Beauty · hair · Uncategorized

5 Simple mistakes you may be making with your Hair Straightener

Simple hair straightener mistakes can massively impact your final hairstyle, your over-all look and actually cause damage to your hair – yikes! So today I am going to share some simple mistakes you may be making with your hair tool.

Using Cheap Hair Straighteners.

Using cheap/low quality hair straighteners can be damaging to your hair. They can snag, pull, have low quality plates, poor temperature control, inconsistent heat, etc. It’s worth investing in a great tool like the Panasonic hair straightener, so you don’t have to worry about any of that. I’d recommend these ones that have even heat distribution plates and an advanced stable heater.

Not Cleaning Your Straighteners

A common mistake people make is not cleaning their hair straighteners. Over time, product, natural oils, dust and debris accumulates on the plate. This is bad for the tool and your hair! You can get cleaners specifically made for flat irons or you can use a damp cloth and a drop of rubbing alcohol to help sanitise – but for product build up, I’d recommend a purpose made cleaner. Just, whatever you do, make sure that you have them switched off and unplugged before you clean them!

Not Using Heat Protector

Heat tools can be very damaging to hair, especially if you neglect to use a product that helps protect against heat. Always make sure you use some form of hair heat protector to minimise the damage caused by heat styling.

Pulling Straight Down.

A common mistake people make while straightening their hair is pulling straight down. While this can still achieve a sleek and straight look, it will also flatten any volume at the root which can result in your hair looking limp and lifeless. Instead, straighten your hair up and away from the root. instead of directly downwards.

Straightening Wet Hair.

Straightening wet hair is generally a bad idea. Yes, you can get wet-to-dry straighteners, but you’re still much more likely to cause damage to your hair and end up with a limp looking hairstyle at the end of it. That fizzle and crackle sound doesn’t sound like a healthy sound, does it? You’re literally frying your hair. The water in your hair expands as it turns from liquid to gas – steam. The water is held in the cortex by the cuticle, so straightening wet hair causes damage to the hairs cuticle as it has to escape. That doesn’t sound fun, does it?

Take care of yourself and take care of your hair. Invest in quality products that are a pleasure to use so you can look and feel great. Remember, you can also curl your hair and achieve other styles with good quality straighteners too! So have fun with it.

Do you have any top hair tips?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post

Uncategorized

Killing State by Judith O’Reilly (Review)

Hey guys. Today I am bringing you a review of Killing State by Judith O’Reilly, published by Head of Zeus. Disclaimer – I received a copy of this book for free for the tour. Killing State is out now in Hardback and Kindle editions. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited. A paperback edition will be released 11th July 2019.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

North is an assassin, with a bullet lodged in his brain. Unsure if everything is reality, he carries out jobs for the British government, eliminating people at their request – until, one day, he is ordered to “dispose of” Honour, and make it look like a random sexual attack. This brings internal conflict for North.

I really like North as a character. Yes, he’s a murderer, I’m not condoning murder here of course, but he also has firm beliefs, morals and develops a conscience and I find it really interesting how he chose to go against his instructions, knowing it would put him at risk. I found I was cheering for him and respected that. Of course, he isn’t the only character. The cast of characters features quite a few strong and stubborn women… and a teenager!

The book is pretty fast paced, with the events occurring over a relatively short period of time, though I found the level of action to feel a little tiresome, especially later in the book, it felt things were longer than they needed to be, but despite that, I definitely want more North! I want to see how his new crusade turns out.

Some things didn’t seem plausible, but this is fiction, these things are plausible for the world O’Reilly created, but it can be hard to remember that sometimes when there are nuances that ring true to Britain right now. I found I needed to remind myself of that fact as I got sucked in to the book and started to get sucked right in.

I feel like this book could be hit or miss for some people, but I personally enjoyed it, and if you like conspiracy theories, violence, and political themes, you may want to pick this one up!

About The Book

WHAT IF THE PERSON YOU’RE ORDERED TO KILL IS THE WOMAN YOU WANT TO PROTECT?

Michael North, assassin and spy-for-hire, is very good at killing bad guys. But what happens when his shadowy bosses at the dark heart of the post-Brexit British government, order him to kill an innocent woman and North can’t bring himself to do it?

