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Thursday, 29 March 2018

How to Earn More Money for the Summer

save-money, pexels

As summer is just around the corner, one of the main concerns that you may have is having enough money to truly enjoy your holidays! You should be able to afford a nice trip away, or the freedom to enjoy some fun activities, fancy restaurants, and nights out with your friends. However, as there isn't much time left, you will need to come up with some quick ways to make a bit of extra cash so that you can do whatever you please without having to worry about draining your bank account dry.

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Sell Your Stuff

Have a look at the things in your home - you will most likely have a room that holds a lot of unnecessary items, as well as a wardrobe full of clothes that you no longer wear. Have a big sort out and put anything you no longer want into a sale pile. You can then put these things online and try to sell them on and make a little extra money. There are many sites that you can do this on like eBay and Amazon, so make sure to take some decent photos showing exactly what it is you are selling. You can also sell on social media too as this may interest like-minded people in your area. Word of mouth is also a brilliant way to flog what you no longer want, so tell your friends and family and see if they know of anyone who is after what you're selling.

Make an Investment

Regardless of whether you're good with numbers or not, if you mix some of your common sense and a bit of luck, there is no reason that you can't make a decent earning. Of course, it comes with a bit of risk, but so do many things. Financhill stock ratings will give you a slight insight into what you need to know, but the main point of investing is to put some of your money into a business that you believe is doing well within its industry. If everything goes to plan, over a period of time you will not only get all of your money back, but you will get a percentage of the business' overall earnings too.

Get a Part-Time Job

If you already work, then the idea of getting another job may sound outrageous, but there are actually many things that you can do to suit your already busy schedule, making them flexible to your needs. Take working in a cafe, for example, a lot of places will only require a part-time barista or server to work a few hours here and there on the weekends. The job won't be too demanding, and really only consists of you being friendly, sociable, and taking orders. Just think of the extra bit of money coming in for doing a few shifts during some of your free time. It will all be worth it once you're on that plane jetting off to your dream destination.

* This is a contributed post

How do you make extra money? Share your tips in the comments below!

5 Reasons to Insure Everything You Own

insurance, car, keys, pixnio

Insurance is essential for everything you possess in life. Whether you insure yourself against health issues, your home against theft or your car against damage, it is a vital part of adulthood.

Insurance is Compulsory

Certain types of insurance are actually required by law. For example, car insurance is a legal requirement because it is vital for making sure you are legally allowed to drive on the roads. There are a few different types of insurance such as health insurance which are required for your own safety and will make sure you always have access to health care when you need it.

Peace of Mind

One of the most important things about having insurance is that it provides you with peace of mind. It is something which protects us from theft, damage and even our own health, and allows us to live our lives with less risk than we would otherwise. It is, of course, important to find the right type of cover and save on your insurance wherever you can.

Stability

If you have a business to run, liability insurance is your best friend. You will be able to use this insurance to act as a shield against anyone who tries to claim against you. If you have a family to look after, life insurance is a good way to make sure that they will always be cared for, no matter what. Insurance acts as a safety net for both your business and personal life and can make a huge difference if things do go wrong.

Everyone is Protected

When you are looking at society as a whole, you can almost divide the population into the big guys and the small guys. It is usually the smaller guys who suffer when things go wrong in the industry or the economy, whereas the big guys are capable of taking a hit. However, when you have insurance, even if you are a small guy, you have that all-important safety net to keep you afloat.

The Right Choice

Sometimes, things can be explained simply by whether they are right or wrong. When it comes to getting insurance for yourself or a business there is a clear choice. For example, if you are going abroad and decide to take out travel insurance, you will be covered for damages if anything happens to your luggage between the flight and your destination. If anything happens with your flight or accommodation, you will also be compensated. And, most importantly, if you fall ill while abroad, you are entitled to any medical attention you may require. Insurance is the right thing to do for yourself and your possessions.

* This is a contributed post

What are your thoughts on insurance? Let me know in the comments below!

Money Making Ideas to Help You Spend More Time Writing

writing, book, pen, pixabay

Writers, like most creatives, find themselves facing a familiar quandary, especially if they are graduates or at the start of their creative journey. They need time to dedicate to their creative passion and the honing of their craft. But this is the real world and most of us have to also worry about keeping a roof over our heads and ensuring that the bills are paid, the fridge is well (or at all) stocked. In a perfect world, you’d be able to make a living from your craft, but at present, you’re resigned to working a day job and doing what little writing you can over evenings and weekends. The trouble with this is that your day job saps not only your energy but your drive to pursue your passion and the temptation to simply collapse in front of the TV can become virtually irresistible. 

