Research in Southwark for Setting for New Novel

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Originally posted on SC Skillman Blog:
Last Saturday I was in Southwark, London SE1, researching locations for my new novel. To me, the setting for a novel must have a strong emotional connection. My first two novels were set in…

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Review: Bloodsucking Fiends

Bloodsucking Fiends
Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christopher Moore has an amazing imagination. As I read Bloodsucking Fiends and, a while back, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, I kept asking myself, “Where do all his ideas come from?”

This story is both creative and funny. It is different to any other vampire story that you have read, or will ever read, unless somebody plagiarises Moore.

Tommy is the leader of a gang of oddball supermarket shelf-stackers. Jody is a novice vampire. The two of them form what one would normally consider to be an unlikely alliance. But, once I have told you that every event and character in this book is unlikely, you will reconsider.

Tommy and Jody set out on a mission to survive. Murders happen around them throughout their journey. A centuries-old vampire provides elements of tension and extreme danger. The San Francisco police. particarly two contrasting detectives, bungle their way into and through the adventure.

Each of the members of The Animals plays a part, and they are all great fun as well as, like most of the characters in this book, having their dark sides.

I can go no further without mentioning my favourite character in the whole book: The Emperor. This old man is the self-styled Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico. He is supported by “his men,” who turn out to be two dogs equipped to do battle against the “vicious, murdering fiend who has been stalking his City.” This guy is respected by everyone, and he becomes Tommy’s best friend and ally.

I can’t say too much more without spoiling it for you, except that you should watch out for the turtles.

Now you are asking yourself if I am crazy, but I kid you not. There are so many surprises in this book. Now that I have finished, I want to go back and read it all over again. It was that good!

The one negative comment that I would make, is that I don’t see this as a love story. The two main characters make use of each other, and they do declare their love for each other, but there is no romance. Perhaps that will come in the next book in the series, You Suck.

Sadly, my to-read shelf is groaning and beckoning me to pick up the next, fresh volume to relieve some of the weight that she carries.

You really MUST make space in your life for Bloodsucking Fiends. Highly recommended.

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20 Questions with Eden Baylee

Today we sit down with author and blogger Eden Baylee. She is going to share a bit about her work, inspiration and a little about herself. I hope you enjoy this installment of 20 Questions. Q1) Whe…

Source: 20 Questions with Eden Baylee

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Review: Midnight

Midnight by Josephine Cox

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story started off very well. It was intriguing and captivating and showed much promise of more surprises and thrills to come. The characters were all building quite nicely. But then it started to lose its momentum, and I found myself, by half way through, just reading on because I had to find out where the story would take me.

Towards the end, the momentum picked up again, but then all of the threads of the storyline just snapped shut, one by one, and I was left in a bewildered daze.

I was particularly unhappy about the way that one of the leading characters suddenly was killed off in just a few short paragraphs. I have no argument with the reality of sudden death, but there was no continuation into what happened next, or the impact that the tragedy had upon the other characters who had surrounded her, and been part of her life, up until that point. She was just dead, and so was her part in the story.

The book was OK, and I wouldn’t like to distract you if you were just about to pick it up, but there are plenty of other books which I would choose to read before Midnight!

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Review: Bridget Jones’s Baby

Rating: 4 stars out of a possible 5.

So many people had told me that this film is hilarious that I had to see it for myself. They were right! From the beginning to the end I was laughing out loud along with the rest of the audience.

My favourite parts of the film, the parts which made me laugh the most, were in the television studio where Bridget (Renée Zellweger) works as the producer of a news programme, feeding words into the ear of her anchor woman and best friend, Miranda (Sarah Solemani). To make matters worse, and funnier, they are overseen by the new, ultra-critical, young director of Hard News, Alice (Kate O’Flynn). These scenes are typically chaotic and brilliantly comedic.

bridget-jones-baby-sonogramThe plot is well described in every article and review of this film, so I won’t bore you with more “Bridget the geriatric mother battles with guilt trip whilst wondering whether the father is Mark or Jack” narrative.

There were a couple of cheeky side-swipes at past events that maybe only the British audience would know about. The first was drawn from 2006, when the BBC mistakenly interviewed Guy Goma, who had come for a job interview, instead of Guy Kewney, who was due to appear on BBC News 24 to discuss  Apple’s legal battle with record label, Apple Corps. Wrong Guy! The second was a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s “We are a grandmother” quote, when Bridget’s mother says almost exactly the same.

Incidentally, the film features probably the longest local election campaign ever: Bridget’s true blue mother campaigns throughout her daughter’s entire pregnancy term to secure three hundred and something votes.

An extra boost for me came near the end of the film, when I realised that the hospital where Bridget Jones’s Baby would be born was University College Hospital, London. That is exactly the same hospital where yours truly was born in December 1955!

I hugely recommend this film to everyone. It is a tonic which is guaranteed to make you feel happy.

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A letter to men: Make me feel safe

Originally created and posted by on September 29, 2016


Safe. Maybe it’s not a word that comes to mind immediately when you think of what you want in your intimate relationships. Maybe you just assume it’s already there.  Maybe it seems obvious or too simple a concept.


But what does that really mean? A short while ago, I wrote a blog about communication between men and women and why we often feel at war with each other when we really just want to connect.  We want the same thing – a deep, emotional connection – but we have different ways of getting there. “For women to open our vulnerable soul to another, we need to feel secure. We need to know we can depend on our partner to not just be there, but to stay there.”  In other words, women want to feel safe.

