Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Feature Characters that are Pigs

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week’s Top Ten is a bit special, as it is a collaboration between me and two fabulous guests – my kids, Jennifer (8) and Alexander (6). Jennifer and Alexander are daft about pigs; without doubt, pigs are their favourite animals. So when I asked them for suggestions for what type of character I should base this week’s top ten theme, I suppose I should have guessed what sort of characters would come top of the list!

Without further ado, our top ten books that feature pig characters:

Wibbly Pig’s Silly Big Bear by Mike Inkpen (Alexander’s choice)


This is a regular feature at bedtime; in fact, I have read it so often that I know the words off by heart. Wibbly Pig has a bear so big, he can hardly fit on the page….

Piglet’s Big Movie Storybook (Jennifer’s choice)


This one stands out from Jennifer’s toddler years. I remember her crying at the idea of Piglet going missing, and then shrieking with delight when he and his friends were reunited.

The Super Amazing Adventures of Me, Pig by Emer Stamp (Jennifer’s choice)


We bought Jennifer this book at a school book fayre a couple of years ago. I just remember the raucous laughter coming from her bedroom whilst reading it. It’s very funny, apparently.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Alexander’s choice)


This book features a pig and a spider. And that makes it excellent. Enough said.

Animal Farm by George Orwell (my choice)


A less light-hearted addition to the list, and definitely a different take on pigs from the Piglet or Babe ilk. I elected not to explain much about this book to my kids. Perhaps when they’re a bit older.

The Sheep-pig by Dick King-Smith (my choice)


I was a Dick King-Smith fan as a child. I loved this book, and I still love the films inspired by it.

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl (Jennifer’s choice)


Now admittedly, this one doesn’t have a pig as a central character. But Jennifer was very enthusiastic in declaring that it had pigs in it. My kids see pigs everywhere.

The Great Monster Hunt by Norbert Landa (Alexander’s choice)


A group of animals, pigs included, make a monster out of a mouse in a tale of Chinese whispers. Another bedtime favourite.

Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Christmas (Jennifer’s choice)


A seasonal favourite for all of us since I will admit that I love Peppa Pig as much as my children do. It’s just so funny…

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (my choice)


I read this book at school and remember feeling horrified by the boy’s primitive behaviour. “Kill the pig, kill the pig” – please don’t tell my kids…

So can you think of any other pig characters from the world of literature? Please feel free to share in the comments or via social media.

The Art of Patience

The hardest thing about writing is waiting. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to earlier this week.

I was standing at the sink, washing dishes to the umpteenth time that day and allowing my mind to wander over my recent writing endeavours. Since I returned from my summer holidays, I have submitted queries for my forthcoming novel to countless agents and publishers (okay, I do have a count of them in a spreadsheet somewhere, but the number doesn’t immediately spring to mind). I have also submitted short stories for quite a few competitions, and a number of anthologies. In all honestly, I haven’t really stopped – I even penned an entry for the Costa Short Story Award while on holiday, literally using a pencil and a notepad, since I was stateside sans laptop. So old-school.

I wrote and wrote, and I submitted and submitted and… well, I’m still writing. And waiting. And waiting. And…waiting.

The rejections are one thing, and there have been a few of those, but the silence is definitely the hardest part. Silence allows space for questions – what do they think of my work? What if they hated it? Is it already in the bin? Will they ever reply? How long should I wait?

Argh – questions.

So, by the end of the week I had decided to take matters into my own hands. I would use this waiting time productively. I would keep writing, of course, but I would identify other things I could be doing as well, and I would get on and do them. For example, if my next novel is not picked up by an agent/publisher then I will be self-publishing it this autumn. I can be ready for that – I can have the blurb, cover and graphics all done, I can prepare the promotional material I want to use, I can plan the launch. If my book gets picked up – great. If not, I’m organised.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I’ll be able to announce that I’ve been successful in an anthology or competition, or that my book has been signed up. But if not, my third novel is coming soon, nonetheless.

So watch this space for Ethersay-related announcements.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Autumn TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish.

Today’s top ten is basically the top books that I plan to read in the coming months. To be honest, I doubt I will get through all these books by the end of the year as I have my first contemporary novel, Ethersay being released in late Autumn but I will give it a good go.

