have a go. I was reading all these funny, surprising, romantic books and I decided to give it a try.
So what's The Woolly Hat Knitting Club all about?
It’s an uplifting, fun (I hope) story about finding real happiness, family loyalties and - you guessed it - knitting!
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 What’s the best thing about writing fiction? 
Being able to escape to your dream world when you’re really at a cafe table covered in toast crumbs.
How do you get inspiration? 
Sometimes song lyrics, sometimes a dilemma in the real world around me or sometimes something very personal to me - There’s More to Life Than Cupcakes was definitely about a phase of my own life.
What’s the best thing that you’ve managed to knit? 
Not to toot my own horn but I’m a badass knitter. Probably one of my favourite things I’ve made is a woolly Christmas wreath! I would also like to add that later, I spray painted my coffee table. Nothing escapes my crafty habits!
Do you think that it’s important for a story to have a happy ending? 
To me as an individual, it’s pretty important but I think even a sad ending can have a way to uplift you if there’s a lesson to learn or the prospect of hope on the horizon. But I am a sucker for a happy ending when it comes to my characters.
What do you love most about writing? 
Being playful, and writing first-kiss moments.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 
Don’t stop. Even if no-one is reading what you’re producing: if it matters to you, do it for you. I’m not saying you’ll end up selling a million (I definitely haven’t) but do it for the love and sometimes good things follow.
What are your other interests? 
Anything crafty, which is why this book was so much fun to write. And baking!
What are you reading at the moment? 
I just finished Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I really loved.
The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is available to buy now. For more about Poppy, don't forget to follow her on Twitter!

Have you ever tried your hand at knitting? Share your story in the comments below!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Benefits of Online Dating in Later Life

Image: Pixabay
Getting old is something that comes to all of us eventually, but by the time we get there, we are expected to have already sorted our lives out. Despite the sheer variety and diversity of experiences we are exposed to throughout life, for most people, the hallmark of a successful life remains the same as it has for centuries - a good job, marriage and children, leading to a comfortable retirement. But while this is the traditional approach, sometimes life just doesn't work out that way.

Sometimes it's hard to find the right person, or sometimes the right person is the one that got away. Sometimes you spend your life with someone only to find out that they're not the one for you; sometimes the right person is your biggest regret or most painful loss. Sometimes life just gets in the way of love.

The problem is, once you reach a certain age, it can be difficult to get back into the dating mindset. It's often said that dating is a young person's game and that dating as an older person is more daunting than exciting. However, this needn't be the case.

Not Just for the Young

Contrary to popular belief, there are many benefits of getting back into dating in later life. From better experience to knowing what you want out of both life and a potential relationship, dating as a mature person still has the power to give you butterflies.

Understandably, online dating sites may not be the first thing to spring to mind for older people looking for love, but they can be a great way for people of all ages to meet new people. Even better, as the demand for online dating is continually increasing, more and more sites are being set up to cater to specific locations and even the most niche personal tastes. From over 50s dating in Derbyshire to over 50s dating in Hertfordshire, there are plenty of ways for older people to meet like-minded people close to home.

The beauty of the new era of location-specific dating sites is that you only reach people who are close to you - no longer will you sign up to over 50s dating in Merseyside only to find a match with someone looking for over 50s dating in Bristol!

Banish Loneliness for Good

Of course, online dating may not be for everyone. Some members of a certain generation will understandably feel much less welcoming towards the technology behind over 50s dating in Cambridgeshire than a younger person would be, for example.

However, it's my belief that everyone should have the opportunity to fall in love and be loved in return. It's an amazing, unforgettable feeling - possibly one of the best in the world. And no matter whether you are young, old, or somewhere in between, there's nothing quite like the feeling you get when you first realise that you're in love.

At the end of the day, the message is simple - online dating isn't just for the young!

* This is a sponsored post.