The woman is a rising political star, Honor Jones, MP.  She has started asking dangerous questions about the powerful men running her country. The trouble is, Honour doesn’t know when to stop. And, now that he’s met her, neither does North…

About The Author

Judith O’Reilly is the author of Wife in the North, a top-three Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. Judith is a former political producer with BBC 2’s Newsnight and ITN’s Channel 4 News, and, when she isn’t writing novels, she writes for The Sunday Times.  Judith lives in Durham.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Death Will Find Me by Vanessa Robertson (Excerpt)

Today I am on the tour for Death Will Find Me by Vanessa Robertson, a historical mystery crime thriller. The book is out now and available both in Paperback and Kindle editions and is also available as part of Kindle Unlimited. I have an excerpt from Chapter 14 to share with you.

Tessa walked around the tenement, avoided touching anything and similarly avoided the curious gazes of the constables and the hysterical sobbing of the deceased’s daily woman in the kitchen. She had found his body and raised the alarm and it seemed to be taking a significant amount of the dead man’s whisky to calm her down. It struck her that the woman would be out of work and that she was in need of a charwoman. Perhaps she ought to offer her a job? Then she saw the whisky glass being refilled and decided against it, if only for the sake of her liquor bills.

Although his name was indeed familiar, Tessa couldn’t remember much about Callum McKenzie. She was pretty sure that they’d never been introduced and she didn’t remember James mentioning him. Not since he’d been demobbed, at least. Which was slightly odd; most soldiers kept in touch to some degree with former comrades, especially those who lived so close by.

It seemed that McKenzie was a tidy man: clothes folded with military precision, books in alphabetical order, tins lined up in the larder. Although the lock on the front door had been forced, there were no signs of a search or a burglary. Whoever had broken into his apartment and shot him had come with that sole intention.

The body was in the bathroom, slumped on the floor with its head towards the window. Tessa went in, the constable at the door too surprised to do anything other than step back out of her way. McKenzie had been shot in the back of the head; the entry wound was less than an inch in diameter. Blood, bone fragments and things that Tessa would rather not think about, pebble-dashed the whole room and she knew that the exit wound would be substantial. She bent over to study the injury near his hairline at the back and saw that there was a little scorching around it and what looked like a tiny feather. Then she noticed a cushion in the bath, a blackened hole through it. If the murderer had hoped that would muffle the sound of the gunshot they would have been disappointed. Perhaps one of the neighbours had heard something.

‘Lady Kilpatrick, if you’ve quite finished, may I see the body?’ Rasmussen’s tone was clipped, his annoyance barely concealed.

About The Book

Scotland, 1920.
Meet Tessa Kilpatrick; heiress and war-time covert operations agent.

Finding her husband – the feckless James – with another woman at a 1920s country house party, she demands a divorce. But when his body is discovered in a lonely stone bothy the next morning, Inspector Hamish Rasmussen sees Tessa as his only suspect.

Back in Edinburgh, links to another murder convince Rasmussen of her innocence. He enlists her help and together they set off on a pursuit that will bring Tessa once again face to face with the brutality of war as well as revealing to her the lengths that desperate people will go to in order to protect those they love. 

Will Tessa be able to prevent a final murder or will she become the killer’s latest victim?

About The Author

I grew up in the Midlands where my main interests were horses and drama. Being a writer was a dream from childhood but I gave up on the idea of writing when I was a teenager, not long after I abandoned other childhood ambitions of being a trapeze artiste or a spy. After acquiring a couple of degrees and trying various ‘proper jobs’, I realised that I am fundamentally unsuited to office politics, bad coffee, and wearing tights.

My husband and I founded The Edinburgh Bookshop, winner of many awards. Bookselling is a wonderful profession and a good bookshop is a source of pure joy to me. I love independent bookshops and the amazing job they do in championing reading, supporting authors, and building communities. But, after a few years, it was time for a change and we sold the bookshop to make way for other projects.

I took the opportunity to start writing again and was a winner at Bloody Scotland’s Pitch Perfect event for unpublished authors in 2015. It was a fantastic opportunity and getting such positive feedback about my ideas gave me the push I needed to take my writing seriously.

