Tuesday 31 October 2017

Money Saving Tips for the Festive Season


AD* | It doesn't seem like more than five minutes since we were basking in the warm glow of summer (or as warm as the British summer gets, anyway) but believe it or not, the festive season is almost upon us once again. While the thought of trees and decorations, cosy jumpers and nights in watching films with your loved ones might fill you with happy memories and anticipation, there's always one thing that can spoil your Christmas - the dreaded festive pinch.

With seasonal spending seeming to be constantly on the rise, it's no surprise that the demand for ever more lavish displays of gifts and decorations are fast becoming the norm. However, it isn't necessary to break the bank to guarantee a great Christmas - in fact, if you control your spending, you're probably even going to have a more carefree, relaxed time than if you are constantly worrying about your bank balance and those dreaded January credit card bills!

To help you cut back on your spending and reduce costs this Christmas, here are some of my top money saving tips to help you get through the festive season without the need for financial worries.
  • Make a budget and stick to it. Identify everyone you need to buy for, those you'd like to buy for, and those who will just need a card. If you are really worried about your budget, you can then cut down by focusing only on the essential must-buy list. Establish your overall gift budget and then apportion this between each recipient to ensure you don't go overboard on the spending
  • Start early. It may only be Halloween, but the big day will be here before you know it. Make sure you're prepared (and the credit card bill is split over several months) by starting your preparations in plenty of time. Not only will it help your budget, it will also help you feel less stressed as the 25th approaches!
  • Take advantage of special offers and seasonal promotions. 3 for 2, buy one get one free, Black Friday sales and reduced prices - all of these festive cutbacks are your ticket to a cheaper Christmas. Free samples can also help you ensure you are getting the right gift for the right person at the right price so there won't be any need for tears on Christmas morning
  • If you are planning to travel over the festive period, book your tickets well in advance. Many rail companies offer reduced prices for early bookings, so be sure to get in and get organised earlier rather than later
  • Use loyalty cards and cashback sites. There are many options out there, but when used correctly, these can be a real benefit to your Christmas shopping experience and help you get more for your money
  • Don't be a brand snob. Not just with gifts, but with food, decorations, party outfits and more - often, high street alternatives prove to be just as good (if not better) as their luxury counterparts, so be sure to shop around before settling on your purchases
* This is a sponsored post

What are your best tips for saving money at Christmas? Share them in the comments below!

Monday 30 October 2017

Reading Round-Up: September/October 2017

woolly-hat-knitting-club, book, blogger

Happy Halloween! Winter is on the horizon and we all know what the colder months mean - more time for reading! With this in mind, it's also time for the penultimate reading round-up of 2017.

If you missed the last edition, don't forget to catch up here.

What is reading round-up?

Reading round-up is a simple way for me to keep track of everything book-related and a fun way to show my readers what I've been reading over the last few months!

Out are the books I've read in September and October.

In are the books I've acquired during that time.

And wishlist are the books I've found out about and want to buy but haven't managed to get my hands on yet!

  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
  • The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  • In a Cottage, In a Wood by Cass Green
  • Christmas at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn
  • Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir
  • Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
  • Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
  • The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley
  • The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase #3) by Rick Riordan
  • What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi 
  • The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien
  • The Hourglass by Tracy Rees
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan
  • The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan
What have you been reading recently? Have you read a book I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday 28 October 2017

Interview: Charlie Laidlaw

It's time for another interview here on The Writing Greyhound! Today, I'm pleased to welcome author Charlie Laidlaw to TWG for a chat about Scotland, fiction writing and his novel The Things We Learn When We're Dead.

Firstly, tell me a little about your background.
After a number of temporary jobs, I started work as a newspaper reporter, which was all I ever really wanted to do. That journey took me from Glasgow to London. 
However, out of the blue, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence and, stupidly, I accepted their kind offer. It took me away from what I loved – and was good at – and put me in a world that was badly paid and which I didn’t much enjoy. In any case, it was dull and I don’t like vodka martini. 
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and that’s what I’m still doing. Of much greater importance, I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian. And that’s about it.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I think that virtually everyone who writes has always been interested in writing. Maybe our brains are wired differently, I don’t know. It’s been a compulsion since I was small. I wrote my first novel at about fifteen – and burned it shortly afterwards. (The world is a better place for having done that).
the-things-we-learn-when-we're-dead, charlie-laidlaw, book

Tell me about The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.
My current book, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, is a modern fairytale of love and loss. It’s about the subtle ways in which we change, and how the small decisions that we make can have profound and unintended consequences. 
On one level, the book is a simple story of a young woman’s life. But, for those readers who want to make the connection, The Things We Learn is also a retelling of The Wizard of Oz: how a young woman in ultimately tragic circumstances comes to reassess her life and find a new beginning. 
It’s a meditation on memory, and how we can look back and make decisions that we only realise, maybe many years later, have taken us in directions we couldn’t have foretold. But it’s a book also about second chances.
How do you get inspiration?
I don’t know the answer to that. The inspiration for this book came to me on a train out of Edinburgh which, I suppose, is apt because Edinburgh is the only city in the world to have named its main railway station after a book.
The book is set in Scotland – was it hard to write with such a strong setting in mind?
I’m not sure that Scotland is any more a strong setting than anywhere else. For me, living in Scotland, it was a natural place to set it. I think it helps if you set a book in a place you know well: it helps to ground the book and give it authenticity. (The book is also set in Heaven which, being still alive, was a little harder to imagine!)
Did you find the process of reworking a classic tale difficult? 
It’s not really a reworking of the Oz story, merely a reworking of an old refrain: a young woman forced to re-examine her life and discover that “there’s no place like home.” In that sense, the Emerald City is as much a mental construct as a real place. It’s a storyline that’s been written over and over again, by Shakespeare and many others – I merely decided to give a bit of recognition to L. Frank Baum who, perhaps, did it best.
charlie-laidlaw, author

What’s your writing process?
Pretend to write for much of the time. Then decide to think about writing. Then decide that I have to do other things. Then write in a frenzy when deadlines are fast approaching. It’s probably a really stupid approach, but it works for me.
Which authors inspire you?
Too many to mention. Hemingway and Fay Weldon were early influences. Joanne Harris has to be my favourite author. Ah, and special mention to Maggie O’Farrell.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read! If you don’t read and absorb all that wisdom, you can’t write. Simples.
What’s your all-time favourite book? 
Probably After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell or One Day by David Nicholls. I’m a sucker for contemporary literary fiction.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Win a Nobel Prize and earn a zillion pounds. But I’m open to suggestions and suffer disappointment easily.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
It’s a terrible thing to admit, but writing and reading take up much of my time. Working for a living is also a ghastly distraction. Otherwise, I’d do a lot more travelling.
What are you currently working on?
It’s called Darker Matters and is an oblique comedy about the unexpected consequences of celebrity. It’s a poignant book: a difficult story told, I hope, with humour and hope. (I like it anyway). It’s due to be published next year.
What are you reading at the moment?
Hot Mess by Lucy Vine. Thoroughly recommended!
The Things We Learn When We're Dead is available to buy now. For more about Charlie and his books, visit his website.