What are your thoughts about online dating in later life? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Interview: Stephen Clark

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an author of thrilling political fiction? If so, you're in luck, as indie author Stephen Clark is here to tell you all about life as an author as he releases his novel Citizen Kill.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a former award-winning reporter who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington bureau of I grew up in the suburbs of Philly and I currently reside in North Jersey with my wife and son.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always had a passion for writing, from my journal entries as a kid to the church plays I wrote as a teenager to working as a journalist as an adult. I didn’t consider writing a novel until I left journalism behind. Then I wondered what took me so long.
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Image: Stephen Clark
Tell me about Citizen Kill.
Citizen Kill tells the story of a covert effort to finally end the War on Terror after the president loses her son in a devastating explosion. Her administration authorizes the launch of a CIA program that targets for assassination U.S. citizens suspected of radicalizing Muslims. Among the recruits is Justin Raines, a suspended operative determined to redeem himself after a botched assignment overseas. But when he is assigned to kill a mysterious Muslim educator that he believes is innocent, he grows disillusioned. Now he must find a way to prove her innocence and derail the program before they both are assassinated.
How do you get inspiration?
I was inspired by then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration in 2012 that it was constitutional for the government to kill U.S. citizens overseas without any judicial review if they were deemed a terrorist threat. Holder’s remarks came after a U.S. drone attack killed an American-born Muslim cleric in the Arabian Peninsula. Given my experience covering national politics at, I thought it would be fascinating to write a story that took that policy to its logical conclusion.
Writing political fiction must require a lot of research. How do you go about the research process?
Even with my experience covering politics, writing this book required extensive research. I voraciously devoured news reports on domestic terrorists, international terror groups and U.S. counterterrorism efforts (the FBI probably has a thick file on me), and CIA memoirs, including Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran. Although the character for the nation’s first female president was not based on Hillary Clinton, her memoir, Living History, provided me with a strong frame of reference for an ambitious woman living in the White House.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
The thrill, of course! Seriously though, when executed correctly, there’s no greater feeling in the world than to build suspense to an incredible climax and end a story on a satisfying note. Much easier said than done, however.
What’s your writing process?
I start with a basic outline of the story, including the cast of characters and what happens in each chapter. Then I flesh out the details as I research the characters and the story. Once I reach a minimum word count, I celebrate the completion of the first draft and prepare for the rewrites.
stephen-clark, author
Image: Stephen Clark
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Without question, rewriting is the hardest part. Maybe not the first or second rewrite. But after several rounds of retracing the same ground, examining identical passages line for line, it becomes a form of sadistic torture. As most of us know, rewriting is essential to producing our best work. But it’s also the leading cause of writer insanity.
Which authors inspire you?
That’s quite a long list that goes back years starting with Albert Camus and includes James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. In recent years, Gillian Flynn has inspired me to start reading psychological thrillers, a genre that I’m now obsessed with, like so many other readers.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Yes. Don’t bother wasting your time writing a novel for money, fame or recognition. Most books fail; most authors toil in obscurity, and the road to traditional publication is paved with rejection. If you want to write a novel, do it only if the passion is burning so deep that you have no other choice.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Again, that’s a long list that goes back years starting with The Stranger by Albert Camus. The only book I’ve read in recent memory, however, that I could not put down or stop thinking about from the first page would be Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To make a boatload of money, gain international fame and to be recognized as the voice of my generation. LOL. Just kidding. My main goal is to improve my craft with each book and entertain readers with thought-provoking and memorable stories.
What are you currently working on?
A psychological thriller centred on a deadly police shooting that sets the shooter on a collision course with the victim’s family.
What are you reading at the moment?
I just finished The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Next, I’ll be reading Storm Shelter by JL Delozier and The Green Reaper by Elizabeth Fournier, both fellow label mates.
Citizen Kill is available to buy now. For more information about Stephen and his work, check out his website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

How Does a Writer Undertake the Research Process?

blog-tour, the-red-thread, dawn-farnham

The journey of every novel begins somewhere. For me, it was a photograph on the wall of a Singapore museum where I was a guide. Two young Chinese people - one a man, the other a woman - were getting married in Singapore dressed in the elaborate costumes of China’s Qing Dynasty which had disappeared three decades before.