I live in Edinburgh with my husband, our teenage son and an unfeasibly large Leonberger dog. I can usually be found walking on windy Scottish beaches, browsing in bookshops, or tapping away on my laptop in one of the scores of cafes near my home.

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

The Brides Trail by AA Abbott (Review)

Hey guys. Today I am delighted to be on the tour for The Brides Trail by AA Abbott, out now in both paperback and Kindle formats – also available on Kindle Unlimited. I was sent a copy of this book for free as part of the tour.

The Brides Trail is a fairly short read at 212 pages, but it is jam packed with a fascinating story and I absolutely consumed it, cover to cover. It’s told from multiple perspectives, but is mostly from Amy’s point of view later in the book which I quite enjoyed. I was interested in the fact a portion of the book takes place in Birmingham, which is my home town.

This book mentions brides, but it’s no romance! Kat and Amy are roommates living in tiny flat in London. They had only known each other for a few months before Kat suddenly disappeared and trouble ended up on Amy’s doorstep. It turns out, someone is VERY unhappy with Kat and is determined to find her and punish her.

Enlisting the aid of her crush, Amy turns to a work colleague who is infatuated with Kat – Ross, to help find Kat, however, they end up finding Kat and then some. While Amy tries to find Kat, she learns a lot about her, and as it turns out, Kat is not a great person, having stolen Amy’s identity for a sham marriage, yet Amy still tries to find her and warn her. Will she make it before Kat’s pursuers do?

I really enjoyed the book, but it left a lot of questions unanswered which I can only hope and assume will be answered in the next book which I’ll be reading very soon. I’ll be featuring the rest of the series in due course, so keep your eyes peeled!

About The Book

This great story, packed with twists and turns, begins in London’s smart Fitzrovia and ends in secret tunnels below central Birmingham.

Ross has a swanky penthouse and a high-flying job in the City. When he meets Kat, a glamorous blonde croupier, he starts to plan a future. Now she’s disappeared, he’s devastated.

Casino boss Shaun realises it’s not just Kat who’s vanished –  £20,000 is missing too. He wants his money back and he’s after Kat’s blood.

Young graduate Amy has discovered Kat’s stolen her ID for a sham marriage. She can’t stand Ross, but only he will help her find Kat and clear her name.

High stakes, twists, action and suspense keep the pages turning in A.A. Abbott’s crime thriller, the first in the Trail Series.

About The Author

English thriller writer AA Abbott’s real name is Helen Blenkinsop; she chose her pen name in a shameless attempt to slot into the first space on your bookshelf. She loves city life, having lived and worked in London, Birmingham and Bristol. Her crime thrillers, set in Birmingham and London, sizzle with suspense, twists and the evils of office politics.

Helen’s books are available in a dyslexia-friendly large print as well as standard paperback and Kindle editions.

Her Trail Series follows the fortunes of glamorous blonde Kat White, a party girl who finds her purpose making vodka, shrewd businessman Marty Bridges, and manipulative East End crime lord Shaun Halloran

Bookish · Uncategorized

Hunters Revenge by Val Penny (Excerpt)

Today I am on the tour for Hunters Revenge by Val Penny, out now and available in Kindle and Paperback formats. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited (Use my link for 30 days free!). This book is the sequel to Hunters Chase; I recently shared a guest post from the author (Plotting in Novels) as part of another promotional tour for that book.

Much of the action in Hunter’s Revenge revolves around the car showroom and garage Thomson’s Top Cars. Here we meet Jamie and Frankie who are running the business while Jamie’s father, Ian, is in jail.

“I’m glad we’re doing this together,” Jamie said to his cousin. “I know having to leave us in charge is stressing Pop out!”

“Aye, probably more stress than his time in prison could ever have done. But at least you’ve passed your driving test now.”

Frankie could have been reading his uncle’s mind. Ian Thomson had just under two months to go before he was eligible for parole, and in the meantime could only hope that Jamie and Frankie didn’t do anything too stupid to ruin his business. At least the wee receptionist, Jenny Kozlowski, seemed to have a bit of common sense.

“I’ll be a bit late in today, Frankie, can you hold the fort?”

“Aye. What you up to, then?”

“Nothing much. It’s just that it’s Jenny’s birthday, and I’m going to pick up cakes for all of us for coffee break.”