If you’re serious about turning your passion for writing into a lucrative career, here are some ways in which you can supplement your income to the point where you may one day be able to ditch the day job.

Start Freelancing Right Now!

It’s never too early to start pursuing freelance work, especially if you have a thriving blog or body of work to show prospective clients. There are many platforms like People Per Hour and Constant Content from which writers can hone their craft while making a little money on the side. If you’re prepared to persevere with your day job while you build a portfolio of clients, this may help to ease the transition from salaried work to full-time freelancing.

Monetise Your Blog

Most of us keep a blog to use as a whetstone to sharpen our writing skills to a fine edge, to document our daily insights and reflections or just as a fun exercise. But if you’ve cultivated a dedicated following on social media, you may be in a luxurious position whereby you can monetise your blog, making money from paid advertisements. If your hit rate is in the hundreds of thousands per month, you could find yourself making hundreds of pounds a month on your blog in advertising revenue.

Savings and Investments

Almost everyone wishes that they had more money, and as the cost of living spirals higher and higher as wages stagnate (especially in the UK where we’re witnessing the longest period of sustained wage repression since records began), the importance of saving becomes increasingly important. But it’s no secret that most savings accounts suck, so many are supplementing their income by investing. If the stock market is a bamboozling prospect, you may benefit from some Fundrise returns. Fundrise is an online platform that allows ordinary people to invest in private market real estate.
Crowdfunding
Creatives of all types turn to crowdfunding to fund their projects and if you have a vociferous following on social media you may be pleasantly surprised to learn how many people will be willing to make a small monthly donation which can add up to make a big difference. You can incentivise this with exclusive content and other offerings.

While none of these ideas will enable you to quit your day job overnight, they may well help empower you to become less reliant on it so that you can reduce your working hours and perhaps even gradually phase it out over time.

* This is a contributed post

Have you ever considered quitting your day job to spend more time writing? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Interview: Michelle Balge

I am welcoming author Michelle Balge to The Writing Greyhound today for a chat about her latest release A Way Out. The perfect way to get to know a writer is through their words, so why not read on and find out what Michelle had to say?

How did you first become interested in writing?
Ever since recovering from mental illness I’ve been wanting to write about my experience. A couple of years ago I wrote several guest blog posts and began presenting speeches to the community. Wanting to share my experience in a different way to more people pushed me to write this memoir.
Tell me about A Way Out.
A Way Out is about my experience with mental health and illness, specifically depression and social anxiety. I share the darkest points in my life, the most embarrassing, and the happiest. A Way Out is a balance of light and dark. You may cry from sadness, but you may also cry from joy. It is really a book about perseverance and hope.
a-way-out, michelle-balge, book

Why did you decide to write it?
I wrote A Way Out to show people that there is hope. I want others to know that despite how hopeless life may seem, there is a way out. It may not be the path I took, but mine isn’t the only path. There are twists and turns, and sometimes you may go backwards, but there will always be a light at the end of the path.
What drew you to writing about mental health?
Mental health has been a big part of my life for many years now. While in university I was the President of a mental health club and was super involved with mental health in other ways too. If I was going to write about anything, it was going to be my experience with mental health.
Did you find writing the book a challenge?
I found writing my memoir to be a fun challenge. I had never written a book before, fiction or non-fiction, so it was very new to me. I always enjoyed writing essays in school and wrote the occasional poem, so I knew there was a fair chance my writing would be up to par. It’s scary to share my deepest secrets and thoughts with the world, but I know it will help others.
Was writing your memoir a therapeutic process?
I believe that in order to write a good memoir, it can’t be for therapeutic reasons. I wrote it not for myself, but for others, and I kept that in my mind throughout the whole process. There were definitely points where I thought “wow I’ve come far,” but I knew I had already gotten to a point where I’m happy.
What’s your writing process?
I began writing A Way Out the day I decided I was finally going to write a memoir. That day and the next week were filled with writing thousands of words and doing hours of research in-between. By the end of the week, I had written half of the first draft. The other half took several months to write, and in order to use my authentic voice, I only wrote when I felt the urge to. This includes waking up in the middle of the night with an idea and writing it out before I fell back asleep. To write different parts of the book I had to listen to different types of music. I listened to Linkin Park on repeat to write the darkest parts, while switching to upbeat music for inspirational sections. Music was incredibly helpful throughout the process.
michelle-balge, author

