Will #COVID19 Fuel #Horror and #Apocalyptic #Writing? A guest post from @john_f_leonard #WritingCommunity

I recently asked author John Leonard how the current Covid19 crisis might affect horror and apocalyptic writing, and he kindly agreed to offer us his thoughts. 

John F. Leonard

These are very strange times. The news is a daily bombardment of death tolls and dire warnings. It feels as if dystopia has jumped off the fictional pages and become our reality. Asking whether COVID-19 will fuel horror and apocalyptic writing may seem like a rather insensitive question, given the circumstances, but it’s not meant that way. Think of it as just another little distraction when any distraction is welcome. Even for those of us untouched by tragedy, this is an odd and disconcerting period. It gets you thinking. I was pondering an aspect of the coronavirus crisis which relates to writing. The impact on certain genres within the writing community. In particular, how it might influence horror and end of the world stories.

I talk to a fair few writers in the horror and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fraternity. The recent tone of these conversations echoed my own thoughts. The things which infatuate us, niche in many ways, have gone 24hr media mainstream. It raises difficult questions. How you deal with that as an author? Do you shamelessly promote your old stuff? Does the situation make the current work in progress redundant? Is it ethically acceptable to put out an apocalyptic story in this climate?

My take is positive, on the whole. Will COVID-19 fuel horror and apocalyptic writing?


There’s evidence of increased interest in this type of literature at the moment, both amongst readers and writers. Understandably so. Coronavirus lends apocalyptic tales added credibility. The absurd is far less absurd when you experience a diluted version of it as your reality. This appetite will grow after the present crisis has passed. We’ve been given a scare and we read and write about what scares us. It’s a way of coping with the fear. There have been similar instances in the past. The prospect of nuclear Armageddon in the Fifties, for example. That produced an explosion in horror and science fiction. Films and books about disaster and catastrophe. Monsters and aliens which threatened life as we know it.

I might be wrong, but I think this could be comparable. New classics will be born and some neglected gems gain recognition. Don’t get too excited if you’re a PA author, far more of those underrated apocalyptic pearls will probably remain ignored. I also suspect COVID-19 will spawn some truly inventive thinking about apocalyptic scenarios and tighten the weave of horror into the underlying narrative of other genres. On a negative note, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be swamped with previously unknown levels of crap. A new wave of bad indie. People with time on their hands and imaginations fired by visions of societal collapse will turn to the keyboard and give it the good old college try. That sounds like I’m dissing indie. Not the case, it’s one my great loves. You have to be honest though.

Publishing and promotion isn’t an issue. Write about whatever you want and promote what works for you. If it has merit, you’ll find an audience. The basics of writing don’t change, irrespective of era or setting. Telling the tale well never gets old. A good story is a good story.

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that my own preference for reading (and writing) has always been horror and apocalypse. An inclination which isn’t easily explained. They’ve captivated me ever since I was old enough to buy paperbacks for pennies from some long gone second-hand bookstore. No idea why I’m so entranced. Maybe it’s because my mom let me stay up late and watch Hammer Horror when I was a kid. I could blame Stephen King for writing The Stand. Who can say? Sometimes we simply like what we like, I suppose.

Which brings me back to the question. The horror and apocalyptic genres have attained an enduring status. They’re not going away. People like me gravitate to them without any apparent reason. Rest assured, COVID-19 will only serve to fuel the interest. It may well usher in a golden age.

Thank you John.

John was born in England and grew up in the midlands where he learned to love the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains. He studied English, Art and History and has, at different times, been a sculptor, odd-job man and office worker.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Guest Author Vikki Patis joins us to talk about her new book @VikkiPatis #SundayBlogShare

Please welcome Vikki Patis to the blog today.


Vikki Patis: Advice From Authors

Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. She’s recently published a collection of short stories, Weltanschauung, and is here today to talk about the authors who inspire her.

Over at The Bandwagon, we speak to so many different authors. We interview them, review their books, and do our best to help them promote their work. Because of this, we’re able to ask them about their writing process, and get in on some tricks of the trade.

I admire so many authors, big or small, mostly for their determination. Back when I started The Bandwagon, I was what one might call an aspiring writer. I aspired to write, but I wasn’t writing. So I started writing about other people writing.

Gathering advice from seasoned authors gave me the push I needed to write my own stories, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. There were some false starts, some projects that didn’t pan out, and there were times when I thought I’d never finish anything. Then I decided to actually take the advice I’d been writing about all this time.

Make sure what you’re writing is important to you, advised Mark Lawrence. “Put your butt in the chair and write the book,” said Charlaine Harris, author of the books that inspired True Blood. “Don’t stop until you finish. You’ll never sell a book you haven’t written.” Leigh Bardugo assured me that “there’s no expiration date on your talent. If it doesn’t happen when you’re 20, it doesn’t matter, it can happen when you’re 30, 40, 50. If you have a story to tell, that’s all people are going to care about.” Tiffany McDaniel told me to never give up.

In 2014, I interviewed George RR Martin himself at WorldCon. The experience was amazing, and not one I’m likely to forget any time soon. He told me to write short stories. But I don’t like short stories, I protested. Exactly, he said. Challenge yourself. So I did, because no one ignores George RR Martin.