“If it’s her birthday, she should buy the cakes. That’s what the rest of us all do,” Frankie protested. “You fancy her, don’t you?”

“Don’t be stupid!”

“Aye you do. Well, I won’t tell the guys in the workshop, if I can get a chocky doughnut.”

“Piss off, Frankie.”

“Am I getting a chocky doughnut, then?”

“Aye,” Jamie grinned.

***

Jamie was disappointed to see Frankie at the reception desk when he walked in.

“Where’s Jenny, cuz?” he called over to Frankie.

“Dunno. Not even a phone call. And she’s well late now.”

“Well, she must be somewhere, her coat’s here. She looks good in red.”

“Well she’s not anywhere, as far as I can see.”

“She’s usually early. Wonder what’s up.” Jamie rubbed his hands together. It might be spring according to the time of year, but with its wide glass front and the open garage at the back, the showroom was cold.

“She maybe went to get cakes,” Frankie suggested hopefully.

“Without her coat? I doubt it!” Jamie retorted.

“Well, she was probably out on the lash last night and slept in.”

“Could be, but I still can’t see her leaving last night without her coat.” Jamie shrugged and turned away, trying to hide his disappointment. “It’s fucking freezing in here. I’ll make us a coffee first to warm us up, then I’ll try phoning her.”

“Phone her first, Jamie. You know you want to.”

When Jamie wandered back to reception from the office he plonked a mug of coffee in front of Frankie.

“Her mam says she never went home last night. Do you know if she was going out with pals or the like?”

“I don’t know. You gave that guy a test drive in the Bentley and I went home. A fellow came in just as I was leaving, but Jenny said she would see to him because she would stay on and lock up with you.” Frankie smiled. “I thought, aye aye, nudge nudge, say no more. So off I went. I picked up the twins from their child minder on the way home. You know?”

Jamie frowned. “She wasn’t here when I got back, and the showroom wasn’t locked up. I was pretty pissed off about that. But I couldn’t see nothing missing, so when the guy said he wanted to think about the Bentley, I just locked up and came home.”

“Nothing was missing except Jenny, you mean.”

“I didn’t know that. I thought you’d both just buggered off.”

“Like we’d ever do that. Your pop would skin us alive when he got hold of us. Do you think I’ve got a death wish?”

“Funny accent the man had,” Jamie said. “European or something.”

“Jamie?” The head mechanic, Gary, called across the showroom. “Where’s that old blue Volvo that was waiting to go through its service?”

“What old Volvo? I don’t know. Don’t you keep a log of all the cars you work on?” Jamie asked angrily.

“Aye, but we didn’t get to this one yesterday. It was just waiting outside for us to get started this morning. The customer asked us to give it a service, then put it up for sale. Said he had a buyer for it who’d pay eight grand, but he might need a test drive first. I told him he’d need a brain test if he was paying that much for that car. But it seems like he was right; it must have been sold. ”

“So what happened to the paperwork?” Jamie shouted. “We’ve not sold any fucking old Volvo. Where is the damn thing?”

“No idea.”

“So what do I do now? Jenny’s not in, and a fucking car has gone missing. This is a truly rubbish start to the day. Pop is going to bloody skin me.”

Frankie shrugged, “Phone Jenny’s mam back? Maybe the man she spoke to took the Volvo.”

“I suppose I should. I don’t fancy it though. She shouts. I don’t think she likes me. Then what do I tell Pop about the car?”

“I think you’ll need a chocky doughnut before you do that. I know I will!”

“I’ll need more than a fucking chocky doughnut, Frankie, if we’ve lost one of his customer’s cars.”

About the Book

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is avenged.

DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense?

Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city.

The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

About the Author

  Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer.

However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Plotting in Novels – Val Penny (Guest Post)

Hey everyone! I hope you all had the most wonderful weekend! I’m kicking this week off with a Guest Post from Val Penny as part of a blog tour to promote her book Hunters Chase which is available now in both Kindle and Paperback formats. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited and you can get a free 30 day trial of that here.

Take it away, Val!

    Thank you for having me on your blog today.