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

Thursday 26 October 2017

Grab a Budget-Friendly Bouquet this Autumn

home-bargains-flowers, bouquet

AD* | With the temperatures plummeting and the nights drawing in, this time of year can often feel dull, grey and gloomy. Even when you're all cosied up at home, it's all too easy to find yourself drifting off and dreaming of glorious summer afternoons and bright spring mornings.

At times like these, what you need is simple - a fresh new splash of colour and inspiration to brighten up your home!

I'm not exactly the handiest gal around the house, so when it comes to home updates, I prefer to give my room a makeover with small and subtle yet highly effective touches. And, unsurprisingly, one of my favourite quick and easy solutions to solve the problem of a dreary room is to add a beautiful bunch of flowers.

home-bargains-flowers, bouquet

Anyone who knows me will know that my desk is rarely seen without a bouquet sitting in pride of place for all to see. From beautiful floral displays and arrangements to gorgeous roses from my other half, flowers have slowly become a staple feature of my writing space.

But while they look great and smell amazing, keeping my vase constantly filled with a fresh bunch of flowers is definitely not a cheap task. Even with the sweet roses from my boyfriend, good-quality blooms are expensive - all the more so if you want an original variety of seasonal flowers.

So when I found out that everyone's favourite budget store started doing an exclusive range of bouquets and flower arrangements, I was over the moon. Home Bargains are best known for their wide array of affordable products, so I was interested to see how their brand-new flower service checked out.

Home Bargains kindly agreed to send me a bouquet so I could see their flowers first-hand for myself, and as I sit here typing with the beautiful Pastel Paradise bouquet by my side, I think it's pretty safe to say that this new range is a surefire hit.

home-bargains-flowers, bouquet

The bright colours are the perfect antidote to the dull weather we've been experiencing recently, and although the pastel hues aren't your typical autumnal colours, as it happens, they do make an ideal match for the room's colour scheme.

Arriving securely packaged and undamaged, the bouquet was wrapped and tied with style - if I had received these as a gift, I would have had no idea that they were from Home Bargains. In addition, the lovely folks over at Home Bargains also included a lovely vase for me to use, which is the perfect size and shape to display my bouquet to its very best!

With plenty of fantastic bouquets, gift ideas and seasonal flowers on offer from Home Bargains Flowers, there's no need to break the bank to brighten up your home this autumn!

* I received a bouquet in exchange for an honest review 

Do you like to keep flowers around your home? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Interview: Jessica Koch

so-near-the-horizon, jessica-koch, book

Today, I'm pleased to be able to bring you an exciting interview with indie author Jessica Koch, celebrating the release of her novel So Near the Horizon.

How did writing the book come about? 
It was actually a coincidence that I wrote the book. It rather served as a means to process experiences. It was not my aim to become a writer. After sending it to five different literary agents and receiving four positive answers, I started to think about creating a book out of it.
How did you first become interested in writing?
In high school, I was interested in writing essays and short stories. Actually becoming a writer, though, never originally crossed my mind.
so-near-the-horizon, jessica-koch, book

Tell me about So Near the Horizon.
The novel deals with a very deep love story. It is a story about trust, courage, pain, despair and the strength to let go.
How did you go about the translation process?
My agent arranged the translation. Two native speakers did the translation and the editing part. Now we will just see how things develop.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The lack of sleep. I only write at night when everyone else is asleep.
jessica-koch, author

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Many people ask me how my books became so successful. There is no such formula for success. Just do it. Believe in it and do not give up. There is actually one saying which motivates me to show other people that anything is possible: 'When someone tells you it can’t be done, it’s more a reflection of their limitations, not yours.' 
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I like riding and running. Most of my free time I spend with my son - well, what's left of my free time, anyway!  
What are you currently working on?
My last book (in German: Die Endlichkeit des Augenblicks) was published in June. Right now, I am focusing on the publication of So Near the Horizon in the US.
What are you reading at the moment?
The last book I read was Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for reading.
So Near the Horizon is available to buy now.

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

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Why Should You Be Embracing Ethical Fashion?

no-blue-no-green, tee-shirt, living-life-our-way, style

AD* | Saving the planet, going green, becoming more eco-friendly - these are all things we've heard before. But while you might think you're doing good for the environment by recycling and turning the tap off while brushing your teeth, have you thought about the impact your wardrobe could be having on the planet?

Granted, this might well seem like a little bit of an over-reaction. After all, just how bad an impact can a bunch of clothes have, right? Well, as it happens, quite a bit, in fact. With the continually increasing rise of the Western throwaway consumerist culture, many of us buy cheap, poor-quality clothing items in bulk, barely wear them, then chuck them out soon after to be replaced with next season's models. It's wasteful, it's unnecessary, and it's got to stop.

So, how can you make your wardrobe more eco-friendly?

Many people swear by the trend of the capsule wardrobe, where you dress using only a few carefully-selected key pieces. Of course, sticking to a strict number might not work for some, but the idea is one which can be applied universally. Instead of buying ten budget shirts which are likely to fall apart after a few washes, why not spend your money wisely and invest in one higher-quality piece that is practical, stylish, and you can wear over and over again. Less waste, more care, and a slimmer wardrobe - what's not to love?

On my recent quest for ethical fashion, I came across many shops and brands claiming to sell eco-friendly clothing. However, there was one small business which really stood out to me - the online clothing store called Living Life Our Way.

This is a sustainable clothing range with a difference, offering charity pieces, clothing for all the family and the beautiful concept of enabling you to create bespoke clothing items to treasure using your little one's artwork. What a lovely idea!