Feeling safe is different than feeling trust, though they are related. On the trusted plane, we might talk about my job, my kids, my rescue menagerie or the never-ending project I call a home.  I might confide some relationship frustrations or share gossip with you. But you cross the line from trusted acquaintance or friend to an intimate in my ‘safe tribe’ when I know the darker sides of me are safe with you – the side that has serious doubts about my ability to parent, the side that still wonders what she wants to be when she grows up, the side that doesn’t find the idea of “growing up” particularly appealing anyway, the side that thinks we’re never too old to talk about sex, the side that thinks she too intense for anyone to really love, the side that cries during cat food commercials featuring really, really cute kittens… when I share the insane, inane and fearful sides of me, the sides that I think are ugly and weak, and I share them because I know that you’re going to listen and understand. And stay.

A safe tribe does not have to be a large tribe.  But the safe tribe does have to:

  • Listen
  • Support
  • Reflect
  • Hold space
  • Share
  • Love

A safe tribe does not:

  • Judge
  • Criticize
  • Use phrases like, “Well, that’s what happens when…” or “I told you so…”‘
  • Change the subject

What does this mean in our intimate relationships with men?  It means we are asking them to provide a safe place for us to fully explore our emotional side, and all the dark corners and brilliant fireworks that come with it. It means asking men to listen, to support and to focus on being present with us, not solving the problem.  It means asking men to remind us, in their clear, loud voices, that despite our thunderclouds of emotions and lightening strikes of self doubt, they can accept and embrace our vulnerability and know that we are not weak for sharing it.

Because that’s our fear – you will see our watery eyes or shaking voices or sniffling noses or strident tones and stressed out arm waving  as signs of weakness and an inability to cope.  Funny thing is, regardless of the despair we may feel in that moment, we’re pretty sure we can cope.  We made it this far. But we need the safety of your space to vent, release, process and share that side of ourselves so that we can clear it, release it, and then get back to our lives.  And we go back knowing that you get us, you love us, you support us and you will help us, should we need it and ask for it.

It’s not easy. We’re not all comfortable with emotions. And if they’re running high and wild, it can be quite a ride to just be present during the journey.  It can be hard to watch someone you love struggle with a problem and bite your tongue on all your great advice of how to solve it.  Or, it can seem that the pathos are over an issue that to you, is no big deal. But it is. To her. So find out why.  It can be tough to hold space for anger, for hurt, even for love. As she strugggremlin not safeles with her gremlins of “I am not good enough” or “I am not lovable”, you may struggle too. So giving her space to work through it and not bringing your own gremlins into the conversation can be challenging. You may not feel terribly safe yourself, in those moments you are providing safety for her. But know that you are giving her something so much more powerful, so much more meaningful, than the back-chatter of her gremlins. And yours.

Funny, isn’t it: we’re so sure that if we show you our “weaker” side – that we have deep self-doubts about pitching a proposal to the executive team at work, that we’re insecure about the jiggle in our belly or that flappy skin that magically appeared under our arms, that we want to age gracefully and have no idea how, that some days we really do want to stay in a fluffy robe, eat bonbons and watch soap operas all day because we’ve just had enough – if we show you that, you will think we are silly and weak and you will leave us.

And yet… yet… should you show us that you have your own demons about looking unprepared at a board meeting, about your own no-longer-washboard abs, about your ability to “perform” in bed and really just wanting to watch college football for 48hrs straight and think about nothing, literally nothing… and yet… if you told us that, it would not occur to us to think of you as weak or silly or a waste of our time. We women have our own double-standards that we apply most harshly to ourselves.

Women want to feel safe but it benefits men, too.  The beauty of feeling safe: open, vulnerable, and the full range of emotions that nature has provided us – all yours to experience and explore with us. The conversation is better. coupleThe sex is better. The ability to share is better.  The connection to someone who “gets” you is better.  And we are better – more present, more honest, more able to love – because of it.  When a woman feels safe, she will give you her entire world. And trust that you will take good care of it.

So make me feel safe. Make every woman in your life feel safe.  If you dare. And see what you get back.

Natalie Hahn is a principal at Dirty Girls Consulting, focused on helping men and women tackle the challenges of communication and life transitions. We explore breaking free of traditional standards, how we communicate between the sexes and redefine the “midlife crisis” to accomplish professional and personal goals, creating an authentic, fully loved life. Read more Dirty Girl Consulting blogs here.

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Review: The Sentry

The Sentry
The Sentry by Robert Crais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Robert Crais that I have read, and I enjoyed it very much. It is certainly action-packed and fast-paced from the very first page. There is a lot of brutal violence involved, and plenty of blood.

The hero, Joe Pike, watches out for the oppressed. He is a very tough guy, and I would certainly prefer to have him as a friend than an enemy. Surprisingly, for such a character, he sometimes lets his heart lead his mind. His supporter, Elvis Cole, is tough too, but seems more analytical in his approach, and tries to make Pike see the sense in his actions. The balance is great.

Some of the FBI agents and police officers involved are complete idiots, and some are bent. However, some of them are doing the right thing, and are straight down the middle. The twists and turns in the story keep you wondering which is which until the author chooses to reveal the truth. That is good suspense writing.

The bad guys are also very tough, and the match is almost even. Who will prevail? Well you have to read the whole book to its very gory conclusion to find out!

The one thing that did confuse and distract me, was that one of the characters is called Chloe, and is male. I have always thought of Chloe as a girl’s name, so I was thinking, “This is one helluva tough chick,” for about two-thirds of the book! Maybe it’s a common guy’s name in America, but not here in In-ger-land!

Anyway, this is a book that I’d recommend to anyone who can cope with a good story ladled with a huge dollop of violence.

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