    I think that plotting is central to writing a novel, but it is a highly individual process. No two authors plot in the same way. Some plot organically while others plot in a very orderly fashion. Many writers even plot differently from one book to another. Some write scenes: hundreds of scenes that interest and excite them and then they stitch the scenes together to from the novel. While others visualise the way the book will take shape using dozens of bits of paper laid out on their desk or even on the floor. It must be important to make sure the windows are closed if you plot this way!

    Some authors use tree diagrams, spreadsheets or mind-maps to plot and there is software available to download on line for this.

    However you plot your novel, the goal is the same, to allow the journey the plot is about take, that will last several months, to become a novel. It is important that you, as an author, choose between the ‘organic’ and ‘orderly’ methods of plotting so you are comfortable that your choice works best for you and the book you are setting out to write. I plotted my first novel ‘Hunter’s Chase’ organically but, after attending a course run by Sue Moorcroft at last years’ Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, I plotted the sequel ‘Hunter’s Revenge’ using diagrams and spreadsheets. Neither is wrong. Both have strength and weaknesses and either can be successful for crafting a novel.

    Writers who follow an organic way of plotting, approach the outline largely as a form of awareness of the story, rather than as an actual document to be followed strictly. Many view the outline not so much as a planning device but more of an analytical tool that helps strengthen the final draft by indicating the flaws in the story-line.

    Some authors begin with an idea and just jump in to tell the story. They write steadily and regularly until they have written tens of thousands of words. Then they go through the organic draft and delete large chunks and add other pieces until the final manuscript is complete.

    Other authors, like Sue Moorcroft, plot meticulously and there is no doubt that plotting an outline is hard work. However, having undertaken an outline on ‘Hunter’s Revenge’, I found myself writing my novel with confidence. I was happy that one chapter followed another in a sensible sequence. My characters retained their identities. Of course, at the end of the first draft, there were flaws, but I found I was able to repair those readily.

    Whether you plot organically or in an orderly fashion, the important issue is that you can tell the story to your readers and that you, and they, are satisfied by your novel.

About the Book

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.
Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. 

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough. 

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.

About the Author

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

Art Supplies · Art/Crafts · Subscription Boxes · Uncategorized

ScrawlrBox January 2019

I bet you guys forgot that this isn’t just a bookish blog eh. Sorry about that… I just get caught up sometimes. Books are a magical land. Today is related to one of my other passions – art!

I have written about ScrawlrBox in the past (and used the above image before – oops! I just couldn’t get a box photo that I really liked) and I’ve meant to write more posts about it since my last, but instead, I’ve not managed more than mini-reviews on social media. I’d even taken all the photos for one previously (and I was really pleased with them!) but never got around to posting. I’ve included a couple of them below anyways so that you can glimpse some other boxes – it seems like a waste to not use the photos. It also means you wont see spoilers of this months boxes contents until after the jump. This months box was late to despatch and mine literally arrived earlier on today.

So, what is ScrawlrBox? ScrawlrBox is a monthly subscription box of art supplies which ships around the middle of the month (usually – sometimes there are supplier issues like this month, but they do email and let you know if there’s a delay). The box is small so it fits straight through your letterbox, meaning you don’t have to worry about any missed packages. It costs £15 a month including UK shipping via Royal Mail 48 hour. They do ship internationally for additional cost.

The boxes have a fairly standard “format”. You get an a5 art print – this one is by Giobi, some sheets of paper, a sticker, some tissue paper-wrapped art supplies, a “candy” and the “menu” detailing the boxes contents. The “branding” within the box is significantly better since I last blogged about them. The changes are subtle but do have a significant impact on the experience.

Sorry for the glaringly bright and over saturated photo..it’s so…yellow. The sun was playing hokey pokey. Ha. But anyway. These are the contents of this months box.