Through my training programme with the Friends of the Museums of Singapore, I had learned that for a century, a young Chinese coolie fresh off the boat could be selected (if he was intelligent and could speak a southern Chinese dialect, read and write Chinese script) to marry the daughter of a rich local merchant who had lost all those attributes over the centuries of foreign life and now spoke a local patois called Baba Malay and needed fresh blood to invigorate his family and reconnect to a China long forgotten by their Peranakan (locally-born) Chinese families spread throughout Southeast Asia.

Who could not be intrigued? She and he, the two in the photograph, looked entirely the same, yet for decades these two people would have been completely different. He would not have been able to speak to her, nor she to him. He would not have understood anything of her culture, nor she his. And why would a young, clever man not have jumped at such a marriage? For him, instant status and wealth, a docile wife and a new prosperous life. All too tempting, a way out of poverty and misery in this hot and alien British land.

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Image: Dawn Farnham / Faye Rogers PR
All right, I was hooked. So where to go from there? I needed conflict for the Chinese hero. I needed an impossible love affair which would supply tension for the Chinese man and his true love, a Scottish woman, fresh off the boat who meet long before these arrangements are made; who meet the night they both arrive, from the distant ends of the earth on an English schooner and a Chinese junk.

My research then began in earnest. I spent hours in the National Library of Singapore, researching the coolie trade, prostitution, trade practices in early Singapore, triads, opium farms, Peranakan customs and culture. I read all the first-hand historical accounts of the colonial government of the time. I found out what colonial women wore in the 1830s and how they did their hair.

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Image: Dawn Farnham / Faye Rogers PR
In the National Archive of Singapore, I found the first map of the town drawn up in 1824 by George Coleman, the colony’s architect. Singapore’s streets in the Civic District haven’t changed at all and I could walk that map today. Through old paintings of the town, I discovered George had a Dutch/Armenian mistress and he had built her a beautiful house.

There is a lot of reading, but most of it gets left out of course Only the fascinating details which give colour to the story remain in the final edit, but most historical novelists do masses of this kind of research. It is actually part of the great pleasure of writing historical novels.

Dawn Farnham is the author of The Straits Quartet as well as numerous short stories, plays and children’s books. A former long-term resident of Singapore, Dawn now calls Perth, Australia, her home. Learn more about Dawn on her website. The Red Thread is available to buy now. 

Did you know how much research goes into writing historical fiction? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Interview: Layton Green

I'm sure you will all be happy to join me in welcoming author Layton Green to the blog today for a chat about his life, his writing and his recently released novel The Spirit Mage.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
Well, I’m currently a full-time writer, but I’ve had a few jobs along the way. I attended law school in New Orleans and was a practising attorney for the better part of a decade. Before that, I was an intern for the United Nations, an ESL teacher in Central America, a bartender in London, a seller of cheap knives on the streets of Brixton, a door to door phone book deliverer in Florida, and the list goes downhill from there.
How did you first become interested in writing?
A little bit by accident. While I was working as an attorney, I set out to write a novel that I felt I needed to write. Not because I was a novelist (I had never written a word of fiction, outside of my legal briefs), but because I had a story I wanted to tell. During the process of fumbling through that first novel, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that writing novels was what I had to do with my life.
Tell me about The Brothers Three.