The result is Weltanschauung, a collection of short stories that traverse genres, but all with the same goal in mind: to make you challenge your worldview. Inside are five short stories: Zombie, Only If, Grave Oversight, Harbinger and Bane. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.


Weltanschauung is available on Kindle and in paperback now. From 16th – 18th December 2016, Weltanschauung will be available for only 99p! For more information, join the Facebook event here. Follow Vikki on Twitter: @VikkiPatis

Guest Post from Andrew Smith author of THE SPEECH @andrewaxiom @urbanepub

Today we have a guest post from Andrew Smith author of The Speech, talking about some of the inspiration behind his book.


Book Description

On April 20th, 1968, Enoch Powell, Member of Parliament in the English town of Wolverhampton, made a speech that shook Britain to its core. The ramifications of what some labeled a “racist diatribe” changed forever the way in which race was viewed and discussed in the United Kingdom. The Speech follows the lives of a group of characters—including Powell himself—living in Wolverhampton over a 10-day period before and after his speech. Mrs. Georgina Verington-Delaunay is a volunteer working in the Conservative riding office of Enoch Powell. It is through her interaction with Powell, now at a critical point in his political career, that we get to know him intimately. Frank and Christine are art students inadvertently caught in an undercurrent of intolerance. Nelson and his aunt, Irene, are Jamaican immigrants striving to make a life for themselves in an atmosphere of turbulent emotions and polarized opinions concerning Britain’s immigration policies. A violent crime brings these disparate characters together as they struggle to find their places in the swiftly changing society of 1960s Britain. Set against a background of “subversive” music, radical fashions, and profound change in “moral values,” they attempt against all odds to bring a fair conclusion to an unjust investigation. As they work together against murky elements of self-interest and bigotry, they’re forced to confront their own consciences and prejudices. 


My idea of attending art school had more to do with the bohemian lifestyle it offered rather than any real desire to become an artist. It was pure luck that I happened to be proficient enough to be accepted in 1965 at Wolverhampton College of Art, which became the main setting for my recently published novel, The Speech, set in the 1960s.

At school I thought I was pretty hip when it came to music. Every Friday evening I watched the popular TV show Ready Steady Go (opening line: “The weekend starts here!”), featuring all the latest hits. But I realised I was a lightweight once I hit art college and encountered people who discussed the pros and cons of a particular rock band or pop group with unparalleled and undisguised passion. Every student I knew owned a cheap transistor radio, usually tuned to pirate radio stations that were never off the air. Most people had a mono record player, and a few were lucky enough to own a stereo. Popular music was unavoidable, it was everywhere all the time.

Here are a couple of excerpts from The Speech describing my art student protagonist, Frank McCann, working in the Art College photographic darkroom:

Frank watched intently as an image gradually emerged on a stark white rectangle of photo paper lying in a bath of developing fluid. Puppet On A String played on a tinny transistor radio. Songbird Sandy Shaw was too perky for his taste. He flicked off the radio.

And a little later:

Now he could relax and admire his handiwork framed by the background of the black plastic fixer tray. He flicked on the radio. The smooth tones of Otis Reading singing Dock o’ the Bay seeped into the windowless room.

And of course every pub and coffee bar had a juke box. Here’s Frank in his favourite public house:

Frank heard the clatter of change being deposited in the jukebox. A hurdy-gurdy keyboard introduction was followed by Jim Morrison’s trademark sullen style as he began the lyrics of Light My Fire. The door swung open and a blast of cool air propelled a gaggle of painting students into the pub.

Some of the busiest locations for the art student social scene were the jazz and folk clubs held in Wolverhampton pubs. Students went in droves, but fell into two distinct camps: folkies and jazz-freaks, each with their own distinctive style. Here Frank and his girlfriend visit a folk club:

The capacious upstairs room of the Giffard Arms was already packed with folkies huddled around tables when Frank and Christine arrived. Billows of blue-grey cigarette smoke hung in the air from the roll-your-owns folkies preferred over commercial brands. It seemed to Frank they made a perverse performance of the cigarette-rolling chore, making a point of only using Rizla liquorice papers. Despite the smoke, patchouli was the dominant aroma in the room. Along with a solemn expression, folkie women tended to wear their hair long, often painstakingly straightened, usually parted in the middle. Almost all the men sported bushy beards.

Frank isn’t a particular fan of folk clubs, but goes along anyway. Here he muses about folk music:

Why was it, wondered Frank, that a roomful of people with the average age of twenty-five, were riveted by a song about a shepherd wandering the English countryside a hundred years or more before they were born. As far as he could tell most of the songs that folkies revelled in were about a bygone age. And it wasn’t as if they were full of sweetness and light either, most ended in horrible tragedy.

It wasn’t only pop, rock, jazz, and folk that permeated the 1960s student music scene. Ska and reggae, introduced by West Indian immigrants, were becoming popular. Here my Jamaican character, Nelson, recently arrived in England, first hears a recording of The Pioneers, a reggae group that later achieved some popularity among students:

It was in Wesley’s shop that Nelson first heard The Pioneers singing Long Shot. It smooth so! He was torn between excitement at the sheer novelty of the slower tempo and crushing disappointment at not being able to hear the Pioneers sing it for real.