  • Winsor & Newton Promarkers – I got three of these in the shades O324 Burnt Sienna, O427 Cinnamon ando518 Dusky Pink. These are alcohol based, solvent markers with twin nibs. One end is a chisel nib and the other end is a bullet nib. I have a fair few of these markers as well as their sister Brushmarkers which are identical, just a brush nib instead of a bullet nib. They have great vibrancy, blend well and the ink dispersal is consistent for good coverage provided your pen isn’t running out. You can layer them for a darker tone.
  • Sakura Pigma Micron 01 – This is a very fine nib fineliner with archival ink. It handles solvent markers on top of it incredibly well. I have a bunch of these fineliners including one of this size, but I very rarely use it. I’m a bit brutal with how hard I press and while the pen doesn’t break, I do end up damaging them and I personally prefer a wider line.
  • Sakura Pigma Brush Pen in Black – Same as the micron, this pen has archival quality, pigment based ink but instead of the fine nib, it has a flexible brush tip which allows varying line widths. The brush tip is soft so it can be difficult to be light handed enough to achieve a finer line, I have just discovered. I’m not new to brush pens, but this is a tool I’ve never used before.
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen 1.5 – This Pitt pen is a variant on the usual ones you see in so far as it has a wider nib in the bullet style. I got the colour White. As opposed to a brush or fineliner type. I’ve used the later type Pitt Artist pens before, but this is my first experience with the former. It has decent opacity and is layerable for a more opaque effect and is permanant once dry.
  • Faber-Castel 9000 Pencil – I got this pencil in the 2H variant. It’s a pencil. I haven’t got an essay to write about this supply. I prefer softer pencils so I probably wont use this much, but it feels nice in the hand and pretty sturdy.
  • Canaletto 160gsm Liscia – I got two sheets of this paper. It is 20% cotton, and acid-free. It also contains Calcium Carbonate for PH neutrality. It’s fairly smooth; to me, it feels like pretty typical cartridge paper which is an interesting inclusion due to the supplies being alcohol based markers. It’s slightly off-white in tone.

On the “menu” card, ScrawlrBox always issue you an art prompt. This months one was “Growing Up”. In all honesty, I never usually bother, but this time, I decided I would give it a go. Ideally, you’re meant to only use the supplies within the box, but that was too bland for me, so I used some of my other Winsor & Newton markers, and a couple of other items from previous scrawlrboxes to at least try and keep in line with the box itself. I used a StyleFile alcohol marker in NG9 which came in a previous box last year and a pink Staedtler Ergosoft coloured pencil which came in the box in.. November, I believe.

Ta-da! I’m in a plant pot. Growing up. Geddit? Ha. Haha. Ha… If you’re interested, I used quite a few additional markers for small things, such as the pink for my tongue. The colours I used are as follows (and items in italics were not in the box, I did use every supply that came in the box though). I used to be so scared of sharing my artwork publicly. I had planned on doing a round-up of my inktober pieces each week on here last October, but I chickened out… welp.

Markers: O518 Dusky Pink, O427 Cinnamon, 0324 Burnt Sienna, Y129 BRUSH Satin (for hair tips), M727 Rose Pink (for tongue), B736 BRUSH China Blue (for clothing), 0177 Bright Orange (layered with Cinnamon for the plant pot to make a terracotta shade), O124 Walnut + O225 Henna (for the soil, plus StyleFile NG9 Neutral Grey 9), B318 BRUSH Cloud Blue (for the background).

Other: Sakura Pigma Micron 01, Sakura Pigma Brush Black, Staedtler Ergosoft Pink coloured pencil (for cheek blush), Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen 1.5 White (for the highlight lines), and of course, the pencil to sketch it out originally and I used a derwent eraser. 

Woo. And that’s the lot. I really liked this months box. Humanoid things aren’t really in my comfort zone and I was pretty scared of the neutral colours in the box, but I’m quite pleased with the piece I came up with even if I technically cheated, but, it was still a challenge and still out of my comfort zone and that’s what counts, right? RIGHT? I really needed some colour there. Haha.

If you’re interested in signing up or finding out more, you can go to their website to sign up to ScrawlrBox.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Favourite Character to Write – BRM Stewart (Guest Post)

Today I am on the blog tour for The Deaths on the Black Rock by BRM Stewart, available now on Kindle and in Paperback formats. I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from the author about his Favourite Character to write.

Many of my characters are different aspects of me. Martin McGregor, and Michael, are me really. Martin’s life is stable just at the moment, so he doesn’t have a big role in this book (but wait for the next one!). Michael is developing well, and is going to take on more responsibility in the next book (as is the young Kylie).

I like Mark Grosvenor, the old semi-retired FBI agent, who appears to give his wisdom and knowledge, and help out generally using his contacts. Grosvenor has been with me since the first book, and I think he’ll always be around to give that international perspective. Anything involving cybercrime and online terrorism in the world will involve the FBI.