There are a number of pieces currently in the shop which I have my eye on, but the one which first caught my eye was the striking 'No Blue, No Green' design.Perfectly suited as an oversized statement tee for a relaxed look, the subtle colours make a real contrast with the shirt's message. As it's a charity piece, 50p from each sale will go directly to ocean conservation organisations - the ideal way to help our oceans survive and do your bit for the future of our planet.

no-blue-no-green, shirt, the-writing-greyhound

Shirt - Living Life Our Way; Jeans - H&M; Shoes - Converse (with custom laces); Bracelet - Pandora

I'm absolutely loving my tee and I'm sure this won't be the last time I visit Living Life Our Way! I'm also on the lookout for other new and exciting ethical fashion brands to try out, so if you have any suggestions, let me know your favourites!

* I received a T-shirt in exchange for inclusion in this post 

What do you think of the designs? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday 23 October 2017

Book Review: Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Last Updated: 12 July 2021

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger book cover

In the state of Texas, American football is a religion. And nowhere is more fanatical about its football than the small town of Odessa. There, every Friday night from September to November, a bunch of seventeen-year-old kids play their hearts out for the honour of their high school. In front of 20,000 people.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Styling Tights for Autumn

AD* | When the long, hazy days of summer finally come to an end and autumn is well underway, one of the most exciting things is finding a new wardrobe to go with the new season.

However, I never go out and buy a whole new collection for each season. Instead, I give my existing pieces a new look for the cooler weather, adding jackets, scarves and boots, and find some old mid-season pieces in the back of the wardrobe to show some love to. However, it's not all pre-loved bits and pieces, as I also love to invest in a few key pieces to refresh my wardrobe at the start of each season.

And for me, this season it's tights.

I should start off by saying that tights aren't a staple for me - I'm lucky enough not to have to adhere to a strict work-wear rule in the office, and at home, I'm usually found in jeans. In my mind, tights are for special occasions and pretty dresses, not usually day-to-day life.

But with the weather so interchangeable at the moment, tights make sense. They're warm enough to ward off a chill in the air, but not too warm that you feel as though you're melting the minute you step indoors. Plus, they don't just have to be your usual run-of-the-mill tights - you can experiment with different styles and patterns to really mix things up and let your individual style shine through!

Here are two of my favourite looks I've put together this autumn.

lorna-holland, style

Coat, skirt, cami - New Look; Scarf - Primark; Vest - H&M; Boots - Dr Martens (with custom laces)
Tights - Hunkemoller anti-ladder tights 15 denier

Fun and playful, this is a summer look which I've easily updated for autumn with the addition of a coat, scarf, tights and boots to replace sandals. Most people say that navy and black shouldn't go together, but I love the pairing of this combination with the navy coat and boot lace juxtaposed against the black check skirt and dark tights.

lorna-holland, style

Jacket - Peacocks; Top - Apricot; Necklace - Accessorize; Boots - Kimchi Blue
Tights - Hunkemoller scattered flower tights 20 denier

This is a look which combines key colours from the season - the rich brown of the boots and the soft khaki top are definite autumnal shades, while the eye-catching blue denim jacket speaks of clear skies. The flower-patterned tights really set this outfit off, however, with the design reminiscent of the fallen leaves which are so characteristic of autumn.

* I received two pairs of tights in exchange for this post 

How do you like to wear your tights in autumn? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday 20 October 2017

Interview: David Meredith

Sci-fi and fantasy combine with a unique young adult twist to create author David Meredith's latest novel, Aaru. To celebrate, David stopped by The Writing Greyhound for a chat and a catch-up about books, writing, and all the other important things in a writer's life.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’ve been a teacher of English now for about 18 years. Half of that time was in the US and the rest of it was in Japan. I just finished my doctorate degree in educational leadership this past summer and continue to write and teach English here in the Nashville area.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always had an interest in writing. It started with an awful fan-fic back in middle school or high school, (that I’d be really embarrassed if anyone read now), and I had several false starts before I actually completed a novel, but I’ve always had the feeling that I’ve got these stories inside that need to come out. I just needed the writing and life experience to express them in a way other people would want to read.
aaru, david-meredith, book

Tell me about Aaru.
Aaru is first and foremost an entertaining and emotional YA/NA SyFy/Fantasy novel. It is, at its core, a story about the love of two sisters, and how they struggle to cope as the paradigms of what they’ve always been taught is true and good is challenged and shifted in a monumental way. 
However, Aaru also explores a number of what I think are fundamentally human questions: What happens when we die? What happens when religion and faith conflict with technology and science? Is there a way to reconcile the two? What constitutes a human being or human soul? What would happen to religion and faith if the fear of death was removed from society? How would that change the way individuals choose to live their lives? In a world where people in power can essentially choose who is and is not saved, how should that determination be made? Who should be saved? Is the act of choosing winners and losers - judging who is righteous and worthy vs. who is not - in and of itself even moral at all? I suspected that the answers would be a lot messier and more complicated than the utopian realization of John Lennon’s 'Imagine' lyrics and would lead to a great deal of conflict as people tried to hash it all out. 
In the end, Aaru doesn’t really answer any of these questions, nor is it intended to, but it does speculate on what the answers of different people from different circumstances and indeed society at large might be. What I want people to get out of Aaru is an intensely emotional experience that stimulates some productive introspection even as they enjoy it as a compelling story about the fierce love of two sisters that transcends even death.
What’s the best thing about writing YA fiction?
There’s a lot of wonder and discovery in adolescence and young adulthood that I think really enriches the emotional impact of a given story. There is something compelling about youthful characters trying to come to grips with the world in which they find themselves. It’s a difficult and formational time of life that virtually anyone can relate to – younger people because they are going through it, and older people because they can remember what it was like.
How do you get inspiration?
I get inspired from many sources. I often feel the creative juices flowing right after reading a great book or watching a really good movie. However, I also derive inspiration from real life experiences - both my own and those of others I hear about. I’ve even based a couple of pieces on dreams.
What draws you to writing sci-fi?
I actually haven’t written a lot of sci-fi, but everything I write is some sort of speculative fiction. All of my work includes an element of fantasy. Those were the first books I read as a kid and I’ve continued to enjoy the freedom the genre allows. There are just lots of things you can do in speculative fiction that you can’t in other genres. Sci-fi has a great deal of that same freedom, but it requires a lot more research. I did a great deal more research for Aaru than I have for anything else I’ve written to make sure that the fictitious elements of the story still ring true.
Do you find it difficult to write fantasy?
I think it’s easier than sci-fi for the reasons I described above, but at the same time, I think it’s important that your world, magic system, politics, etc. are set down in a coherent and logical way. That can take some time and thought but is very important to make your reader believe in your world. That belief, in turn, is vital in drawing them into the story.
What’s your writing process?
Usually, I have a plan, at least up to a point, but I also try to leave myself open to going where the story leads. Quite often I end up very different places from where I thought I was going at the beginning, but it always ends up being better that way, I think. Once the first draft is done, I easily spend at least twice as much time on editing and revision, until I’m satisfied the piece is as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
author, david-meredith