So when it came to writing The Speech, there was no way I could avoid liberally sprinkling musical allusions throughout, which added greatly to the fun of being an author, and gave me the perfect excuse to replay some of the hits from the era.



Cream – I’m so glad

Sandy Shaw – Puppet on a String

The Doors – Light My Fire

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced

The Beatles – Penny Lane

Procul Harem – A Whiter Shade of Pale

Tyrannosaurus Rex – My People Were Fair and Had Sky In Their Hair

Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Jon Raven – The Unquiet Grave

The Pioneers – Long Shot

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith was born in Liverpool, but was too young to gain admittance to the Cavern Club to witness the birth of the Beatles. A year or so later he couldn’t forgive his father for taking a job in the British Midlands and moving the family at the height of the Mersey Sound era to Wolverhampton, where there was no sound at all, Slade being still in short trousers. But Smith did witness the local reaction to Wolverhampton MP Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech and, apart from the occasional ‘lost weekend,’ he remembers most of the brouhaha during that time. Smith has published numerous short stories, some of which won awards. His novel ‘Edith’s War’ won a gold medal for fiction at the Independent Book Publishers’ Awards. His latest novel, The Speech, was published in October, 2016 by Urbane Publications. Examples of Smith’s short fiction and other writing can be found at: www.andrewsmithwrites.com

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Today I’m a guest of Wendy Lou Jones chatting about #Books and #BookReviews #MondayBlogs @WendyLouWriter

Today I’m a guest of the lovely Wendy Lou Jones, do check out the interview here
Hello, and welcome back to my blog. Today I have the lovely Rosie Amber with me talking about blogging. Take it away Rosie.
Hi. My name is Rosie Amber, I live in Fleet in the county of Hampshire, England.
A southern belle, much like myself. 🙂

How long have you been blogging and what is the name of your blog?
I’ve been blogging on Rosie Amber for 4 years, I run a book reviewing blog with a team of reviewers. We try to offer an author several different reviews all from one location. Plus I run challenges, writer advice posts, and try to bridge the gap between authors and their reading audience. Come over and have a rummage around the blog at Rosie Amber
I think we should! https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/

How do you fit all this reading into your life? (marriage/kids/job)
I don’t watch TV and I will read anywhere, so that really helps to get through books quickly. I do have to fit my reading around a busy family life and part-time work as a farm secretary.

What keeps you blogging?
I love the buzz from finding a new gem of a book and sharing it with my readers, it’s also great to get a conversation going about books, writing etc with the readers. We’ve recently had some cracking conversations about Book clubs and libraries on my Wednesday Wing posts.
I think I’ve missed that… Better make a note. And she’s @rosieamber1 if you’re interested.

What is your favourite genre?
I do like to mix it up, I’m a fan of YA Paranormal, but I’ll read most genres although Horror’s not a frequent genre on my book list, I need to sleep at night! Recently I have read HistFic, non-fiction, a travel memoir, fantasy, Sci-Fi, romance, women’s fiction and a short story.
An all-rounder!

Are you an e-reader or a paperback girl?
I like both formats, an e-reader is lighter to hold, but often I get “reader’s finger” an ache from all the screen tapping to turn pages. Holding a book is lovely as long as it’s not too heavy and I like to share books with friends, so a paperback is great for that purpose. I’ve recently started creating YouTube videos of my book reviews, so a paperback is also ideal to show in the video but not always necessary.  http://www.youtube.com/c/RosieAmber
I’m a Kindle girl nowadays and never have a problem with the finger, LOL but if I return to paperbacks, I get confused when tapping the page doesn’t make it turn!

Who would you cast as the male lead for a romantic movie of your life? (artistic license expected!)
I have no idea, I’m not great at knowing actors, so I’ll take a character from a book. I think I’ll borrow Edward Cullen for a few hours and spend a time being exposed to his vast knowledge of culture and history, plus spend some time exploring the NW forests of America.
I take it we’re not talking about the teen Twilight sensation here…?

Do you have a favourite classic?
I’ve not read any classics for years and years, although I did re-read The Jungle Book a couple of years ago. In the future I would like to see the Harry Potter series given the Classic label, Penguin ran a survey recently asking which books we thought should be future classics and I voted for Harry Potter.
Oh, what an interesting thought. My husband always teases me that students will be studying my books for their high school exams in years to come. LOL I don’t think so. 😉

What are you reading at the moment?
In January I read 22 books, so I don’t like to answer with just one book, my next books will be; The House At The End Of The Street by Meena Van Praag, Dead Beat Dad by J.R Rain (Available from Feb 20th), The Dean Machine by Dylan Peters , One Way Fare by Barb Taub and I’m hoping to get an ARC of Souless by Sarah J Pepper. (Available from Feb 23rd)
I’m sorry… 22 books in a month!?! I feel so inadequate.

Thanks for coming on Rosie. I’m definitely going to take a look at that Wednesday twitter thing and hope that several others join in too. Bye!