Death Of A Ladies’ Man by Alan Bissett

Death Of A Ladies' Man

I picked up a signed copy of this book when I met Alan at an event in Edinburgh a month or or so ago. He specifically warned me about the racy content although this just made me even more intrigued!

Whisky from Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrick

Whisky from Small Glasses

I don’t normally read crime fiction so it will be quite a different experience for me but this was recommended by a friend so I have decided to give it a go.

Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr by Linda Porter

Katherine the Queen

This is a biography of Katherine Parr which I will be dipping into  over the next few months for research into a future novel that I am planning to write.

The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose

The Library of Light and Shadow

The third instalment in the Daughters of La Lune series. I loved the first two books and have been looking forward to getting a chance to read this one.

The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

The Words in My Hand

This novel had me intrigued as it features Rene Descartes who I studied at University. It was also short listed for the Costa prize so I have high hopes for it.

The Seymours of Wolf Hall: A Tudor Family Story by David Loades

The Seymours of Wolf Hall: A Tudor Family Story

As with the previous book in this list about Katherine Parr, this is a research book I plan to work through over the next few months to help me plan a future novel.

One More Minute by Scott MacLean

One More Minute

I came across this on Facebook and it caught my eye although it has sat on my shelf so long that I can’t remember why that actually was. I suppose this means it will be an interesting surprise when I do start reading it.

Pale Rose of England: A Novel of the Tudors by Sandra Worth

Pale Rose of England: A Novel of the Tudors

This is a book I previously started but ended up getting distracted by something else. I hope to finally finish it before the end of the year.

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

The Hypnotist

This is the 2nd M.J. Rose book in my list and funnily enough is also the third book in a series I am thoroughly enjoying.  Although this time the series is The Reincarnationist.

The Life and Death of St. Kilda by Tom Steel

The Life and Death of St. Kilda

Another research book for what is hopefully going to be my next contemporary novel.

So what about your own Autumn TBR lists? Please feel free to share your own plans in the comments or via social media.

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

I absolutely adored this book and could not put it down. It is, in short, a beautiful story about a very unconventional, flawed but likable character who, the reader realises very early on, has a terrible past to come to terms with. Honeyman unravels Eleanor’s story slowly and masterfully, surrounding her with a wonderful and engaging supporting cast, and the reader is hooked until the final page. This is a book about loneliness, about trauma, about the walls we build around ourselves to keep ourselves safe. However, it is also a story filled with hope, with love and life, with liberation and second chances.

It is little wonder that this book is a 2017 bestseller. Without hesitation: five stars.

Available at: Amazon

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Before I Was 18

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish.

Today’s top ten revolves around throwback freebies – books from any time in our lives that made any impact. I chose to pick the books I read before my 18th birthday as these were the books which shaped my love for literature.

Anyway, in no particular order.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong

This book was actually one of the first books I recommended to the man who would become my father-in-law. When I did this I forgot how explicit it could be and was slightly embarrassed when he told me that he was surprised that I enjoyed a book he described as a “porno”.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Sophie's World

An amazing, beautiful book for introducing young minds to the history of philosophical thought.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret

The ultimate handbook on teenage angst, first crushes and menstrual cycles.

Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers

Postcards from No Man's Land

One of the first historical, generation-crossing books I ever read. I still love books like these, ones which weave through the decades, pulling characters together and making their stories collide.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda

The Trunchbull was the stuff of nightmares but the idea of being a kid who can move objects with the power of your mind was just mesmerizing.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

I was almost a grown-up when I read this, which is probably just as well. Tragic, moving, and filled with flawed characters. Kind of like real life.

Sophie’s Snail by Dick King-Smith

Sophie’s Snail

Sophie was small and very determined, just like me.

Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted by Mairi Hedderwick

Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted

Katie throws her favourite ted away in a bad mood (well, who hasn’t?). My siblings and I loved this book as children, and it is a firm favourite with my children now. Beautifully illustrated and very witty. And some great nicknames, just like the sort children give to their relatives – Grannie Island and Grannie Mainland, anyone?