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing about writing is worrying about my writing. Worrying that a scene isn’t good enough so I’ll start all over, or worrying that I’m forgetting something and if I leave that out I’m not telling the whole story.
What do you love most about writing?
What I love most about writing is that it gives me another way to express my feelings and remember my past. It has brought back so many memories, both good and bad, which I’m grateful for.
Do you have any tips for aspiring memoirists?
Whenever a memory comes to you, no matter how small, write it down somewhere. I often forget what I’m thinking about minutes after a thought runs through my head, so I was careful to write down any memories or words that came to mind. The more you write about your memories, the more that will come to you that you had forgotten about.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently busy with promoting A Way Out and finishing my post-graduate certificate in web design. I’m definitely considering writing children’s books related to mental health, and perhaps I’ll delve into other genres as well.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m reading Suddenly One Summer by Julie James. I’ve read a few of her books now and am really enjoying them.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite book is Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I have a fascination with knowing how people lived their lives around the 1800s, so reading a book by someone who actually lived through that time was amazing. I have yet to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (which I’ve owned now for over 6 years) because I worry about how emotional it will make me, but I’m betting it would come to a close second or even first.
What are your ambitions for A Way Out?
My ambitions for A Way Out are to reach people who are experiencing or have experienced mental illness, people who know someone who is going through it, and people who want to learn more about mental health. I truly want to be able to make a difference. If I can help even one person to feel like they’re not alone, that would mean everything to me.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Outside of writing and reading, I’m really interested in web design, hence me being a student. I’ve dabbled in web and graphic design for many years but only recently considered it as a career. Another interest of mine is animals. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 7 years and have grown up with pets my whole life.
A Way Out is available to buy now. For more about Michelle and to stay up to date with the book, you can visit her website.

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

Saturday, 24 March 2018

How to Name a Character

the-little-wedding-island, jaimie-admans, book, blog-tour

Naming characters is the part of writing that I dread most. It goes one of two ways for me – either their names are there instantly and the characters have named themselves before I’ve even started planning, or I have absolutely no idea what to call them and often don’t figure it out until much later in the book.

Naming the main characters is pretty essential, but for side characters, I often have monikers like Friend 1 and Neighbour 3 right until I’m polishing the first draft to submit. Sometimes I get so attached to these names that I’d actually like to keep them!

I have a stack of baby naming books and lots of baby name websites bookmarked, and I’ve recently started to keep a list of potential names whenever I hear something unusual or something that I think would fit a character in the future, which has been so helpful that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!

the-little-wedding-island, jaimie-admans, book

What’s even more frustrating is when you find the perfect name for a character, and then realise that you actually know someone with that name, and that person is going to think the character is named after them. It might be okay if the character is nice, but what if you use their name for a villain and they take it as an insult? Character names are an unexpected minefield in this area, and with most names, you can find yourself with a tenuous connection to even the most random of names. One of my mum’s friends was annoyed once because I’d given a bad guy the same name as her grandson. How about the work colleague who was convinced I fancied him because I’d ‘named a character after him’? I hadn’t. He just happened to have the same name that fitted the character, and once names fit a character, it’s very hard to change them.

In The Little Wedding Island, Bonnie was one of the easy ones who named herself instantly, but Rohan had a different name to start with. I loved it, but my editor hated it so I had to rename him. It took me forever to find his new name. He was initially Rowan, but as I was writing, all that was coming to mind was Rowan Atkinson – IE: Mr Bean. For as brilliant as that show is, Mr Bean is not exactly who you want to be picturing for a dashing romantic hero, is he?

By that point, I didn’t want to change his name again, but I knew that if I was picturing Mr Bean then readers would be too. I looked up similar names and came across the spelling with the ‘h’, and it all clicked into place.

So as someone who is terrible at naming characters, these are my top tips: keep a list of any names you come across that might work in future stories, and don’t name characters after Mr Bean – it’s not a pretty sight!

Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots. She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read!

The Little Wedding Island is available to buy now. For more about Jaimie and her writing, you can visit her website.

How would you name a character? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Book Review: Papiliones by Jonathan Bradley

butterfly, papiliones, jonathan-bradley

Papiliones by Jonathan Bradley is a collection of poems inspired by butterflies, as well as the stories behind their often unusual and exotic names, and colour photographs. In this charming collection, the poems evoke both the colourful lives of these lovely insects and the emotions that they arouse in us. 