Today I’m guesting over with Rachel Poli @RPoli3 chatting about #Bookreviews #TuesdayBookBlog

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out Rachel’s Be A Guest Blogger page.

Re-blogged from Rachel Poli


This week’s guest post is brought to you by Rosie Amber, where she discussed book reviewing. Thanks, Rosie!

Rosie Book Reviews

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today for a chat about book reviewing.

I’m Rosie Amber and I run a book reviewing blog at https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/

You can also find me on Twitter @rosieamber1.

Why as a reader I think reviews are important

In today’s world the book market is reaching saturation point. Self-publishing and e-book opportunities have opened the doors to publishing which were once held closed by publishing houses. So how can authors connect to their readers? More and more people are buying books online where they look at the book cover, the book description and they check out other reader’s reviews.

I love reading and want to share the books I love with others, so what better way than by writing a review and posting it on various online platforms and book buying sites.

As a reviewer, I post reviews about nearly all the books I read as long as I can rate them 3* or above.

How can reviews help other readers?

I write short reviews. I’ll explain the book genre up front, then if it’s not one a reader likes, they can move on. I’ll usually talk quickly about the main characters and where or when the book is set. I’ll then go on to give a bit of information about the storyline, so that readers can decide themselves if the book sounds enticing. I’ll finish with a summary of what I liked about the book and if necessary what didn’t work for me. If the book needed another run through editing I will mention that and it will reflect in my rating. It’s so important in this competitive market for writers to put out their VERY best piece of work and not rush to publish.

Helping authors by sharing what I love about books

Almost two years ago I filled my blog with all my own reviews, but my request list was getting long and I was being asked to review genres which I didn’t enjoy. So I created a book review team. Members join on a voluntary basis and review books around their own lives. There is no minimum or maximum number of books to read as long as they read and review a book in a month. We post reviews on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads, reviewer’s blogs and I get a copy of each review which goes out on my own blog.

It is set up so that authors provide several copies of their work and we give them multiple reviews of the book all from one place.

In 2015 we even ran our first ever book awards around the books we had read to help share our news of fabulous books.

We have a strong social media base and if authors interact with us and our readers it really does spread news of their work in the right places. I add new features to the blog to keep it fresh and enjoy searching for new ideas and ways to reach more of the reading public.

Do drop in, say hello, pull up a chair and get comfy with people who LIKE books.

GUEST POST Vikki Patis @VikkiPatis Talks about blogging and book reviewing #TuesdayBookBlog

Today we have a special guest on the blog, please welcome Vikki Patis


1) Where is your home town?
 I was born in North London, but we moved around a bit, and so I grew up in Hertfordshire. I moved to Plymouth for university, and fell in love with the West Country, but now I’ve found myself back up country, in Hertford.
2) Why did you start blogging?
I started writing for various organisations during my final year at university; I got involved with The Knowledge, Plymouth University’s paper, then looked for more writing opportunities online. I became a staff writer intern at ReadWave, wrote freelance articles for Lovereading, and then created The Bandwagon, my own blog. At that point, my writing was dedicated to books and authors, and while I loved it (and still do!), I wanted a place where I could write about anything. And so the blog was created.
I love writing about different topics; it keeps me informed and fresh. I also write fiction, though I’m yet unpublished, and so I have used my blog to share my stories.
3) What can readers find on your blog?
The biggest part of my blog involves book reviews and “Ask The Author”, a series of interviews with authors big and small, including George RR Martin, Charlaine Harris, Karen Maitland and Samantha Shannon. I also run a Cornish Reading Challenge every year, and am featuring one woman every month as part of #InspiringWomen, which aims to put everday, creative women into the spotlight, and encourage others to follow their dreams. You can also find articles on feminism, disability, cats, and other topics I have an interest in.
4) Do you have book reviewing guidelines?
I generally accept any book for review, barring a few genres such as erotica, and I’m not overly keen on reviewing children’s books. But The Bandwagon is currently expanding, with several new reviewers joining the team, so that may change very soon! Check back in a while for updates.
5) Which recent pots have been the most popular on your blog?
On Christmas Day, I posted a picture of myself in a “Christmas Cook” hat on Instagram. A stranger decided to post some nasty comments regarding my weight; I got angry, and wrote a response. “So I Got Fat-Shamed” was read over 900 times, shared multiple times on social media, and the Facebook post alone reached over 1200 people. I also received comments on the blog post, had several discussions on Twitter, and some people even found the original photo on Instagram and wrote some lovely things. As much as the exposure and popularity of the post is a good thing for my blog, I only wish the writing of it hadn’t been necessary.
Before ReadWave closed it’s doors last month, I had over 25,000 readers. “Ask The Author: George RR Martin” was read over 1000 times, and is one of the most popular author interviews I’ve ever conducted. Which is no surprise, really!
6) What plans do you have for the blog in the future?
One of the biggest plans for The Bandwagon is to bring new reviewers on board, so we can take more review requests and help more authors promote their work. I’m extremely passionate about reading, and strive to help authors get the recognition they deserve.
#InspiringWomen is also a huge feature for 2016. Our first post has already gathered a lot of interest, and I’m excited to see where it takes us. There’s still a few spaces left, so if you’re a successful woman and want to write about your experiences, get in touch!
7) Where can readers find you on social media?
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/vikkipatis/
Twitter: @VikkiPatis
Instagram: Vikki Patis

Guest Author Ian Probert discussing reaching younger readers

Please welcome author Ian Probert to the blog today discussing how he has reached the younger reading audience with his book Johnny Nothing.