The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook by Shirley Hughes

The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook

This book still conjurs images of jumping in leaves, building dens, and visiting Gran. Every child should have a childhood like a Shirley Hughes character.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank

An inspiring, heart-breaking book. This had an enormous impact on me.

Do you remember the books that you loved during your childhood and teenage years? Please feel free to share your own memories in the comments or via social media.

If the days of the week were people…

Good morning everyone and hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

It’s been a busy time over the past few weeks with family holidays, birthdays, events and trying to enjoy the sunshine – well, when it appears. This is Scotland, after all…

Anyway – I digress. As well as being busy with family commitments, I have been writing lots of query letters to literary agents and independent publishers in an effort to secure a publisher for my forthcoming novel, Ethersay. Hopefully more about this soon, but for now, watch this space…

Some writers are able to move from one novel and straight onto the next with little difficulty. Unfortunately, I have found that I am not one of those novelists. Whenever I reach this stage with a book, where it is finished, the manuscript is edited, honed and being touted around the publishing world, I find it difficult to start my next project – I suppose you could call it a book hangover, of sorts.

I used to find this frustrating but, thankfully I’ve learned now to put this lull to good use. Big projects might be off the table (for now), but a time like this is a good opportunity to reflect and to explore, and to create smaller pieces. So, over the last few weeks I have focused on pulling together ideas for future books (and there are plenty of them; indeed, where do I begin?!) as well as working on some short stories, many of which I have submitted for competitions and anthologies.

I have also been writing some poetry which was a surprise even to me! Since so much of my focus over recent years has been on prose, I thought I had forgotten how to write a poem. Today I thought I would share with you a piece I wrote this week. It was inspired by a prompt provided at my writers’ group, which was to write about the day of the week as though they are people. Originally I had intended to write a prose piece for this but a poem just seemed to fit better, somehow. I am pretty pleased with it, and it is this sort of pleasant surprise which is one of the many reasons why I love going to a writers’ group. If you’re a writer too, please, please look up your local group and consider joining – a good writers’ group can provide so much support and inspiration, as well as friendship and fun. I really cannot recommend them enough.

Anyway, here is my piece – I hope you enjoy it.

If the Days of the Week were People…

Monday – he’s the guy who likes to grumble,
The reluctant one, likely to stumble
Over his own two feet
Like the drunk who’s ready to greet
At his own misfortune.
Well, it is the start of the week.

Tuesday – she’s feeling a bit better,
She’s found her rhythm now, and if you met her
In the street, you’d see a smile
That’s been hidden for a while
(For twenty-four hours at least).
Well, there are only four days left in the week.

Wednesday – he’s all about feng shui,
Balance, equilibrium, he knows it’s better that way;
Like the Zen-master filled with peace
This guy will never cease
To relish his happy medium.
Well, it is the middle of the week.

Thursday – she’s the lady who likes to hope,
The optimistic one, never likely to mope,
To grumble or to complain.
She knows there’s so much to gain
Because she’s almost there:
It is almost the end of the week.

Friday – he’s the one who’s giving it laldy,
Well, what else should he and his pals dae?
Beers, parties, having fun –
He looks back on his week and knows he’s won!
He’s made it this far and he’s going to enjoy it:
After all, it is the end of the week.

Saturday – yawn, she wishes she was tougher,
Friday went on too long and now she’ll suffer.
Snuggled down in her blankets she tries to sleep
But all her efforts at counting sheep
Are thwarted – damn week-day body clock, go away!
After all, it is a weekend day.

Sunday – he’s as wholesome as a roast beef dinner,
Naps, television, gentle strolls – he’s onto a winner.
Refreshed and recovered from the week’s traumas,
He’s the guy who will never bore us.
Although when evening comes we begin to fear:
We know that the start of another week is here.

Book Review: The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

“It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents.  His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams. 

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.”

I came across this book through a Facebook writers/arts group of which I am a member, and am I glad that I did?! I read this book in a couple of days – it hooked me so completely. This novel brings together the stories of Jean and Donald, Connie and Alf, and Fred, all taking place across different periods of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but all connected by one thing – A Singer Sewing Machine.