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
I actually find it most difficult to churn out that initial draft. Once the bones of the story are in place, however, reading through and tweaking things are a lot easier. That is actually the part of the process I like most. What I like least is probably promoting my work, however. It is a necessary evil if you ever want anyone to read what you’ve written, but it takes a great deal of time and energy away from writing things that are a lot more fun.
What do you love most about writing?
I like sharing stories that other people enjoy. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in creating something that never existed before until you thought it up and then have other people like it.
Which authors inspire you?
I have a number of favourites. Most of my reading lately has been required course material for my doctoral program, but some of my favourite authors are Tad Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robin Hobb. I also like work by Robert Jordan, Liza Dolby, and James Clavell.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Keep at it. False starts and failures are all part of the process. Mind your craft. You can always get better. Don’t publish too soon. Get lots of eyes on your work first, so that when you do release it’s as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Probably the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy by Tad Williams. I generally reread it every year or two. I also really appreciate Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It is one of the most creative and well-executed pieces of fantasy literature I’ve ever read.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’d still like to be traditionally published at some point. The freedom of indie publishing is certainly a plus. Whatever you put out there is all you and only you, but I wouldn’t mind the added exposure of a large, traditional publishing house either. I think my writing up to this point has been a literary success, but not so much a commercial one. It would be great if writing could be my day job.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I’ve been so busy with my doctoral program and dissertation the past couple of years that I haven’t had much time for other things. I’m trying to get back into working out and staying fit again. Now that I have some free time open up, this might be an area I explore more thoroughly.
What are you currently working on?
I’m about 110 pages into the Aaru sequel: Aaru: Halls of Hel. It will delve deeper into the world of Aaru and the lives of the people who live there as well as all the controversy surrounding it. I’m hoping to put it out sometime in 2018. I also have a fantasy series on the back burner that I want to release at some point. It’s based on Japanese mythology and legend instead of the European model that is so prevalent in fantasy literature. The first three volumes are basically done, so as soon as I can find some time to sit down and polish them, they’ll be released as well.
What are you reading at the moment?

Life has been pretty hectic, so I haven’t had a lot of time for pleasure reading, but I am still about two-thirds of the way through the first volume of Game of Thrones. It’s good, so hopefully, I’ll find some time soon to sit down and finish it.

For more about David and his writing, you can find him on Facebook. Aaru is available to buy now.

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

Thursday 19 October 2017

Introducing Daydreaming Designs

book, tote-bag, daydreaming-designs

AD* | As a massive bookworm, I'm also a big lover of pretty much anything book-related. From bookmarks and bags to decorations and artwork, bookish swag adorns my home, making it a real haven of peace, relaxation, and, of course, plenty of books!

So when I heard about an exciting new start-up venture featuring book-themed swag, my interest was definitely piqued - I just had to take a look!

Daydreaming Designs is a brand new business just starting out and currently in the early days of production. I've worked with the owner, Faye, on a number of blog tours and other bookish TWG content, and as always, it's nice to support the people who have previously supported you.

Having said that, I'm honest about the content I post here on The Writing Greyhound and would never agree to host a review or feature a product which I wasn't genuinely interested in or passionate about. For that reason, I'm pleased to say that I absolutely love Daydreaming Designs' first product - a gorgeous printed tote bag.

book, tote-bag, daydreaming-designs

Let's talk about the slogan. If you're as big a bookworm as me, then you're pretty much guaranteed to have experienced the same thing. I've lost track of the number of times I've said that exact phrase, whether it's in a bookshop, looking at adverts, reading other fabulous book blogs or simply just in conversation with friends or family.

But while I'm sure we can all agree that the bag is great, it's time to talk specifics.

As Daydreaming Designs is still in the very early stages of getting off the ground, generating interest and spreading the word, there is a minimum order target of 50 bags necessary before any are printed. Put simply, if the target isn't met, then no bags will be printed, full stop.

While this may seem a little harsh, it's worth remembering that the costs associated with design, production and shipping aren't cheap. If only a few were sold, for example, it really wouldn't be worth going to all the effort and expense. 

The last date for orders of the 'Have it, haven't read it yet' tote bag is 29th October 2017. After this date, if the minimum target has been met, all orders will be processed and a new product and design will be released. If the target isn't met, all existing orders will be fully refunded and no products will be created. 

* This is a collaborative post

What do you think? Will you be buying one of the bags? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Interview: A.H. Richardson

books, cover, ah-richardson

Fans of Agatha Christie and English countryside settings rejoice, because today I am pleased to welcome author A.H. Richardson to The Writing Greyhound for a chat about everything bookish.

Welcome to the blog! Let's start with a little information about you and your background.
Hullo, Lorna, and thank you so much for your interest. I was born in London (the big London, not the Kentuckian one!) and am daughter to the well-known British composer Clive Richardson, a prolific composer and concert pianist, so I grew up surrounded by 'artists' of all kinds, especially of the musical variety. My childhood was peppered with interesting people like David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, and lots of actors. I studied drama at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art,) and was at school with Vicki Eggar, who changed her name to Samantha Eggar, so life was interesting for me growing up. I travelled everywhere in Europe, and am fluent in four languages.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I have always loved writing, even as a youngster, and won prizes for essays and compositions, but never actually wrote a book until my late sixties! (See ... it's never too late!)
Tell me about Murder in Little Shendon.
Murder in Little Shendon is my first mystery, and writing this was great fun. I read my first Agatha Christie when I was nine, and got hooked on all her stories. Although born and raised in England, and in London specifically, I have always loved country life and little villages, they always seemed to house fascinating characters of all types and backgrounds. The idea of a peaceful little village like a Hallmark Card, filled with reprehensible evildoers appeals to me enormously. I can't tell you too much about Murder in Little Shendon, I may give things away ... that would never do; but I do believe that it will keep you guessing.
murder-in-little-shendon, ah-richardson, book

How do you get inspiration?
My inspiration comes from my characters, they just dance into my head and demand to be put into a book, so I try to accommodate them.
Do you find it difficult to write crime fiction?
Is crime writing difficult? It can be tricky, because you must tie up all the loose ends while (cunningly) covering all the bases, and trying to keep the reader engrossed and on the wrong track, that's the hard bit.
What draws you to writing murder mysteries?
Writing murder mysteries is quite exciting, and I think that it is the challenge that I enjoy. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and making the pieces fit somehow!
What do you love most about writing?
I think I love it because it is a pure art form, like painting or sculpting. You get an idea and create something from nothing ... such fun.
author, ah-richardson

Which authors inspire you?
I loved all the Dickens' books, and the Bronte sisters - the English was beautiful, the stories powerful and they have lasted through the years.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
To aspiring writers, I would say, 'Just Do It!' Pick your subject, write about it, and don't abandon it - it may be that 'best seller' - you never can tell.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite book is probably Jane Eyre - I loved it then, and I still do now.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love to paint and sculpt (playing in the mud!) and also have fun with my three dogs; two older pugs, and one three-month-old highly rambunctious English Bulldog!
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on Murder on Baringo Island with my two famous sleuths, Sir Victor and Berry Brandon. It is proving challenging!
To find out more about A.H. Richardson and her work, you can visit her website. Murder in Little Shendon is available to buy now.