Ian Probert

Last year I read and reviewed his book, here is what I thought.


Johnny Nothing is written for children aged 11 upwards, but is readable as an adult. This book should appeal to young boys and girls and should do a good job in encouraging boys to continue reading.

Johnny is a dull child, bored with life, ordinary and poor, until he’s left £1 million by Uncle Marley. The adults in Johnny’s life can’t believe his luck and there is the chance to inherit more. If Johnny can come back in 1 years time with proof of a profit, then he can get £10 million.

Johnny is given a cash card, but as soon as they leave the funeral his Mum snatches it and goes on a very long spending spree, without spending any on Johnny. After 8 months of spending Johnny can stand it no more and puts a stop to his mother, but he finds himself giving away his money to people in need. Suddenly there is nothing left and Johnny once again has nothing. Is there any possible way Johnny can still get hold of the £10 million at the end of one year? You’ll have to read the book to find out.


To celebrate the launch of Johnny Nothing in paperback Ian has come along today to chat about his writing and the book.

In the past I’ve often toyed with the idea of writing a kid’s book. Way back in 1989 my first attempt at ever writing a book was a kid’s thing entitled ‘Star Maker’. It was readable but it certainly didn’t make me a star. While in 1995 I became obsessed for some reason with the name ‘Stephen Dawkins’ (a strange combination, I presume retrospectectively, of Stephen Hawkins and Richard Dawkins), and decided that I’d write a series of books about an ordinary boy having the obligatory extraordinary adventures in Narnia-like worlds. This is how ‘Something Is Wrong With Stephen Dawkins’ began:

“According to some notable physicists there is a very good chance that more than one of you has just reached the end of this sentence. The theory goes that at this very moment in time there are millions or zillions or squillions of identical copies of you sitting in an identical copy of the seat you are sitting in, reading an identical copy of the book you are now reading at precisely the same instant as you are reading it. Just like you they may have also gone back to the first sentence of this paragraph and just like you they may be wondering if the person who wrote this book was completely sane when he wrote it. The trouble with theories, of course, is that they remain just that until somebody can be bothered to get around to proving or disproving them.”
Something is Wrong With Stephen Dawkins, 1995

Like a lot of projects that I start, this one, perhaps thankfully, came to nothing. As did the enigmatically titled ‘Room 23’, ‘Maisa My Dear’ and ‘Patricia Perkins’ Perfectly Paranormal Pet Shop’. As you can see, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried.

Johnny Nothing came about after my daughter was born. One of the great joys of parenthood is reading to your kids. One of the great pains of parenthood is reading particularly awful books to your kids. In reading to Sofia I discovered that books such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlotte Sometimes, Caroline Dreams and H. E. Todd’s Bobby Brewster series were just as fantastic as I remembered (Prince Caspian was just as awful). But when it came to the dreaded TV tie-ins that saturate book stores there were just too many titles that I was forced to read which were poorly written rip-offs designed to relieve parents of their cash. I also noticed that it was rare for Sofia to laugh when I was reading to her. I mean really laugh. Guffaw. Belly-laugh. That sort of thing.

Sofia reaching ten-years-of-age happily coincided with me finally getting diagnosed for a disease that had plagued me for years and years. I won’t bore you with the details but if you’re interested you can read this Guardian article I wrote about it: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/08/underactive-thyroid-was-slowly-killing-me.

Freshly cured like boiled ham and ready to go, I set about writing something that would make Sofia laugh. Except I could never just do that. When I showed the opening chapters to friends I was dismayed to discover that they were not laughing. It wasn’t enough for Sofia to laugh, I wanted everyone to find Johnny Nothing funny. And that, I believe, is the true test of a good children’s book. For it to have any worth at all it should provide entertainment for all ages. A big ask. A tremendously big ask. Whether I’ve succeeded is, of course, not for me to say.

Marketing the book has been incredibly difficult. Writing the book, illustrating it, designing the cover, publishing it. That’s all the really, really easy bit. The hardest bit – obviously – is getting people to read it. And it’s getting harder.

My problem is that in the past everything was given to me on a plate. The first magazine article I ever wrote was immediately published; the first publisher I approached with an idea immediately went for it; I actually chose an agent from a list of four or five who offered my their services; the first book I had published – which is utter crap – sold 100,000 copies without me doing any promotional work whatsoever. All I did was sit on my fat spotty backside collecting cheques.

Now I’ve getting my reward for all that ill-deserved good luck. Being ill and sliding down the greasy pole of failure has given me a long overdue reality check. I now know that if you want success in writing, if you want to sell books, you have to work, work work. How could I ever have thought otherwise?