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Image: Layton Green
I started with the idea of ‘what do I really want to read?’ I love epic fantasy, I love fantasy novels that transport characters from our world to another world, and I also love urban fantasy. I decided to meld all three, and the world building - the alternate-reality New Orleans - just sort of took off. After the brothers reach the new world and team up with a dangerous adventuress and her band of mercenaries, The Brothers Three follows a classic quest motif, a journey to an abandoned keep, and it’s the first in the series (The Blackwood Saga). There will be five in total.
How do you get inspiration?
I’ve never really had a problem with that. Never short on ideas, never had writer’s block. Whether the ideas and words are good ones, well, that’s much more complicated! That said, I often stumble on a thorny plot point or character issue, and I find that traveling, or even driving a long distance in my car, helps see me through.
What draws you to writing fantasy?
It was my first love as a reader, and I will always love the genre. It’s hard (impossible?) to be a writer of a certain genre without being a super-fan. As a reader, I love the imagination involved, and as a writer, yeah, I love stretching my imagination to the limits. The battle scenes are also fun because of all the various magic and weaponry involved. One can get a lot more creative than with a shootout!
layton-green, author
Image: Layton Green
Do you find it hard to avoid common stereotypes of the genre whilst writing fantasy?
It is a struggle. It’s risky to eschew them entirely, however, because readers expect certain stereotypes, or tropes, of the genre. The trick is to use them in a novel manner, which I’ve tried hard to do.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The first fourth of a book, especially the first book in a series. You have to turn an idea into a fully-fledged reality, invent characters that come to life on the page, and jumpstart an airtight plot. Once the first fourth is done, it’s still a mental challenge to finish, but I find that the initial section is the hardest.
Which authors inspire you?
That’s a very, very long list. Here’s a few on the fantasy side: Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, R.A. Salvatore, China Miéville, Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, Ursula K. LeGuin, Joel Rosenberg, Madeleine L’Engle, Roger Zelazny, and Lloyd Alexander.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
In terms of craft, read as much as you can, write every day, and hire a great editor early on (regardless of whether you plan to self publish or seek out a publisher).
What are you reading at the moment?
The Passage by Justin Cronin and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Donaldson.
The Brothers Three is available to buy now. For more information about Layton and his work, you can visit his website.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

How Online Dating has Widened the Pool of Potential Partners

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Image: Lorna Holland
In the past, it would be usual to meet your partner at the pub, while out with friends, or through work or possibly a mutual friend. Of course, these are all still great, perfectly valid ways to meet new people, but in today's digital environment, there is a new kid on the block - online dating.

Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of online dating, there are new dating sites springing up all over the place. From a Southampton dating site to an Aberdeen dating site, there are local, specialist and niche sites to cater to every individual taste and personal preference.

It's a Match

Of course, the influx of dating sites has meant that there are now more ways than ever for people to get themselves noticed and get put in front of the right people. Almost like applying for a coveted new job, the best dating sites will analyse each individual's profile before matching them with similar people.

But does this take all the fun out of dating?

Personally, I think it doesn't. There is no question that online dating has made the whole concept of dating far easier - from providing quick ways to meet new people to helping the shy (or lazy) people among us easily put themselves out there, finding a date has never been easier - in theory, at least.

Nowadays, we can easily hop onto our preferred local app or website and be bombarded with a flood of potential partners within mere seconds. For example, a Shropshire dating site may seem like a particularly niche requirement, but for those looking for a quick and easy way to meet like-minded people within their local area, it can be a goldmine.

New Possibilities

This increased ease and convenience has also meant that people are getting to know others outside of their usual area. Depending on the distance you are prepared to go to meet your soulmate, it is entirely possible that users of a Norfolk dating site could encounter compatible matches on a Bedfordshire dating site. After all, when it comes to matters of the heart, distance means nothing.

From a personal point of view, online dating has opened my eyes to the wealth of possibilities waiting outside of my usual day-to-day life. Over the years, I've tried long-distance relationships and dating guys outside of my local area (get used to spending all your money on travel costs!), both of which opened me up to brand new ideas from an entirely different perspective. Having said that, I'm now perfectly content settling down with a man from the next town over - I guess I've done my share of fishing. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with ending up back in my home pond.