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

Tuesday 17 October 2017

One Week in Wales: Day Seven

pen-y-fan, mountain, wales

Missed the last instalment? Catch up here

The morning of our last full day dawned crisp and clear, weak sunlight filtering down over Brecon and casting a hazy glow over the distant mountaintops surrounding the town. Despite still feeling a little tired from yesterday's excursions, we vowed to make the most of the day and round off our holiday in style before the long drive home the following day. To that end, as we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast supplied by the lovely Gail, we finalised the plans we had already outlined the night before.

After all, a delicious meal of a full Welsh breakfast (for him) and a toasted muffin with smoked salmon (for me) was the perfect fuel for climbing a mountain.

Yes, you read that right. To make up for the lack of proper walking we'd been able to do throughout the trip thanks to my illness, we decided to give it one last hurrah and really go for broke. Although Brecon is surrounded by many hills and mountains (the Beacons really are spectacular) there is one in particular which dominates the skyline and always draws the eye. Pen y Fan - the highest mountain in South Wales. It's imposing, it's challenging, and we were about to tackle it on a quest to reach the summit at 886 metres above sea level.

Despite constant reassurance that we didn't have to do it if I wasn't feeling up to it, I was determined not to let the glandular fever beat me. Both of us share the common trait of extreme stubbornness, but luckily, this can also play in your favour as it prevents you from giving in, providing that extra source of motivation to keep you going to the very end.

Being somewhat notorious for my terrible sense of direction, I left him in charge of the route and instead, focused on mentally preparing myself for the challenge to come. Admittedly, these preparations could have been much better, as I remembered to lug my camera the whole way up the mountain but didn't think to bring even one bottle of water between us. For someone under doctor's orders to stay hydrated, that really wasn't my smartest move.

Regardless, it was too late to turn back now. The heights of Pen y Fan awaited us.

Despite thinking we had selected the easiest route up the mountain, it turns out somewhere we had gone wrong and actually ended up on a much more challenging trail. After an initial steep climb, the path then alternated between misleadingly flat lulls and ridiculously steep inclines, with little in-between.

The whole way up and down is meant to only take a few hours, but at my pace, peppered with continual rest stops, it took us a lot longer. Still, this wasn't a problem, as we took things in our stride and had plenty of opportunities to check out the stunning scenery as we got increasingly higher up the mountainside. We also had the added bonus, if you could call it that, of a helicopter constantly flying to and fro above our heads, tasked with the mission of bringing sacks of materials to help rebuild another footpath.

However, while the scenery was undoubtedly stunning, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it was easy. Dealing with glandular fever isn't exactly a walk in the park at the best of times, so deciding to climb a mountain while still suffering probably wasn't the smartest idea I've ever had. Still, I'm stubborn, I was determined, and no matter how long it took, I was going to reach the summit.

And that's just what I did.

pen-y-fan, mountain, summit, wales, couple

The journey up was probably one of the most difficult things I've done. I had neared my limits, both mentally and physically, but I just kept going - I refused to allow myself to give up. The climb made the both of us tackle our demons and face our fears, yet the fact that we helped one another and pushed ourselves to make it together is something that really stood out to me then and still does now as I look back. And let me tell you something - standing on the summit of Pen y Fan, looking down on Brecon like a tiny chocolate box town below, was the best feeling in the world. With my man by my side, it truly felt as though we were on top of the world; we had conquered our challenge.

By the time we had finally made it back to the car and gulped down plenty of water, time was ticking on. I was in no fit state to do anything and he wasn't faring much better, so we headed off in search of Crickhowell and our final night's destination.

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After stopping off for a well-deserved meal at Prezzo in nearby Abergavenny, we checked into our hotel for the night, the luxurious Manor Hotel. The hotel is situated on the hillside and gives stunning views across the valley (even though our window looked out on a flat roof, a whitewashed wall and a kitchen vent) and was by far the most upmarket stay of our trip. Of course, when we discovered the room came with complimentary use of the on-site swimming pool and spa facilities, we were definitely glad we saved this till last!

Deciding this would be just the way to ease our aching muscles, we instantly headed down to check out the facilities. The pool and spa were virtually empty, meaning we had the complex pretty much to ourselves, so we busied ourselves making full use of the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. By the time we left, we felt refreshed and invigorated - the perfect antidote to a long day of mountain hiking!

Dinner that evening was enjoyed at a local pub in the village. It was nothing particularly fancy, but we enjoyed the food and made the most of each other's company nonetheless, reflecting on our week and looking back on the experiences we had shared.

love, couple, relationship, happy, holiday

After all, taking the leap to go on holiday with someone for the first time can be quite a nerve-wracking experience, especially given our on-the-go travel itinerary and my current health issues. But despite that, we both agreed the trip was a resounding success - we made countless memories and shared some amazing times together. This week will be one which I will remember for the rest of my life - I'm just glad to have shared it with you.

Have you enjoyed reading One Week in Wales? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday 14 October 2017

Interview: Ted Galdi

On the lookout for the perfect thriller to sink your teeth into this weekend? Author Ted Galdi is here to talk all about his writing, his inspiration, and his latest novel An American Cage.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’m an East Coaster who moved out to Los Angeles a few years ago. Growing up, I always had some sort of writing side project going on, often very casual. After college, I worked in the software industry and ventured into novel writing in 2013 when I decided to sit down and do Elixir, my debut.
How did you first become interested in writing?
There was no “moment.” I guess I was born with a love of storytelling, the same as a musician is drawn to music at an early age. I love any sort of good story, from epic novels to funny stories my friends tell me about their weekends.
an-american-cage, ted-galdi, book

Tell me about An American Cage.
This was a fun one for me to write. It’s a fast-paced thriller like Elixir but aimed at more of an adult audience, so there was an opportunity to play around with a more complex theme. On a related note, I wrote Elixir in a very “sparse” writing style, while An American Cage is more layered in terms of language.