I had an indie publisher approach me recently wanting to publish ‘Johnny Nothing’ and we both agreed that the number of books that you sell is directly linked to the people you meet, the people you contact. The amount of effort you put into being a salesman.

I have a very strong feeling that we are now in a period that Neil Young would describe as ‘After the gold rush’. The problem is that everyone and their aunt is now able to self publish a book. It’s a subjective thing, I know, but if you spend any time at all on Amazon you will not fail to notice the vast numbers of truly awful ebooks that are now on sale. Sofia has become adept at spotting a bad one and will sometimes laugh uncontrollably when she reads it. The market is choking for air and the traditional role that the big publishers played, i.e. as an editorial system that separated the wheat from the chaff, has more or disintegrated.

At the moment it’s chaos. And it will continue to be so until people like Amazon begin to exercise a little quality control. I think it’s beginning to happen but it’s early days.

The cover of ‘Johnny Nothing’ is probably completely inappropriate for a kid’s book cover. Everybody keeps telling me that. But that’s good as far as I’m concerned. The image depicts one of the book’s supporting character ‘Ebenezer Dark. He’s that most unusual of characters – an honest solicitor. Initially, my idea was to change the cover every couple of months, putting another cast member on the front of the book. That, to me, is one of the advantages of digital publishing. It’s fluid. It can change whenever you like it. You can add chapter. Remove chapters. Rewrite. Change illustrations. What a fantastic thing to be able to do.

The cover was created entirely on an iPad, using a Jot Touch pressure sensitive pen and five or six different apps.


“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia

“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog

Critics are comparing Ian Probert to Roald Dahl. And Johnny Nothing we have a modern successor to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children’s book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book.

Take a look for yourself:


To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:

@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks

The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.

Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?

Send your answers to truth42@icloud.com


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Author biography

Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.




Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids.
And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions
On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit.
Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them).
The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist camp.
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:

Uncle Marley

Uncle Marley

This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired.
The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat.
Johnny looked a little scared.
Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’
There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question.
There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head. Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs
‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror. He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.

Guest Author Anne Allen

Today we have author Anne Allen joining us. Cathy from the book review team recently read and reviewed Anne’s book Guernsey Retreat, catch up with the review here. http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-61d

Iphoto for email

Let’s find out more about Anne and her writing.

Where is your home town?

I now live in sunny (sometimes!) Teignmouth, by the sea in Devon, but I was born and raised in Rugby. For someone who learnt early on that she loved the sea, this proved to be a problem and I’ve spent my adult life making my home by various coasts.

How long have you been writing?

Not that long – I’m a late starter! I began writing my first novel, Dangerous Waters, about 9 years ago, after thinking about writing for many moons. I’m one of those people who tends to prevaricate when attempting anything new but I finally ran out of excuses at that time – now working part-time and the children had flown the nest – and inspiration floated in. Phew! I was boosted by winning First Prize in a competition run by Prima magazine, who were looking for a true-life story of 500 words. After receiving my prize of £500 in M&S vouchers, I thought writing might prove to be a rewarding second career after semi-retiring from being a psychotherapist.

Which genre do your books belong to?

They fall into several genres; each one has a romantic element and Dangerous Waters and Guernsey Retreat are also mysteries, while Finding Mother is a family drama. As a result of my work as a psychotherapist, I’ve been fascinated by relationship issues and these figure largely in my work. And I love buried secrets and mysteries. ☺

Cathy from the book review team recently reviewed Guernsey Retreat. Is this the first book you’ve set on the Channel Island of Guernsey?

No, all my books are set on the island. When I wrote Dangerous Waters it was my homage to the place where I had lived for many happy years and where I left behind a son and numerous friends. I didn’t set out to write a series even with Finding Mother, but by the time I wrote Guernsey Retreat I realised that was what I was doing. The series is called The Guernsey Novels which says it all! Each book is a standalone story, but linked by characters and places. Readers have commented on the fact that characters from one book pop up in another and they enjoy discovering what has happened to them in the intervening years.

Tell us a bit about Malcolm Roget from Guernsey Retreat.

He is an older man, about 70, who was brought up by a single mother, Betty, and learnt young that you could be successful if you worked hard enough. Brought up in Canada, he became a wealthy man from running his own hotel group, but didn’t allow himself a private life, apart from when he met Susan Canning. They had a passionate time together when he worked for a while in London, but he returned to Canada without knowing Susan was pregnant. Meeting his daughter late in life proves to be a turning point for him, coinciding as it does with his decision to set up a natural health centre and retreat in Guernsey, his mother’s original home.

Who is Louisa Canning?

Louisa is the child of Susan and Malcolm. Her mother never married and all Louisa knew about her father was his name. She lives in London and works as a hospital physiotherapist but is feeling stressed by her job and unhappy after the abrupt end of a relationship. It is at this point that her mother dies tragically and Louisa has to embark on a journey of discovery, in more ways than one.

Tell us a bit about Dangerous Waters, the first book in the Guernsey series.