* This is a sponsored post.

Have you got any online dating stories? Share them with me in the comments below!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Interview: George Bachman

Today author George Bachman is stopping by the blog for a quick chat. Interested? Read on to find out more!

How did you first become interested in writing?
I've been interested in writing for as long as I can remember. There's never been a time when literature and technology weren't twin loves.
Tell me about Spellcaster.
Spellcaster is a fantasy set in an alternate fin de siècle England. It revolves around Christine, a socialite plagued by a debilitating illness and the paranormal visions that cause them. During the London Season her older sister Allie, the family heir, seeks a husband among the titled but impoverished Englishmen.  
spellcaster, george-bachman, book, cover
Image: George Bachman
Meanwhile, Christine searches England's occult underground for answers. The only witch who can help is another impoverished aristocrat, Lady Kinloss whose social standing and finances have taken a hit because of a scandalous affair with Lord Serton. Unfortunately for Christine, Kinloss won't help her unless Christine cajoles Allie into marrying Serton so that the illicit pair can share Allie's dowry and inheritance. Christine must choose between betraying Allie and saving her own life.
What draws you to writing fantasy?
Reality has too many rules to abide by. I love creating new worlds and then trying to persuade my readers of their verisimilitude.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Dialogue. Persuasive dialogue is the single most difficult part of the whole business.
Which authors inspire you?
It varies from story to story, but for this book: Mark Helprin, John Crowley, and Edith Wharton were the chief inspirations.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My Riverdale Shakespeare or my annotated Alice books. For single works, this week it's Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Chamber.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
None beyond being read and hopefully appreciated.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Independent cinema, particularly from Asia.
What are you reading at the moment?
Michael Shea's The Autopsy and Other Tales.
Spellcaster is available to buy now. For more about George and his writing, you can visit him on Facebook.

Will you be reading Spellcaster? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Interview: Jeannie Zokan

This morning, I am pleased to welcome indie author Jeannie Zokan to the blog for a quick chat. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the read!

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Colombia, South America, where I was most often found reading library books from the American school I attended. My love of books led me to study Library Science at Baylor University, then to attend The George Washington University in Washington, DC. I now live in Florida, ten minutes from the beach, with my husband, two teenage daughters, two dachshunds, and one black cat.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’d say that reading led to a desire to write. I’d find myself narrating the events of my life as if I were one of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, or in a Beverly Cleary story. I filled many diaries, burned a few, wrote stories and poetry, circling ever nearer to writing my first novel, which is about a Vespa-driving waitress with a ticking cat whose manuscript comes to life!
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Image: Jeannie Zokan
Tell me about The Existence of Pity.
Sixteen-year-old Josie Wales is growing up in a lush valley in the Andes mountains where her family is mostly isolated from the turbulence brewing in 1976 Colombia. As the daughter of missionaries, Josie feels torn between their beliefs and the need to choose for herself. She soon begins to hide things from her parents, like her new boyfriend and her explorations into different religions. Josie soon discovers her parents’ secrets are far more insidious than her own.
How do you get inspiration?
I was inspired to write this novel by the many people who asked me, “What was it like, growing in Colombia?” There was so much to tell, I decided to write a book about the experience.