Each poem is unique, frequently inspired by the unusual scientific names given to them, which are often poetic in themselves. The poems lead the reader on a journey of discovery of these delicate creatures, each poem and each butterfly a new delight. 

papiliones, jonathan-bradley, book

It's been too long since I've read poetry. Although I run my semi-regular Poetry Block feature, I often find myself struggling to find time to actually get stuck into a poetry collection, which is why I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to read and review Papiliones by Jonathan Bradley.

Taken inspiration from the beauty of nature and the natural world, Papiliones is a collection of thought-inspiring poems, memorable in their simplicity. There is nothing overly complicated or pretentious about this book - the writing is heartfelt and sincere, written out of sheer love and passion above all else. It's clear just how knowledgeable Jonathan Bradley is about his chosen subject, and this research and dedication shines throughout every line of every poem in the collection.

Each poem is named after a particular butterfly, with accompanying images and a brief description of the insect at hand. This makes it an educational read as well as an enjoyable one, especially for a reader like me who is familiar with the most commonly-known butterflies but precious few besides.

butterfly, papiliones, jonathan-bradley

My personal favourite poem within the collection is one titled 'White Admiral'. Providing the perfect metaphor and drawing comparisons to the admiral who has never seen the sea, this is an engaging and thought-provoking poem. In addition, the verse flows wonderfully, creating the perfect lyricism to add to the meaning behind the words.

The final poem in the collection comes courtesy of guest poet Mick Escott. 'Wood White' is the perfect ending to the collection, bringing just the right amount of nostalgia and gravity to the light-hearted fun of earlier poems. Escott reflects on how the actions of humans have contributed to the decline of rare butterflies; the point made is sad but true - nature is no longer a priority in today's fast-paced city world.

Our natural environment is constantly changing and biodiversity falls increasingly under threat from the trappings of the modern, materialistic lifestyle. Sometimes it's nice to just go back to a simpler time and enjoy the basic things in life - nature is free to enjoy and accessible to everyone; perhaps it's time we went out and took advantage of it? Papiliones is the perfect read to remind us why it's so important to look after our country's wonderful natural plants, wildlife and ecosystems.

Rating: 3 stars

Papiliones is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Are you a poetry fan? Which butterfly is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Interview: Laekan Zea Kemp

Will you join me in welcoming author Laekan Kemp to The Writing Greyhound? Here to promote the novel Pen & Xander, Laekan kindly stopped by for a chat with me. So, pour yourself a cup of tea, cut a slice of cake and sit down to enjoy the perfect accompaniment to your morning break!

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Hello, everyone! I’m Laekan Zea Kemp, a teacher, blogger, and author of eight novels. I write genre fiction - mostly paranormal/fantasy and contemporary romance. My bestselling paranormal romance series, The Girl In Between, has been downloaded over half a million times and my newest novel, an upper YA contemporary romance, was just released in October. Pen & Xander is set in a Mexican restaurant that was actually mentioned in my paranormal series. Even though I write in different genres, I like to think of everything existing within the same universe.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always wanted to tell stories. In fact, I wrote my first book when I was in middle school. It was terrible and I didn’t attempt another novel until I was seventeen years old. That book became The Things They Didn’t Bury, a historical romance set during the Dirty War in Argentina. My father was dying of cancer at the time and writing that book was incredibly therapeutic and life-changing for me. It made me realize that writing professionally was what I wanted to do. All of the emotional and psychological obstacles I had to overcome during that time in my life also made me realize that I had the mental fortitude to make it happen. Ever since then I was hooked and I’ve written a novel every year since.
pen-and-xander, laekan-zea-kemp, book