Fergie is a skillful storyteller, weaving the story together through chapters which deal with snapshots of these characters’ lives without the plot becoming heavy or confusing. The characters are engaging and sympathetic, especially Fred, for whom I had an enormous soft spot by the end of the novel. I loved the novel’s unique telling-point, the way that it is an object rather than a person which acts as a sort of inanimate protagonist, grounding the story and cementing the history which brings these characters together. The pacing of the plot is nice and steady, and the links and secrets are revealed in a timely and interesting fashion which spurs the reader on to find out more – in short, I couldn’t put this down.

A highly enjoyable read. Five stars.

Available at: Amazon

A Woman Named Sellers reviewed by The Historical Novel Society

I am so delighted that the Historical Novel Society has reviewed my second novel, A Woman Named Sellers.

If you’d like to read the review, follow the link below:
Historical Novel Society – A Woman Named Sellers Review

A Woman Named SellersA Woman Named Sellers
Released: 31st May 2016

Twenty years after the first witch trials, is history about to repeat itself in Pendle?

Following the sudden death of her father, Jennet Sellers arrives in Barley to live with the Holgates, her relatives whom she barely knows. Grieving, and thrown into the turmoil of her new, cramped household, she finds solace in new friendships and in her attraction to the handsome, charismatic stonemason from Cumberland, William Braithwaite.

However, Jennet has a secret; a terrible, guilt-ridden secret which has haunted her since childhood. As Jennet finds herself falling in love with William, her life also begins to unravel, threatening to remove her thin veil of anonymity and reveal who she really is. Then, when a little boy starts telling tales about witches, suddenly Jennet finds that she is in the middle of a painfully familiar situation which puts not only her life at risk, but also threatens the lives and happiness of those she loves the most.

A Woman Named Sellers is a novel about love, forgiveness and atonement which asks, is it ever possible to escape your identity and your past?

Pitch/Blurb for Ethersay Revealed

I’m pleased to reveal my pitch/blurb for my forthcoming novel, Ethersay. Currently pitching my novel to literary agents, fingers crossed!

The day after the referendum, my life fell apart…

The day after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, Glaswegian Yes activist Rebecca Owen decides to run away. After being involved in a car accident she is knocked unconscious and when she wakes, she finds herself inexplicably marooned on an isolated Scottish island, Ethersay.

Suffering from memory loss, Rebecca finds herself drawn into the island’s mysteries, particularly those surrounding the strange disappearance of a young woman, Delilah Berry, whose fate seems to be inextricably intertwined with her own. As Rebecca draws closer to the truth about Delilah, she is forced to confront what happened to her in Glasgow, and everything she lost, with devastating consequences.

Woven across two timelines which draw together one woman’s experiences of remote island life and the climax of the Scottish referendum in Glasgow, Ethersay is a contemporary, literary novel about the search for truth, but also the pain of remembering.

Book Review: Click Date Repeat Again by K J Farnham

Click Date Repeat Again Cover

Click Date Repeat Again is the second novel in the series by K J Farnham. It can be read and enjoyed as a novel in its own right; however, as a huge fan of Click Date Repeat I would recommend reading that one first as it hugely enhances the reader’s enjoyment of the second story.

In Click Date Repeat Again we meet Jess Mason, a twenty-something who has just come out of a bad relationship and who has a pretty poor track record with the opposite sex. Her friend, Chloe, who we met and got to know in the first book, has bought Jess a subscription to a dating website. Sceptical but nonetheless keen to break the habit of a lifetime and find a nice guy, Jess jumps feet first into the world of online dating, with some unexpected and amusing results!

In short, I absolutely adored this book. Stylistically it is flawless, and the story flows at a perfect pace. I found myself completely absorbed and unable to put it down, desperate to know whether Jess was going to get her happy ending. Farnham does an amazing job in creating some memorable characters: Jess is complex, a little vulnerable and hugely sympathetic, and I found myself really cheering her on towards the end, hoping that she was going to end up in the arms of one guy in particular. If you want to know which guy and whether she does….well, you’ll just have to read it to find out.

Five stars. An amazing read; highly recommended for fans of women’s fiction, contemporary fiction and romance.

Available at: Amazon / Createspace