I also wrote this book for myself. It seemed I would never be in Colombia again; see the beautiful mountains, eat the delicious fruits and breads, or laugh with the friendly people. Writing this book was a trip down memory lane for me. Just the setting, mind you. The things that happen to Josie didn’t happen to me!
What’s your writing process?
NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month, the online writing program started by Chris Baty, gave me the tools to write my novel. Setting life aside for one month to write a 50,000-word novel worked for me. I wrote my first NaNo novel in November of 2008, but The Existence of Pity was written in 2010. And what took one month to write took five years to edit!
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Trusting that process. Right now I am working on the sequel to The Existence of Pity, and it will be very different from its predecessor. This sequel is what I have in me to write, though, and I have to believe it’s what I’m supposed to be writing. In the past, I’ve chosen writing based on what I thought people wanted to read, and it didn’t work. Those projects felt hollow. The opening scene to the sequel came to me – Josie standing in front of an apartment building on a cold February night – and the story took off from there. Not to worry, though. There will be flashbacks to the years I will be skipping!
jeannie-zokan, author
Image: Jeannie Zokan
What do you love most about writing?
It depends on the day. Some days I love the rituals, the music that immerses me in my writing, the cup of coffee that encourages me, the computer games I like to play that settle me into the right frame of mind, the pictures around my desk that spur me on. I may not get much writing done, but I’m happy to be where I am, and the work I’m doing is on a deeper level.

Other days, I love the ideas as they flow, and I’m typing as fast as I can to keep up with my characters’ conversations. 
Then there are days when I’m immersed in the process of editing. I love printing out a chapter and reading it closely, asking myself what it was I meant to say in a certain scene. Or I’ll work with a critique group. I write to make connections with others, and the best way I’ve found to make those connections is to sit around a table for a few hours every week and talk about writing.
Which authors inspire you?
The Existence of Pity was very much inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. She gave me the courage to write what was inside me to write. But my all-time favourite author, the one who turned my world upside down was Douglas Adams. I HAD to write after I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I couldn’t really tell you why. Something about the clever and funny flow of his words, his surprising and amusing characters, their mad antics, it all is just such a delight. I want to delight people like he does!
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Stop wasting time. You’re going to write, it will happen, so you may as well get going. Put your thoughts on paper, no matter how messy. Trust me, ideas about how to clear up your writing will appear to you. But they can only show up after you’ve started. 
In order to move to the next level, you have to make your way through this one, so again, stop wasting time! And of course, I’m talking to myself on that one...
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My greatest ambition is to know my work has made a difference in someone’s life. It’s to have someone thank me for writing my books. Sure, I think about being a best-selling, award-winning author whose books have been turned into movies.

But I’m happy right now, with my level of success. Someone recognized me at the local post office; there are over fifty reviews on Amazon for my book; I’m a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Women’s Fiction. Oh, and someone is selling a used copy of my book on for $45.98! It’s only in acceptable condition, too. Did they underline favourite passages? Dog-ear pages?

Best of all, I’m being interviewed for “The Writing Greyhound! How fun is that?
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
My husband, daughters, and I love to stay active. We bike-ride and exercise at a local gym. I take yoga classes and play tennis with a dear group of friends. After our matches, we go out to lunch, which may be my favourite part. Come to think of it, lunch with friends should be considered one of my interests, especially if we are discussing writing!
What are you reading at the moment?
I am listening to War and Peace on CD. I’m doing it to honour my mother, who read it when I was a child. She has Alzheimer’s now and often doesn’t know who I am. It comforts me to connect with her as I listen to the epic saga, and it’s more enjoyable than I expected!
The Existence of Pity is available to buy now. To find out more about Jeannie and her writing, you can visit her website.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Secrets You Keep by Kate White

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You’ve lost your memory. A woman has been murdered. Your husband is keeping secrets. How do you know who to trust?

Months after a being involved in a terrible car crash, Bryn Harper is physically healed but her emotional scars remain raw. She has no memory of the accident and is plagued with bad dreams.

When Bryn and her husband, Guy, host a dinner party Bryn swears money has been stolen while Guy seems unfazed. Bryn confronts the caterer that night and is horrified to discover the woman’s brutally slain body the next day.

As the case is investigated, Bryn is dragged into a fresh nightmare and learns that Guy is keeping things from her. Another murder occurs and Bryn realises the danger is getting ever closer to home. How well does Bryn really know the man she loves?

For fans of psychological suspense and compulsive mysteries, don’t miss this tense and page-turning novel. Before I Go to Sleep meets The Husband’s Secret.