Tell me about Pen & Xander.
Pen & Xander is an upper YA contemporary romance about food and finding where you belong set in a Mexican restaurant that is the heart of an immigrant neighbourhood. I started writing it four years ago and it’s definitely the project I’m most proud of. The story was inspired by my own struggles as a young adult as well as my amazing students who all immigrated to the U.S. I wanted to write about their courage and bravery, as well as the role of food and family in Latinx culture. I was hungry every single second that I was writing this book but it also filled me with so much hope.
What’s the best thing about writing Young Adult fiction?
I love writing Young Adult fiction because it’s a time in everyone’s lives when everything feels like it contains this cosmic importance. Emotions are more raw, more powerful. It’s usually the time in a person’s life when they’re figuring out what they believe in and value. Those discoveries never come easy and I love writing about the struggle. Growing up is hard, which is what Pen comes to realize after getting fired from her father’s restaurant for lying to her parents about something important. But growing up is also a part of life - a beautiful part of life if we choose to see the lessons instead of just the heartache.
What drew you to writing romance?
This question just made me pause and ask myself, “Am I really a romance author?” It’s true that there’s romance in all of my books. But I think that’s because, after all of the horrible things I put my characters through, I still want them to be able to see the beauty in life. I still want them to have the things that make life worth living. Relationships, whether they’re romantic or between friends and family, are what make all of the pain worth it. Love is our reward for fighting every single day to keep going. I give my characters someone to love and someone to love them back because sometimes that love is all that stands between them trying again or giving up.
Why did you decide to write contemporary fiction?
I’ve written just as many contemporary novels as I have paranormal novels. I love writing about the real world and exploring what it means to be human. Writing fantasy and paranormal fiction are a lot of fun but after finishing my paranormal series last year, I couldn’t wait to get back to reality. There’s something almost sacred about telling the stories of ordinary people. It requires you to see the complexity and potential for greatness that lives inside all of us. Because there are no superheroes ready to swoop down and save us. Instead, every day in battles big and small we must save ourselves. To me, that’s so remarkable. Humans are so remarkable and I love telling their stories, especially the ones others might not think are worth telling.
laekan-zea-kemp, author

How did you get inspiration?
Some of the things that happen to Pen are things that happened to me when I was her age. I always end up putting a piece of myself in every book I write. It helps me process the past and see the lessons from those experiences rather than just the scars. Xander’s journey was inspired by my students, as well as the plight of other immigrants living in the U.S. I hope Pen and Xander’s story sheds a light on the importance of acceptance and community, as well as on the fact that we are all human and no matter where we come from we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
What’s your writing process like?
I recently wrote a lengthy blog post on my writing process, mostly in an attempt to help other writers realise that there is no perfect formula and we should all cut ourselves some slack. In a nutshell, it usually takes me about eight months to finish a novel, revisions included. I like to get most of my writing done in the mornings and when I’m in need of inspiration I’ll go for a long walk. I’m also often struck by inspiration while in the shower or I’ll be yanked awake by an idea in the middle of the night, which I then type into my phone. There have been various periods during which I’ve been able to write full-time. But now that I’m teaching I fit in most of my writing in the mornings before work and on the weekends.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Making yourself sit down and do it. It’s a psychological battle every single time but the more you do it the easier it’ll be to tune out your inner editor and just create. Those negative thoughts never go away but with enough practice you’ll eventually be able to recognize them for the lies that they are. Then when they pop into your head you can simply observe them instead of internalizing them.
What do you love most about writing?
I love surprising myself. I love documenting tiny miracles. I love writing stories that make other people feel seen and heard and valued. Drafting and even revisions can be tortuous but knowing that I’ll eventually be able to share a story with others that might just make them feel less alone in the world makes it all worth it.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Find a community of writers that supports and nurtures your creativity. Don’t listen to people who tell you writing is a waste of time. Stand strong in your convictions and avoid making excuses not to write. If you want to be a writer then you have to write. A lot. Also, NEVER compare yourself to other writers. They are on a specific path and you are on a specific path. Who cares if they reach certain milestones before you do? Things will happen when they are supposed to happen. Your only obligation is to be ready when those opportunities present themselves. That means doing the work, every single day, even when it feels like it’s all for nothing. It’s never for nothing. The work is for you - to make you better and stronger. So find joy in the work. Be grateful for the work and the lessons you learn as a result.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading The Reader by Traci Chee. I was drawn to it because of its similarities to my WIP. It’s wonderful!
What’s your all-time favourite book?
This is tough. Probably The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I read it the first time during my senior year of high school and it had a profound effect on me. It’s also the reason my first novel was historical fiction.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’m eternally grateful for the amazing success I’ve had so far. It still blows my mind that complete strangers continue to buy my books and then share them with the people they care about. It’s made it possible for me to get my master’s degree and also buy my first home. The next milestone I’d love to reach would be to finally see my books in bookstores. This fall I’ll be querying a novel for the first time in seven years. Hopefully, it’ll lead to more readers and a successful career as a hybrid author.
Pen & Xander is available to buy now. For more information about Laekan or the novel, you can visit the website or follow her on Twitter.