It’s a story about a suburban kid who winds up in maximum-security prison due to back luck. He and his two friends from jail escape. The book follows them over a twenty-four-hour period as they struggle to cross Texas to freedom in Mexico.
How do you get inspiration?
I enjoy a wide variety of entertainment. From books to music to movies to art. These are the things that inspire me most. A lot of Elixir was inspired by songs by The Cure, my favourite band, while the ideas behind An American Cage were sparked by a bunch of articles I read on the philosophy of consciousness.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
I feel stories should be both entertaining and thought-provoking. Thrillers provide the raw material for entertainment. High stakes, high danger, extreme situations. However, thrillers that offer nothing more than this are very forgettable. Reading them is like riding a roller coaster. They can be fun for the short period you’re on them, but once the ride is over, they’re out of your head. A good thriller, at least to me, is one that goes beyond an adrenaline rush. It should have “literary” elements baked into it. Interesting characters interacting in the context of an interesting theme can make a book stick in the head of a reader long after she’s finished.
ted-galdi, author

What’s your writing process?
I wish I had some wild ritual I did…it’d make for a much better answer to this question. In reality, my process is pretty standard. I spend a decent amount of time thinking about a theme (boiled down to one sentence), the main characters, and a high-level plot. This would be phase 1. Phase 2 is an outline, a few words on what should happen in each chapter. Not much more detail than that. Phase 3 is the actual writing. I shoot for 2,000 words a day. For my first two books, I did five drafts before I felt they were ready.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
To me, it’s the constant balancing of plot, character, and theme. These are your main ingredients and they always have to be working together. The analogy I always give is one of a chef preparing a dish. He needs to be mindful of not just the ingredients themselves, but how they’ll interact with each other.
Which authors inspire you?
My favourite author is John Updike. I also really enjoy David Foster Wallace and Cormac McCarthy.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t be intimidated by page count. A novel is 80,000 words, which sounds like a lot. But if you can only do 500 words a day (which is just a couple pages in Microsoft Word) you’ll have a completed first draft in only 160 days, less than six months. A little a day.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
I love The Catcher in the Rye. The Rabbit series, by Updike, which isn’t one book, would probably be my all-time favourite read though.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I care most about leaving an impression with readers. It always makes my day when I get an email from a reader telling me why they liked something I wrote. If this keeps happening, on a wider scale as I release more books, I’d be elated.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
The first thing I do every day after I get my cup of coffee is a crossword puzzle. I’m totally hooked. I’m a big modern art fan too. And go to museums a lot. Often by myself. I really like one not too far from me in LA called the Hammer. I’ve been skiing my whole life and try to go a few times each winter. I’m that crazy guy going down the double black diamonds at full speed. Which often doesn’t end well.
What are you currently working on?
Another thriller. Still on the first draft, but it’s moving.
Ted's novels are available to buy now. To find out more about his books, you can visit his website or find him on Facebook or Instagram.

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

Friday 13 October 2017

One Week in Wales: Day Six

country-park, brecon-beacons, wales

Are you up to date with One Week in Wales? Catch up with the series so far.

Armed with plenty of knowledge and insider info from the locals about the best places to visit, we had outlined a brief plan for the day before bed the previous night. This part of the Beacons is apparently full of must-see attractions, so we wanted to catch the highlights and make the most of our trip before we moved away up to Brecon itself for our penultimate night.

After breakfast in the Hub's dining room/coffee shop/convenience store (admittedly, it's a rather odd experience, eating your breakfast when someone just pops in to buy a pint of milk) we packed up and set off, not wanting to waste even one minute of the day ahead. 

The weather was much cooler than the previous day and grey clouds on the horizon threatened rain for most of the day, though luckily, aside from a few spots here and there we managed to stay dry. 

The first stop on our itinerary was only a short drive away - Craig-y-nos country park. 

Offering stunning views, charming vistas and plenty of gorgeous Welsh scenery, Craig-y-nos is a real gem. Originally a Victorian garden, the park features walks through acres of woodland and meadows, interspersed with tranquil ponds and bubbling rivers. We picked a trail and enjoyed our time walking in the park, taking things at a leisurely pace and just enjoying our surroundings. 

After veering off the beaten track and trekking up a hill, we managed to find our second destination of the day. We had intended to go back to the car and drive up to Dan-yr-Ogof caves, but since the two were so close together, it made sense to walk the distance and only pay for one parking ticket!

dan-yr-ogof, showcaves, dinosaur, wales

Although primarily aimed at kids, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales is an interesting and informative attraction for all the family. On our visit, we saw other couples, older people, families and (unfortunately) several very loud and obnoxious school groups, so it's definitely got a wide-ranging appeal. Add to that the interesting dinosaur theme around the site (although it's directed at kids, even I learned some new things I didn't already know!) and this makes the perfect destination for an enjoyable yet educational family day out.

The caves themselves are stunning - after visiting the caves at Cheddar Gorge last year, it was interesting to see if the Welsh equivalent could live up to their English cousin. Showcasing outstanding natural formations and beautifully worn rocky tunnels, Dan-yr-Ogof caves were a real treat. 

After a thoroughly enjoyable visit, we stopped for a bite to eat in the on-site cafe before trekking back down the hill, through the park, and back to the car.

dan-yr-ogof, showcaves, wales

Our day's drive took us up through the Brecon Beacons to Brecon itself, where we were due to be staying for the night. By the time we arrived in Brecon, our busy week had caught up with us and we were both exhausted. It was still too early to check into our night's lodgings, so we took a short walk around the town, visited the cathedral and tried to visit the castle before we realised it was a hotel with no public access. With the afternoon wearing on, it was finally time for us to check into our B&B.

The Borderers is a 17th-century coach house, full of unique charm and character. They offer secure parking in the internal courtyard and it's even dog-friendly - perfect for those with four-legged friends! Our room was on the ground floor and accessible straight from the courtyard, offering a pleasant and comfortable experience. Plus, the owner, Gail, was extremely helpful, friendly and polite throughout our stay. We couldn't have been made to feel more comfortable; the Borderers was a definite highlight of our accommodation during this trip.