The story focuses on Jeanne Le Page who left Guernsey at 16 after a tragic family accident. She now returns reluctantly following the death of her beloved grandmother. Jeanne, reeling from that loss and the end of a long-term relationship, only plans to stay long enough to sell the cottage she has inherited. However, the cottage holds a secret going back to World War II when Guernsey was occupied and she is drawn into learning more. Jeanne also meets up with old school friends and begins to see that it might be better to stay after all. Another mystery surrounds the tragedy which claimed the lives of her family and left her injured and suffering from traumatic amnesia. Back on the island hazy, frightening memories begin to surface and Jeanne has no choice but to face her demons and re-live the awful events of that long-ago night. As the truth is finally revealed her life is, once again, in danger…

What is the second book, Finding Mother, about?

This story follows Nicole’s search for her birth mother after her marriage hits the rocks and she needs to find out who ‘she really is’. Adopted by Jersey parents, Nicole has enjoyed a comfortable upbringing and, after university, met Tom Oxford when they were both working in radio in Bristol. They married and their careers took off in television, becoming the proverbial media ‘golden couple’. But when Tom’s unfaithful, Nicole realises it’s time for things to change and she wants to find her ‘real’ mother. Her search takes her from England to Spain, where her parents have retired, to Jersey and finally Guernsey. It’s here that she finds a family riddled with its own secrets and Nicole becomes a catalyst for change for them all.

Tell us what you are working on at the moment.

My fourth book in the series, The Family Divided. The story concerns a local family, the Batistes, who have been split since Edmund Batiste was killed during the German Occupation, amidst allegations of collaborating with the enemy. Edmund’s grandson, Andy, wants to clear his grandfather’s name and restore his own father’s rightful inheritance. In this he is helped by Charlotte Townsend, an English friend of Louisa and who appeared in Finding Mother. Charlotte, a recently divorced publisher and fledgling writer, is drawn to Andy and only too willing to undertake research on his behalf. So again we have romance, mystery and family drama as threads throughout the book. It’s due to be published in spring 2015.

Where can readers find out more about you and your books?


The best place is my website – http://www.anneallen.co.uk Here you can read the first chapters of all of my books, watch the book trailers, dip into my blog or the About Me page. I’m always happy to hear from readers and there’s a contact form on the site.

If anyone wants to follow me – nicely of course! – I’m on twitter @AnneAllen21 and my facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-Allen-Author/176883759173475

Find Anne’s Books here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Guest Author Cinda Mackinnon

Today we have a guest author for you to meet, Cinda Mackinnon. Over the last two days we’ve had a review of Cinda’s book from review team member Jessie and my own review of Cinda’s book “A Place In The World” you can catch up with both of these reviews


Jessie’s review http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-5ZN

My Review http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-5VC

Let’s find out more about Cinda and her writing

Interview for Rosie Amber

1) Where is your home town?

Well I never really had one growing up overseas, nor even a state, even though my parents were Americans. I used to say I was from Costa Rica (having lived there the longest) but then people would say “no you’re not” ( being that I’m blondish with blue eyes). Now I say I am from northern California, having now lived here longer than anywhere else and feeling quite comfortable.

2) How long have you been writing?

Since I was about twelve – on and off – but only in the last 10 years was I able to have the luxury and discipline to treat it as a second career. When we were still little kids, I was making up stories for my younger brother every night.

3) What was the one idea behind A Place In the World?

I wanted to write about the sights and sounds of the Andean forests and the Latino culture, but the main theme is “belonging”… finding your place in the world.

4) Describe briefly the Cloud Forest for the readers.

Cloud forests in the tropical latitudes are similar to rainforests, but located in less extensive zones in the mountains. Thus they are cooler, often misty, and have an abundance of mosses, ferns and other “epiphytes” like orchids. The diversity of flora and fauna in both is incredible and I tried to convey the grandeur. Here’s a sample:

Ropy lianas draped every tree with magically twisted vines, and tender foliage competed with other greenery for space and light in the understory. Every square foot held a new fascination: a patterned leaf, an exotic flower or a brilliantly coloured insect to behold. A flamboyant, blue-green caterpillar with yellow spines zigzagged along a wet philodendron.

5) Tell us about your cover art. (photo)

I love how it captures the essence of the book. The book designer sent me photos, but none were quite right as I had a definite notion of what I wanted. The art work is a painting by Martin J. Heade that has been a favourite of mine for years – my husband gets credit for saying “what about that painting you like?”(in a San Francisco museum).

6) Can you tell us about the constant coffee growing season the cloud forest provided?  

In the novel, the finca is ideally located for growing coffee, nestled between a cloud forest and the rainforest down slope. The ability of the forests to attract and hold moisture is vital to climate stability. Just as important are the uniform temperatures and the amount of light available near the equator, where the days are the same length all year.

7) Tell us about the Jorge and other characters.     

Alicia is swept off her feet by Jorge’s charisma and romantic, fun-loving nature; plus they have in common the experience of living as expats and her ties to Colombia. Jorge changes in the book and we are not sure if his immaturity is unveiled or if an accident is to blame. His gentle brother Pepe is the responsible family man in the picture. My favorite character is barefoot Carmen who has worked for the family most of her life. She is usually indefatigably cheerful and hard-working in spite of hardships and becomes Alicia’s loyal companion.