Does the idea of Pen & Xander intrigue you? If so, you can try your luck and enter to win one of three e-copies of the book! Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 31st March 2018 at 11.59pm (GMT)
2. The prize consists of an e-copy of Pen & Xander by Laekan Zea Kemp - there will be three winners receiving a copy of the book each
3. The prize will be provided to the winner by the author NOT The Writing Greyhound
4. This giveaway is open internationally to those aged 16 and over
5. The winners will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended
6. The winners will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended
7. The winners will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner(s) have not responded by this time, another winner will be announced

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Book Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the centre of a centuries-old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.


how-to-hang-a-witch, adriana-mather, book

I was so stoked to receive a copy of this book to review - I mean, it has all my favourite elements all rolled up into one tempting read, so what's not to love? Young Adult, paranormal, historical influences, twists, turns and a dash of romance... it's almost as though this book was made from a recipe of all my own fictional favourites.

How to Hang a Witch follows the story of Sam, an NYC girl who finds she has some pretty major family history to live up to. Of course, everyone has heard of the Salem Witch Trials, but I have to admit that I was not particularly clued up about the real-life historical happenings. I didn't even know who Cotton Mather was, and at the mention of Increase Mather, I had to turn to Google to sort the facts from the fiction and satisfy my disbelief that anyone would be called 'Increase' (turns out, Increase Mather was indeed a real person).

Aside from the gripping story and nail-biting twists and turns, what made this book extra special for me was the author's personal connection with the tale. Author Adriana Mather is, in fact, a descendant of Cotton Mather - a unique claim to fame and one which must have undeniably put her in good stead during the writing process. I love discovering books and authors with quirky connections like this and the knowledge only made me fall in love with the story even more!

I found myself hooked on the tale right from the very start - I had to read on to find out what happened; this is definitely one of those unputdownable books. How to Hang a Witch is fast-paced and exhilarating, a wild ride which is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

An enjoyable read and a great fusion of historical facts and contemporary fiction, How to Hang a Witch is more than worthy of a spot on your tbr pile in 2018.

Rating: 4 stars

How to Hang a Witch is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Interview: Leapfrogtown

leapfrogtown-music

Leapfrogtown is all about distinctive diversity - who said all music had to be the same? I sat down for a quick catch-up with Christopher Guard from the band to find out what their unique sound is all about.

How would you sum up your music in three words?
Dreams, drums, lyrics.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My birth took 36 hours. I was a child TV star. I learned piano to Grade 5 then bought a guitar. My mum is a published poet.
Where is your music career at now?
Busting to be back on festival stages with Leapfrogtown; looking at labels for acoustic subdivision What the Fox.
Tell me about your latest release.
One-take What the Fox recordings, jahon, vox, guitar - back to the songs. Leapfrogtown remixes on Soundcloud.


What can listeners expect from you?
Songs and wherever they take me; delicate like Nick Drake, raw like the Stones. Now not then.
Are there any particular musicians that inspire you?
Lennon; my daughter Tallulah.
What music do you draw inspiration from?
Silence; everything; I’m an ornithologist.
What are your musical guilty pleasures?
Musak in lifts if I’m lucky enough to be in a posh hotel.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to music? 
Freedom without poverty.
You can find out more about Leapfrogtown and their music over on the website.

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

Friday, 9 March 2018

What Spring Means to Me

Spring-lamb

I can't believe it's been over three months since I wrote about what winter means to me. The last few months have flown by in an absolute blur - I've been so busy, I've forgotten to notice the passing of time.

Although recent snow and ice are still fresh in our minds, spring is slowly on its way. Flowers are beginning to bud, more and more animals are getting out and about in the countryside and, ever so slowly, temperatures are on the rise.

Since I enjoyed writing about winter so much, I decided to make my love for the seasons into a four-part series here on The Writing Greyhound. Winter may finally be on its way out, but spring is only just starting to begin. What does springtime mean to me? Here are just a few thoughts, memories and observations.

Spring means early blooming flowers, buds just beginning to show and fresh growth peeking through the cold, barren ground ready to start a brand new year. Spring means rebirth and awakening; all through the natural world, hibernation ends and another long winter passes. Newly-born lambs gamble in the fields, wobbling on unsteady legs and calling to their mothers for support and reassurance.

Spring-flowers-daffodils-nature

Spring means wildlife beginning to show its head once again, squirrels darting across the lawn and birds of all shapes and sizes pecking at the feeder and collecting twigs and moss to build their nests. Spring means tiny baby birds nesting in the small fir tree in the garden, hoping against all hope for survival and facing the harsh realities of life and death first-hand - the juxtaposition of home comforts and stark survival.