Overall, I think Amanda Pitt has to be my favourite character, and she has become a much more rounded and important character over the years.

She arrived late on in Digital Circumstances, with quite a small role as a corrupt cop. Right at the end, she seduced Martin’s secretary Claire, who was engaged at the time to a man she described as psychologically abusive.

I thought then that I could use her again, and friends also said they hoped to see more of her. In the second book, Digital Investigations, she rather took over: she was a member of a Major Investigation Team working on a murder and kidnapping.Amanda has a complex past. In ‘Investigations’ I explore that past, both how she discovered and came to terms with her sexuality, and how she became corrupt – being drawn in to a criminal gang as a result of doing a good turn for someone. It can be dangerous for a straight man to write about a gay woman, but I hope it rings true. I certainly hope I’ve avoided the standard pitfalls – I’m sure someone will tell me if I haven’t.

Amanda is a team player in ‘Investigations’. She lets the team know her ideas, and explains them. She also does what her boss asks her to do. She is the one who leads the team to make the breakthroughs. But she can also be ruthless: there’s an investigative reporter on her tail, looking into her past, and she will do anything not to let him bring her down.

In The Deaths on the Black Rock, Amanda is centre stage, and there’s no team around her. She alone thinks there is something dodgy about Rima Khalaf’s death, and I give her free reign to explore it. Amanda does some outrageous things as she gets more and more obsessed about the case, though hopefully it never comes across as unbelievable. It’s all very liberating for an author and great fun.

At the same time, I have to keep her rooted in reality: her task in her day job has to be carried out, and she does that well.

What I love about Amanda is that she works things out – not quite Sherlock Holmes, but close. She thinks about the problem. She does the spadework, so that when a piece of luck comes her way she can capitalise on it.

Blurb

It’s been a year since Rima Khalaf died in a fall from the Black Rock, deemed to be a tragic accident by the police.

But her grieving parents are dissatisfied with the police investigation, so DS Amanda Pitt is sent north from Glasgow to the small town of Clachdubh to re-examine the case.

Despite the suspicions of the distraught parents, all the circumstances seem to confirm Rima’s death was indeed a tragic accident until another woman is also found dead in the town.

Frustrated by the lack of any real evidence, DS Pitt pushes the limits of legality in her quest for the truth.

About the Author

Brian RM Stewart was born in Rutherglen and grew up in Grangemouth. He attended Glasgow University and Jordanhill College of Education, taught in Edinburgh, then moved to Nairn where he and his now-late wife Jan raised their children.

Brian now lives in Broughty Ferry with his wife Sally, where he is a member of the Angus Writers’ Circle and an active member of Rotary.

Brian spent much of his working life teaching mathematics and computing, but is now partially retired and lectures for the OU. When not writing, Brian attempts to play golf and the guitar (though not at the same time), and is a keen Bridge player.

He has published two previous novels, Digital Circumstances and Digital Investigation.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Dig Two Graves by Keith Nixon (Spotlight)

Today I am on a blog tour for Dig Two Graves by Keith Nixon, out now in both Kindle and audiobook editions. Dig Two Graves is the first part of a four part series of Keith’s Solomon Gray character and you can find the other books here.


About The Book

Was it suicide … or murder? Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray is driven to discover the truth. Whatever the personal cost.

When teenager Nick Buckingham tumbles from the fifth floor of an apartment block, Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray answers the call with a sick feeling in his stomach. The victim was just a kid, sixteen years old. And the exact age the detective’s son was, the son Gray has not seen since he went missing at a funfair ten years ago. Each case involving children haunts Gray with the reminder that his son may still be out there – or worse, dead. The seemingly open and shut case of suicide twists into a darker discovery. Buckingham and Gray have never met, so why is Gray’s number on the dead teenager’s mobile phone?

Gray begins to unravel a murky world of abuse, lies, and corruption. And when the body of Reverend David Hill is found shot to death in the vestry of Gray’s old church, Gray wonders how far the depravity stretches and who might be next. Nothing seems connected, and yet there is one common thread: Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray, himself. As the bodies pile up, Gray must face his own demons and his son’s abduction. 