The Secrets You Keep is available to buy now. 

About Kate White

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Image: Kate White / Canelo
Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve works of fiction: seven Bailey Weggins mysteries and five stand-alone psychological thrillers, including most recently, The Secrets You Keep. For fourteen years she was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and though she loved the job (and the Cosmo beauty closet!), she decided to leave in late 2013 to concentrate on being a full-time author and speaker.

For more information about Kate and her writing, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Social Conventions Debunked: The Stag Do

Image: Flickr / vmiramontes
The stag do and the hen do - two of the main components of the wedding, and that's before the big day even arrives!

Stag dos have been around for many years, taking various forms according to different cultures and customs, traditions among friends or family members, and, of course, the groom's personal preferences. Put simply, the event is an excuse for good friends and close family members to get together, get drunk, and have a bit of fun before the seriousness of the wedding really kicks in.

Nowadays, with more and more couples meeting online, often through localised dating apps and websites from a Derbyshire dating site to a Dorset dating site, it is only natural that the phenomenon of the stag do will have changed accordingly.

According to Tradition

In the past, a man's stag do was a much more humble affair than the often overly lavish and extravagant occasions of today. It used to be a time for a group of close friends to take the groom-to-be for his last evening out with friends before getting hitched - a time for drinking and reminiscing, but also a time for celebration. Often, the stag night would take place on the evening before the wedding day; a great way to get the groom out of the house and away from getting under the bride's feet as she put the finishing touches to the big day!

But of course, as people's lifestyles and spending habits shifted over time, the stag do also began to change shape. Perhaps after realising that more and more grooms were saying their vows with a massive hangover, the stag do got changed to a couple of weeks (or longer) before the actual wedding. It also began to change into a longer occasion, a stag day or weekend, with many groups taking the opportunity to travel abroad or to the city and include various activities (apart from just drinking) into the agenda.

While all this may seem like great fun, it can also prove to be expensive. In today's society, many younger people struggle financially and have to save up for important life events like weddings, houses, or starting a family. As a result, this trend towards increasingly lavish stag dos can be a bit of a problem, especially for those on a strict budget.

An Enjoyable Occasion?

Of course, all this isn't to say that guys out on a stag do shouldn't be allowed to have fun. The stag do should be all about fun - celebrating family and friends and looking ahead to the groom's future as a married man. And as a result, you have to wonder whether the modern trend of stag dos is really about this. Is the simpler nature of the more traditional stag night a better way to go?

At the end of the day, it should really be about what works best for the groom and his chosen group of friends and family. Understandably, since no two people are the same, everyone will have different preferences, which is why it is great that there is now so much variety when it comes to organising a stag do.

Did the happy couple meet in a local bar or on a Tayside dating website? The real beauty of dating in the modern world comes from variety and choice - and today's men are lucky to have such a wide range of choices available for their stag do.

Are you searching for a recipe for the perfect stag do? Personality and individuality are undeniably the key here. With as much variety as a Suffolk dating site compared to a Sheffield dating site, the stag do is one social convention that looks firmly set to stay ensconced in the institution of marriage.

* This is a sponsored post.

What are your thoughts on stag dos? Do you have any funny stag do stories? Share them in the comments below!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Poetry Block: Here Comes the Sun by Katie Lewington

It's been a little while, but today I am pleased to be able to herald a return of TWG's Poetry Block feature! Today, young poet Katie Lewington is here to talk all about her work, discuss her latest travel poetry collection Here Comes the Sun, and share an exclusive sample poem titled 'It is Getting Colder'.

It is Getting Colder

bell rings
from the clock tower
always reminds me of
October, and autumn
horror films and drizzle
coat done to my chin
and Thriller
i am late.
crunch goes the
leaves soon to
be autumn.