Spring means Mother's Day and giving gifts, sibling arguments and attempts at cooking dinner. Spring means days out and trips in the car, cold wind blowing in your face and hands stuffed in pockets to keep warm. Spring means family walks and trips to the farm park, following trails and learning about nature.

Spring means stress and exams, the need to study yet the lure of a sunny spring day. Spring means decisions and tough choices, symbolic endings and new beginnings. Spring means loss and heartbreak, the love of family members and walking in circles, sunsets fiery over water and the hope of better things to come. Spring means meeting new people and trying new things, discovering yourself and moulding into someone new. Spring means taking the leap and pushing back fears, a time for change and an opportunity for progress. Spring means out with the old and in with the new.

Spring officially begins on March 1st, and since we're now a good way into the month, it makes sense that spring will surely be here soon. Before you know it, the season will be in full bloom and thoughts of winter long gone. But then we will be onto the next season - summer.

Intrigued about what summer means to me? Interested in keeping up with the series? Keep checking back to discover the next instalment later in the year!

Which season is your favourite? What's your favourite thing about spring? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Book Review: Forest Dancer by Susan Roebuck

Work to impress, dance to express.

It’s a long way to go to create a new life for yourself.

Classical ballerina, Flora Gatehouse, has no choice but to take a risk. Having failed an important ballet audition in London, she moves to a small cottage in a forest just outside Lisbon, Portugal, her only inheritance following her father’s death.

Soon, Flora is involved in village life, where fate takes a new twist when she becomes attracted to forest ranger, Marco. But they are off to a shaky start.

Can Flora find acceptance in a foreign land, in a magical place that harbours secrets and heartache?


forest-dancer, susan-roebuck, book

Having previously read and enjoyed Rising Tide, another of Susan Roebuck's novels, I was always going to say yes when asked to review this book. I loved the descriptive imagery and poetic ebb and flow of Susan's writing from the first story, so couldn't wait to start reading Forest Dancer!

Luckily for me, Forest Dancer certainly did not disappoint.

Although our main character, Flora, is clearly a privileged young woman from a wealthy background, you can't help but feel sympathy for her as things seem to keep going wrong. From her work problems to health concerns and, of course, the overwhelming sense of loneliness and separation from her family and friends, these are issues that we all face at one point or another during the course of our lives.

However, as Flora heads to Portugal and begins to get to grips with a drastically different but vastly rewarding lifestyle (helped, of course, by Roebuck's fantastic descriptions once again) you automatically find yourself rooting for her and willing her to succeed. There are so many different threads holding this story together that it could easily become too tangled and complex, yet each distinct subplot is carefully woven into the overall storyline with the utmost ease and consideration. 

My one gripe with this book is that I felt it lost its realism at certain points throughout the story. Of course, I'm always prepared to allow a little artistic licence and creative leeway in fiction, but surely a novel based in reality such as this should maintain its realism throughout? While this isn't to say that I don't enjoy fantasy (regular readers will know that certainly isn't the case!), I like to know what genre I am reading before I start so I can make sure I am fully prepared. Perhaps it's just my own personal opinion, but I did feel that we lost the path of sanity and escaped into ethereal, otherworldly lands at times. 

However, this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book and my drive to get to the end of the story to find out what happened! I feel this novel deserves a solid three-star rating - although I personally enjoyed Rising Tide more than Forest Dancer, I still look forward to reading more from Susan Roebuck.

Rating: 3 stars

Forest Dancer is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Have you read any of Susan Roebuck's books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Interview: Sandy Day

This morning I am thrilled to be welcoming the lovely Sandy Day to The Writing Greyhound! Read on to discover all about her life, her inspiration, and her novel Fred's Funeral.