Crippled by loss Gray takes the first step on the long road of redemption. But is the killer closer to home than he realised?

Set in the once grand town of Margate in the south of England, the now broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark police suspense thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

Dig Two Graves is the first in the Solomon Gray series. Pick it up now to discover whether Gray finds his son in this thrilling new crime series. 

Author Bio:  

Keith Nixon is a British born writer of crime and historical fiction novels. Originally, he trained as a chemist, but Keith is now in a senior sales role for a high-tech business. Keith currently lives with his family in the North West of England.

 Readers can connect with Keith on various social media platforms:

 Web: http://www.keithnixon.co.uk

Twitter: @knntom
Facebook: Keithnixonauthor
Blog: www.keithnixon.co.uk/blog


book reviews · Bookish · mental health · Uncategorized

Start by Graham Morgan (Review)

Today, I am on the Love Groups Tour for Start by Graham Morgan, available now in both Kindle and Paperback editions. This is a non-fiction read about Mental Health, so I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to share this with you. Having poor mental health myself, I leapt at the chance to be a part of this tour.

Start by Graham Morgan is compelling read. It’s honest and brave but it doesn’t beg for sympathy or attention. You’ll be taken through a spectrum of feelings as Graham discusses his current life, his past and his journey with his mental health.

Life is messy as it is, life is extra messy when you’ve got mental illness in the mix and Graham does an excellent job at portraying this. Sometimes it’ll make you laugh and sometimes it will absolutely wrench at your heart. At one point, he talks about how some people are also suffering, and how it is horrific and unacceptable and why are we so suspicious of medication that helps?  “..so glazed and consumed that they cannot muster the energy to step foot outside the door, so lacking in confidence that they are unable to take the decision to make a cup of tea, then I think, ‘this is horrific’.” this in particular really hit me, because it resonates so strongly with myself; I felt awful for the people he was talking about, but at the same time, realised I was one of them, I just didn’t recognise it a lot of the time and then I realised Graham does this himself at points through the book too. It made me feel a little vulnerable but also I felt like I got some additional insight to myself, if that makes sense.

What is the “self”? What is “reality” and “truth”? What is “mental illness”? These questions spring to mind when Graham talks about how he is sick, but also, he talks about an “evil” inside of him and how he wants to keep it there and not spread it to others or unleash it on the world. He talks about talking about this to the people who would decide that he needs to remain detained. He talks about life, relationships, how mental illness can effect them, cause havoc and mayhem and how his life was effected all interwoven with being compelled to receive treatment for his struggles.

Graham puts an emphasis on the people around him, other people in his life and how he affects them – or thinks he affects them. It’s very personal and intimate but he is also very candid about his tale which is something I found quite comforting in itself. Mental illness can make you feel so alone; even in a room full of people – even those you love dearly, you can feel more alone than you could ever imagine and I found this book to be an excellent companion during that time.

Alongside all the struggles of life, Graham also talks about some of the absolute glories of life. Some things that many people don’t think about or take for granted. Every day things that are absolutely blissful. “It is lovely to be caught unawares by cliches and to feel that joy with which they can inspire you.” Reading a book and listening to the rain. The less extraordinary things of daily life can in fact be extraordinary if you just notice them and appreciate them.

I feel like I both understand Graham more, myself and other people with mental health struggles. It’s that extra perspective and insight. Mental illness is hard to accept, it’s another thing Graham talks about (alongside basically anything you may be wondering, I found), how basically it means accepting your reality is not quite true and these other people are right, that you are wrong, and how that is a horrible feeling. This really struck me as I found it the hardest struggle for myself when I first sought treatment for my poor mental health and I know it’s a common difficulty. The fear. The accepting that there is something wrong and that you’re not okay.

The book ends on the note that he is lucky for what he has and how so many people don’t have the support system that he has and that he would like that to change. Above everything, his concern for others shines through the darkness of his own struggles and to me that’s commendable but also inspiring.

This book is a must-read. It’s inspiring, it’ll make you giggle, it’ll make you wince and it will make you appreciate things you didn’t previously pay much mind to.

About the Book

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.

Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.

Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

About the Author

Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst- ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands. In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN about his and other peoples’ experiences of detention. He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.