With the glandular fever kicking in and fatigue hitting me hard, I took a nap to try and regain some energy for the remainder of the day. Once I perked up a bit, we headed out again to try 'the best ice cream in the world' on Gail's recommendation. Located on Bridge Street, Llanfaes Dairy looks incongruous from the outside but houses numerous new and exciting flavours just waiting to tantalise your taste buds. Of course, with so much variety, we couldn't just pick one flavour - I tried chocolate orange, Kinder Bueno and white chocolate. Gail certainly wasn't wrong; that was very possibly the best ice cream I've ever tasted. (seriously, if ever you find yourself near Brecon, you must stop off here to try it for yourself!)

After another period of respite relaxing back in our room, we headed out later that evening to enjoy dinner at a local pub and restaurant just up the street from The Borderers (also recommended by Gail). Full to the brim and ready for bed, we headed back to our room for an early night, ready to tackle the biggest challenge of our trip the following day...

Only one more day left to go - keep checking back to find the final instalment and read the series in full.

Thursday 12 October 2017

A Flash of Inspiration - That Moment!

life-unfinished, martin-white, book

Life Unfinished was published recently, after a gestation of some twelve years. It is a fictionalised biography of the Austrian composer, Franz Schubert, exploring his problematical relationships, his sexuality, the places he visited, and, of course, his music! To many people that would sound esoteric, overly intellectual, a topic hard to sell in today’s cut-throat market. How was it that I chose it as the subject of my first novel?

I’d always hoped that at some point of my life I’d have time to begin writing creatively. Indeed, my parents had planted the seed by telling me, half-jokingly, that they had chosen my name, “Martin White,” because it sounded like a novelist’s. I’m not sure they were right, but the idea stayed with me! As I approached my fifties and a long-planned early retirement, therefore, my thoughts turned to whether I was up to the challenge and what I would write about. In the event, my choice of subject – that eureka moment when I realised what I simply HAD to write about – came easily.

I had always loved the music of Schubert. As a small boy, I remember hearing his music on the Proms and being overwhelmingly intrigued by the idea of an “Unfinished” Symphony. In later life, I collected more and more CDs of his symphonies, quartets, songs, and piano sonatas – so much so, that he became my favourite composer. But what was it that I actually LIKED about that music? A realisation grew that there was something about its very ambiguity which attracted me – how light followed shade, joy was inflected with sadness and vice versa, and how major was so often juxtaposed with minor. On the one hand, there was an avoidance (evasion) of the strict structural rigour of composers like Beethoven and Bach, and yet, on the other, an ability to express great ranges of emotion - sometimes explosively so.

The question posed itself to me, as a gay man – was this “gay music”?

As I read around the subject, it rapidly emerged I was not the only person to wonder about this. In fact, Maynard Solomon and a variety of modern musicologists had analysed Schubert’s life and letters and come to the conclusion that they implied the composer was homosexual. Then I read an article by Susan McClary entitled “Constructions of Subjectivity in Schubert’s Music”. One paragraph struck me above all:
“In 1987 I asked my undergraduates at the University of Minnesota to write short critical analyses of the second movement of Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. While I requested that they make a point of some sort in their essays, I was primarily concerned that they demonstrate their ability to deal with keys, themes, and formal structure. A couple of days before the papers were due, a small group of students arrived at my office looking perplexed. They asked shyly if I had been holding back any pertinent information concerning Schubert. When I asked them to elaborate, I was greeted by an embarrassed silence; but finally, a young man (whom I knew to be a gay activist) blurted out: “Was Schubert gay?” Since I was not yet familiar with Maynard Solomon’s work on Schubert, I had no information to offer them. But I did ask why they had reached such a conclusion. Their answer: Schubert’s procedures in this movement diverged so wilfully from what they took to be standard practices and in such particular ways that they could find no other explanation.”
There was the justification for my own speculations! It was a Damascene moment, and from then on I had no doubt at all that Schubert was my mission, the subject of my first novel – the more so, as I became aware that this theory about him had received little general publicity outside the rarified atmosphere of academic debate, and indeed had been vehemently attacked by other academics. My certitude as to my way forward was, therefore, born of a life-long love of Schubert’s music, but a realisation of a deeper emotional connection with both the man and his creations. I felt a crucial identity with the subject.

When Inspiration Strikes...

But I have written a second novel – in fact, published before Life Unfinished, and superficially about an entirely different sort of topic: To Catch the Conscience of the King, which is about the downfall of the fourteenth-century English monarch, Edward II. So, how did this come about?

Again there was a moment of certainty, but one reached even more quickly than my immersion in Schubert’s story. I was, in fact, driving down the M42 from Birmingham to Gloucestershire to visit my mother. Having recently finished the first couple of drafts of Life Unfinished, I was pondering what next to write about. I considered the difficulties which had had to be overcome in writing about Schubert – the need to travel to Austria and even Slovakia to visit places with which he was associated (not necessarily an unwelcome difficulty!), the need to understand the culture of early nineteenth century Austria (lots of reading involved there), and the need to read quite a lot in German (at which I was not very proficient) – and I asked myself whether there was any potential era or area with which I was much more familiar from the outset.

Then the answer presented itself. I was on my way to Gloucestershire, which I had known since I was a child. One of the most famous historical characters associated with the county (and indeed buried in its cathedral) was Edward II, and of course there have never been many attempts to conceal historical doubts about Edward’s sexuality. As Edward’s story was to unfold before me in the first few books I subsequently read about him, it emerged he was associated with other places which I knew well: Hereford, Kenilworth, Corfe, the Abbey of Llanthony Secunda (just outside Gloucester), and, of course, Berkeley Castle.

Forging a Personal Connection

By the end of my car journey, it was clear how I would be spending much of my time over the following couple of years – writing a novel based on all or at least the latter part of Edward’s 20-year reign. Again the personal link had determined this: the feeling that I had a connection with Edward – that for me, at least, he was somehow special. It was that moment again!

So, that’s how it works for me. The personal connection to my subject is all – leading to a flash of inspiration and then an unwavering belief that I can and will write a book precisely on that topic. How much more impressive, you might well say, are the many authors who are seemingly able to write about all or any topic, regardless of personal involvement –the many for whom writing is a craft or a profession rather than a quasi-religious undertaking! Well, maybe the craftsmanship comes with time, when one’s skills have been honed writing about matters of crucial personal significance, and can then be used on whatever topic looks likely to bring commercial success. Time will tell, I suppose!

Martin White was brought up in the West of England and graduated in History (MA) from Cambridge University. He practised as a lawyer and became a partner with his firm in Birmingham, but retired early and is now establishing a second career as a novelist specialising in cultural and historical topics. He is also keen on foreign languages and travel. Life Unfinished is available to buy now.