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Hello! I'm a Canadian writer, semi-un-self-employed-retired. I live in a small town north of Toronto, Ontario where I have spent every summer of my life. It's wonderful to be able to devote myself to writing but on the side, I also sell dog halters to dog trainers.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. As soon as I learned to read, I started writing. My first poem was published in the Toronto Humane Society's magazine, Fur and Feathers, when I was in grade 5. It was a poem about a cat. 
I studied English Literature at university but after graduation, I ended up buying a gift store and spent the next twenty years selling knickknacks and raising two kids. I got back to writing in 2008 following a miraculous change in my life, which is chronicled in my soon to be released book, Poems from the Chatterbox.
freds-funeral, sandy-day, book

Tell me about Fred’s Funeral.
Fred's Funeral was inspired by the life of my Great Uncle, a shell-shocked WWI veteran who lived a long and sad life. It is a fictional account - Fred is a ghost at his own funeral. The story is fuelled by the rivalry between Fred and his prudish sister-in-law Viola. She remembers Fred's life a little differently than he does.
What’s the best thing about writing literary fiction?
Literary fiction is what I love to read so naturally it's what I aspire to write. It's a tricky genre though, because what does literary even mean? Every work of literary fiction is also a story belonging to some other genre, unless it's very "experimental", i.e. unreadable. I suppose the definition is that literary fiction is not written to a formula, but even that seems farfetched to me. I think literary fiction is a style rather than a genre, and it just happens to be the style in which I write.
What drew you to writing about history? Did you undertake much research for the book?
I wanted to write a story about my Great Uncle. I didn't know anything about WWI so I needed to do a lot of research. I am drawn to writing about the past. I like to record little details that place a story in its time. The internet is an amazing resource for historical research. I don't know if I would have been able to write Fred's Funeral without YouTube and Wikipedia.
How did you get inspiration?
For Fred's Funeral, my Great Uncle's letters, found in a box in the attic, overwhelmingly inspired me. When I transcribed the letters, my Great Uncle's voice became embedded in my mind. When I wrote what he thought and what he felt, it was as though he was speaking to me. I was also inspired by the injustice I felt transpired for him; I wanted to correct the story.
What’s your writing process?
I cook up a story in my mind about a character or two and then I plot it out. I figure out what kind of story I am trying to tell and I make sure I include in the outline all the elements a reader wants to see. Every day, I spend time doing creative work, whether it's writing a first draft project longhand, or editing a piece. Little by little, the scribblings come together into books. 
That is not how I wrote Fred's Funeral. It was more of a quilting process. I took all the snippets and pieces I'd been writing since 1986 and sewed them all together. It took ages. I never want to work that way again. 
Poetry is different. Poems arrive like speeding torpedoes in my mind and I have to race to a notebook to write them down. If I don't grab them when they're mid-air, they're lost forever. I haven't had a poem come in quite a few months.
sandy-day, author

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest part of writing is the blank page. Every time I work on a first draft, getting started is absolute torture. When people tell me that I must love writing, I think they're nuts. I love editing - writing is hard hard work.
What do you love most about writing?
I love when a piece works. I love when I write something and read it a few days later and feel delighted. I love when I'm in workshops and I write something that makes people laugh or gasp. Most of all, I love the revision process when all my skills come into play and I get to hone a piece to perfection, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.
Which authors inspire you?
I'm reading a book of poetry, Closer to Where We Began by Lisa Richter, and I have to set it aside because it inspires me so much. I think, not now, not now! I don't have time for this inspiration right now! 
When I wonder if I'm on the right track with my own writing I reread Alice Munro.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write. That's the only advice I can give. Write and share your writing. Blogs are free. Facebook is free. Write and write and write some more. My only caveat would be before you publish, that is making something public, make sure it is EXACTLY how you want it to sound. Read it out loud to yourself, and fix up all your spelling. 
Also, I think all aspiring writers should look into self-publishing. There is no dearth of material on the www about how to do it and it is the way of the future. Don't waste your time trying to get traditionally published.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished the final edit on my soon to be released, Poems from the Chatterbox. And I am writing a new novel that I cannot talk about - I don't like to talk about a first draft in progress. In the spring, I will be putting together a book I wrote last summer and publishing it. Then I have a novel I've been writing for a few years that will become my editing project. Whew!
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading an engaging YA novel, The Last Singer by Marjorie Lindsey, and the sweet romance trilogy by Penny Appleton (not sure how I feel about that yet, it may be a bit too sweet for me). I'm also reading the entire internet, it feels like.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
It's a toss-up between The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, or A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toewes. Both are writing perfection to me.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
As I head into my silver years, I hope to make a living from my writing. I will continue to be an indie-author and help others to publish their books. I think indie-publishing is the most exciting development in the book world now and in the foreseeable future.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I'm very interested in spirituality and spend a great deal of time pondering existence and non-existence. What is my purpose here on Earth and am I fulfilling that purpose?
Fred's Funeral is available to buy now. For more about Sandy and her writing, you can visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!