8) How are Latin Americans different from North Americans in your book?

Latinos are warm people and close family ties are central to their lives; all ages get together often. The Carvallo family is shocked by the seemingly uncaring attitude of Alicia’s family and her father-in-law “… felt sorry for Alicia, as if she were an orphan… From that day forward don Felipe treated her with tenderness, as though she were his own daughter. The men take care of women and children, but that can be a double-edged sword if women are not regarded as capable as men by the older generation. Alicia is independent and her decision to run the finca alone, in spite of a dangerous situation, is admired by her American friend, but viewed as fool-hardy by the Colombians.


9) How dangerous did people think the volcano was?

The volcano was some distance from them so there was no imminent danger of flying rocks or gases, however winds can carry fine ash many miles and this is what practically smothered the coffee plants. People living on the flanks would be in danger of explosions, hot ash and other hazards and have to evacuate. I based it on a real-life volcano in Colombia named Nevado (snow-covered) del Ruiz, which is located in coffee country and continues to pose a threat.

10) What are you working on at the moment?

At least two things: a family memoir and a novel set in Hawaii and California about a woman with a dark secret. There is another story bouncing around in my head too. I hope one of them “wins” soon so I start concentrating on just one!

11) Where can readers find out more about you?

C w book ps_e0536

My main URL is my website/blog: http://cindamackinnon.wordpress.com

See more reviews at: http://amzn.to/19wSFfX 

A Place in the World : the Kindle Best Book Award 2014 (Semifinalist in Literary Fiction); 2nd place at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in the indie category and an Honorable Mention in the Mainstream/Literary Fiction category for Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published Book Awards.

I’m on Goodreads too if you want to see my favorite books (but the author page says much the same thing!) http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7039858.Cinda_Crabbe_MacKinnon

If anyone is interested in seeing some wonderful (I can say that because I didn’t take most of them!) pictures of Colombia, rain forests and more go to: www.pinterest.com/CindaMac/ (I also have a board for writers on Pinterest.)

Find a copy of A Place In The World here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com







Guest Author Mark Giglio

Please welcome Mark Giglio to the blog as he talks about his book Alchemist Gift.
Book description.
Time Travel to the Age of Alchemy. Alchemist Gift is an historical novel set in the present day and Renaissance Italy and Bavaria. The story is one of lost love, self-realization and redemption told through the relationships of five different love stories as the book unfolds. There is an element of spiritual fantasy in the novel, grounded in, let’s just say miraculous occurrences along with a light peppering of just good old unexplainable magic.
Mark Giglio Interview
1)      Where is your home town?
I was born in Troy, New York .I have been a California resident since 1959.
2)      Tell us what genres Alchemist Gift fits into, I believe it is adult rated too?
The genres would include Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Spirituality, Elements of Romance, a bit of Renaissance style Sci-Fi, and a touch of time travel.
3)      How long did it take you to write?
A little over three years to complete the novel. It started out as a screen play that evolved into the novel.
4)      What was the one idea which sparked off the book?
I was inspired by a piece of art furniture I made, the Alchemist Cabinet, that you can see at www.alchemistgift.com.
5)      Introduce us to some of the characters in your stories.
Roland Hughes is the hapless protagonist and a noncommittal grad student in his late twenties . Rene Hermes is a court physician in hiding and an alchemist. Sofia is Rene’s foundling daughter and Roland’s unrequited love interest. Lady Rosanera, is a fem fatale and tragic figure and the other leg of the Roland-Rosanera-Sofia love triangle.  Cesare Lippo master furniture maker and philosopher (could that be me?) along with Marcella Andano are the father and mother of Sofia. There are many more colorful characters who populate the Italian and Bavarian countryside.
6)      Which story is your favourite and why?
I think my most favorite section of the book to write was the engagement feast scene at Casa Bella Villa. It is quite a gastronomic extravaganza, along with pomp and circumstance and a coming of age for Rosalba, Rosanera’s mother.
7)      Tell us about your favourite part of the research for this book.
I have always had a love of nature and often wondered about the birds and plants that appear in Medieval and Renaissance paintings. It was satisfying to study the medieval and Renaissance symbolism concerning the natural world, such as birds, trees, and flowers and find out what they mean.
8)      Have you written any other books?
I’ve written a few children’s books pretty much for my kids and their families. Also a few  abandoned novels from the distant pass that shall remain in their dusty little realms. (thank God I knew when to jump ship).  I am working on the next installment of the Alchemist series called “Curious Journey.” Some of  the same characters make appearances. The new novel deals with a spiritual journey, redemption and personal peace.
9)      Tell us about your book launch party that you are holding today.
The party was fun. Family, friends and well wishers joined us for a great feast. We are planning another party on December 20, 2014 (a Winter Solstice Weekend).  We’ll have more food, fun, art, and readings from Alchemist Gift and other poets who will attend. We will be able to communicate with our viewers via the internet during the party.  Be on the lookout for more details and join us.
10)   Where else can readers find out more about you and your book?
The novel’s website is www.alchemistgift.com  and for personal correspondence,  mark@theartofgiglio.com
Find a copy on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com