About Here Comes the Sun

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Image: Katie Lewington
Grab a drink, and your shades, and read Here Comes the Sun; travel poetry written by Katie Lewington. Experience the thrill of summer, and travel with me through Europe, without needing to move from your seat, standing in airport baggage queues, cobbled streets, sandy beaches, and tourist shops.

Raw and real are the words often used to describe Katie Lewington's work. Here Comes the Sun uses simple language in the poems that were written whilst travelling in the summer of '16. Some of the poems make good use of brevity, while others, such as 'Wi-Fi', are written in more of a prose style. There is contemplation among the hilarity as the seasons change, summer turns to winter, and the nights become colder.

Here Comes the Sun is available to buy now.

About Katie Lewington

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Image: Katie Lewington
Katie Lewington wrote her first poem aged 16 - even though, after analysing a poem for her hellish English GCSE, she vowed she would have nothing more to do with poetry. She has now self-published a number of books, as well as having poetry published in places such as Ghost City Review, Tuck magazine,, Pink Litter, and Horror Sleaze Trash. She is passionate about helping independent authors find the best audience for their work.

To find out more about Katie and her work, you can visit her website or alternatively, check out her Instagram.

Are you a poet and would like to be featured in the next edition of Poetry Block? Get in touch if you are interested!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Childhood Memories: Like Riding a Bike?

Image: Flickr / tejvan
Bikes are one of those things which are just synonymous with childhood. It may not always be an immediately obvious link, but when you stop and take the time to think about it, I can pretty much guarantee that you will start recalling some bike-related memories from days long gone. From learning to ride a bike to the freedom it represents, cycling can represent so much more than just being a hobby or a casual sport.

Personally, like everyone else, my first forays into cycling began with learning how to ride a bike. Some people take to it like a duck to water... from what my parents have told me, I took to it more like an extremely wobbly fish to land. I was needy, I was scared, I refused to let my parents remove my stabilisers for weeks and I crashed into our neighbour's jagged stone front wall more often than I'd like to remember - I never did have particularly great balance.

Learning to Ride

However, once I did eventually learn to ride my bike, things went swimmingly. I used to head out on bike rides around our village with my brother and a small group of my school friends in the evenings and at weekends. Like countless kids before us, we found it was a great way to get outside, explore and do our own thing away from the confines of our homes. 

I remember my brother collecting sticks in the spinney to bring home for our annual Firework's Night bonfire, and the time he was trying to race me down a hill in the park, ran over a stone, lost control and went face-first over his handlebars. I remember my younger cousin trying to dig a hole in the soft muddy ground using only pedal power and his rear bike wheel. I remember family excursions and time spent traversing numerous New Forest trails. I remember my first bike, with tassels on the handlebars and a doll-size baby seat on the back; my second bike was a far cooler turquoise-framed model. 

Growing Up

As I grew older and my spare time grew less and less, my bike began to get neglected. It sat in my parent's garage for many years, gathering dust, until I grew too tall to be able to ride it. I might have passed it on, but for all I know, it's still hidden in there somewhere, a long-lost relic with tales to tell of a time which is now long gone.

Even though I haven't ridden a bike for a few years now, sometimes I do wish I'd had the thought to keep it up. Looking back on these memories has provided me with a new insight into the worth that cycling had on my childhood years, and I think it is something that many of you are likely to feel similarly about. 

Sometimes I see people completing all these crazy cycling routes and challenges and it causes me to stop and think about my own cycling journey. I have thought about purchasing a new bike and trying to get back into it, but aside from a lack of time, one of the main things that put me off is the cost. After all, in order to get the most out of the sport, you need to ensure you have the proper kit and equipment - something which doesn't come cheap. Luckily, this problem was solved when I heard about Bike Discounts UK - the perfect way to get premium cycling gear at affordable prices. You never know... one of these days you might just catch a sight of me biking out and about yet.

* This is a sponsored post.

Do you have any childhood cycling memories? Share your favourites with me in the comments below!