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

Wednesday 11 October 2017

One Week in Wales: Day Five

pembrokeshire, wales, walk

What happened on day four? If you aren't up to date with the series, you can get caught up here.

Just as we'd hoped, day five dawned bright, sunny, and vastly different to the dismal downpour of the previous day. After breakfasting and packing up our gear, we decided to make the most of the upturn in weather by sticking around to explore the last remnants of the Pembrokeshire coast before heading inland later that day for the second leg of our trip.

Over breakfast, we learned from our hosts that there was a pleasant half-hour walk down the coast to Newgale beach below. So, with the sun already high in the sky, we decided to give this walk a shot and take in the sights of picturesque Newgale basking in the summer sun.

After the previous day's greyness, we got lulled into a false sense of security and forgot to bring our suncream out with us. Combined with the warmth, beating sun and my ongoing glandular fever-induced lethargy, it took us a lot longer than half an hour to finally reach the beach. That being said, the walk certainly was a beautiful one. Offering stunning views of the sea, the coastline and the beach below, we followed the footpath first through the outlying fields of National Trust land before passing through an enchanting piece of woodland and eventually finishing the walk along the heather-strewn clifftop.

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

We finally got down to the beach about midday, so with the sun at its peak, we indulged in a well-earned drink and ice cream from the surf shop cafe and sat out on the beach to watch the surfers and take in our last view of the sea.

After a laborious trek back up the hill (why does it always seem so much longer on the way back?) we had a quick look around the conservation exhibition in one of the barns back at Southwood Farm before starting our day's drive.

One of the longest intermediary drives on our trip, our journey took us back around the edge of the coast and through Haverfordwest before turning away from the sea and heading further inland, up towards the Brecon Beacons. With three nights in the Beacons, we intended to cover as much ground as possible, so our first night's stop was the tiny, local village of Abercraf, just on the border of the Brecon Beacons.

henrhyd-falls, brecon-beacons, walk, waterfall

Our B&B, the aptly named Hub, is located right in the centre of the village and seemed to be the focal point of goings-on. A unique combination of a B&B, small convenience store, post office and coffee shop, we certainly felt involved during our stay.

After our long drive, we took some time out to relax and recharge in the comfort of our room before heading out in search of dinner. A quick Google search recommended a pub in one of the surrounding villages, so we took a short drive down to The New Tredegar Arms in Upper Cwmtwrch. Our bet paid off, as the food was delicious, the atmosphere welcoming and the staff very friendly and helpful. As we ordered, we got chatting with one member of staff who recommended further walks and attractions in the area to us - a real five-star experience.

Freshly motivated and raring to see the sights of the area, we took a drive a little further into the Beacons after being tipped off about Henrhyd Falls. With the light fading and the day slowly turning to evening, we headed up the narrow track and parked up in the National Trust car park ready to walk down to see the falls.

Unfortunately, at that point, a herd of cows took over the car park. One minute the road was clear, one minute cows were everywhere. As most people who know me will tell you, I am not a fan of cows. Following two-too-many near misses involving being chased by herds of cows in the past, I intended to stay firmly put until they left again. Cue fifteen minutes later and the cows taking over the road as well as the car park, and I was starting to regret my decision. Should we just have made a run for it? Luckily, at that point, the occupants of the only other car in the car park came back. The couple assessed the situation, got in their car, and started approaching the cows, revving noisily. I'd always heard that you should either stop moving or inch forward cautiously in situations like this, but they clearly didn't want to hang around and luckily, it got the herd on the move again. Within another few minutes, the disgruntled cows had disappeared back up the lane, presumably heading back to their field or wherever they escaped from.

With the coast clear, we took our chances and headed off down to the falls.

couple, love, waterfall, henrhyd-falls, brecon-beacons

The path leads you down a steep hillside into trees. Despite constant checks over our shoulders just in case any stray cows appeared, we enjoyed the shady walk, with the cooler temperatures soothing our burned skin. You can hear the waterfall before you see it. The chattering, babbling sound of the rushing water takes over the other woodland sounds, dominating the atmosphere and making its presence known immediately. Then, when you turn the final corner and see the waterfall itself, it takes your breath away. 

The tallest waterfall in South Wales, Henrhyd Falls has been seen in many movies and TV shows, including The Dark Night, and it isn't hard to see why. As it was so late in the evening we were the only visitors, a fact which gave the whole experience a more magical, almost otherworldly feel. Scrambling along the slippery rocks and following the ledge around, you can stand beneath the waterfall's overhang - walking behind a waterfall. Standing there beneath the waterfall with the man I love is one of the stand-out memories of the trip for me; one which will stay with me forever.

From beneath a waterfall to hiding deep underground - don't forget to come back and check out the next instalment of One Week in Wales!

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Spotlight: Angels' Whispers by J.F. Cain

Last Updated: 17 January 2022

war-eternal, angels-whispers, jf-cain, book

Alex Meyers, a dynamic, global entrepreneur, has an advantage that no other human has ever had: he is protected by Aranes, the Superior of the Angels. While he is skiing, he dies in an avalanche, but his all-powerful protector breaks one of the ethereal world’s most important rules and brings him back to life. Alex falls head over heels in love with the beautiful Angel, who appears to him in human form. But she disappears just as suddenly as she had appeared.

While he searches for Aranes, Alex discovers her true identity and that he actually might be the high-ranking Celestial Abaddon, who is mentioned in the Revelations prophecy as the one who will defeat Lucifer.

The man who fate has thrust among the world’s superpowers is now living a nightmare. He wants to evade Lucifer’s pursuit, find out who he truly is and once again see the only being he has ever loved. And the only way to do it is to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Angels’ Whispers is the beginning of an epic tale set in modern times. The eternal war between Light and Darkness is at a critical turning point: Angels and Demons, invisible to mortal beings, battle for dominance in the physical world, while Guardians, vampires and werewolves, who live among the humans, find themselves on opposing sides in a deadly power game.

About J.F. Cain

author, jf-cain

J. F. Cain is a writer with a restless mind who spent years of her life reading and travelling. But of all the places she has been to, her favourite is a house in the mountains where she can focus on her writing. She is a seeker of knowledge who transcribes the results of her studies in her books. Her favourite pastime – other than reading and writing - is scouring libraries. However, she has lately convinced herself that she enjoys shopping just as much, as well as spending time with family and friends – the few that can still tolerate her frequent and extended periods of absence.

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