Friday, 26 June 2015

Merrilyn Williams Writing Fiction as Mel Menzies

Today on the blog we welcome Merrilyn Williams who writes as Mel Menzies. Thank you for joining us Merrilyn

What was your favourite subject at school?

English literature. I loved reading from an early age. By the time I was ten, I was completely hooked on Charles Dickens, could quote passages of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats and Byron. Just wish I could still remember them!

So you were a reader before becoming a writer?
Absolutely! I went to an old fashioned convent primary school where ink pots and dip-in pens were still in use! I seemed to be unable to handle this without getting ink everywhere, and was often sent out of class for making a mess. Ironically, ‘naughty’ children were expected to sit in the library. I don’t need to tell you how often I ended up in there!

What made you want to write?
Writing for me, as a child, was both an escape and it was cathartic. I didn’t fit in with my family, who were all extroverts, so I needed somewhere to hide. And where better than the attic where all my father’s books were kept?

Also, because I invariably seemed to be in trouble – ‘sent to bed with bread and water’ was the phrase used – writing about my feelings was therapeutic to me. I didn’t keep a diary as such, but I suppose what I was doing was journaling. I came across some of this quite recently, in which I’d listed all the ways in which I felt I failed as a fourteen year old. Far too many to include here!

Tell us something about your previous books and how you got started with your new book, Time to Shine
New writers are always told to ‘write about what you know’. I’d written a number of books - testimony about how I’d coped with the various circumstances life had thrown at me - and I’d been commissioned by mainstream publishers to write other people’s life-stories. So, with a dozen books behind me, one of which was in the top ten bestseller list, I’m far from being a newbie.

However, I’d had a gap of some years when work commitments for my employers made it impossible for me to write. So when I started writing Time to Shine, I felt it was like starting again.

Consequently, I drew on my own experience of having had a bad marriage. Also, I was a counsellor, practising as a member of a team, so I’d spent a lot of time helping others to cope with marital and relationship problems. But I didn’t want this book to be yet another testimony or How-to book, like those I’d written in the past.

So you decided to switch to fiction and write a novel?
Yes. I’d already written one novel, A Painful Post Mortem (a story about losing a child, which is still available from Amazon as an e-book) and had some great reviews. So I decided this was where I wanted to take my writing career in future, writing stories that entertain but also have some purpose in them.

And what is the purpose behind your book, Time to Shine?

My purpose - the theme of the book - is to show that forgiveness is always possible, no matter what. Time to Shine is in the mystery genre, but I wanted it to be different. So instead of having the usual Detective Inspector investigating the mystery that kicks off the conflict in the story, I have a counsellor – a marriage mender - Evie Adams. In helping her client, Julia Worth, to deal with what her husband, Carl, throws at her, Evie also helps her to solve the enigma of why he’s become so hostile.

Originally, the title of the book was The Marriage Mender. Then I realised that, actually, the theme was about more than just forgiveness, and the story was more than simply mending a marriage. So, as both Julia and Evie end up fulfilling their dreams, I changed the title to Time to Shine. And I’m hoping that, after all my teenage failures, it will also be my time to shine. J

Can you give readers a short passage from your book so we can get a flavour of what it is about?

Certainly! When a client with marriage problems seeks therapy from Evie, a dark secret from long ago is uncovered. Here, she is reflecting on her first session with Julia.

'I keep wondering if Carl's having a mid-life crisis,’ said Julia. ‘They do say men can have a sort of menopause, don't they?'

'How do you mean?' I asked.

'Well, I wonder if it's to do with his father. I only knew him for a short time. He died about four years after we were married; the year Abi was born. He was a barrister. Prided himself on his self-sufficiency, and made no secret of what he thought of anyone needy, or beneath him.'

'So not the easiest of people to get on with?'

Julia screwed up her face in a non-verbal agreement. 'He certainly wasn't one to mince his words. He thought nothing of engineering as a career, and had no qualms in telling Carl so. It was all about brain being superior to brawn. That's what he used to say. He made it pretty obvious he hadn't much time for his son.'

'And you? How did you find him?'

'As I say, I didn't know him for long. I suppose he must have been about - what - ten years older than Carl is now when he died. I remember there was a big to-do. Carl's mother sent for the priest to give him absolution. Last rites. And Carl went berserk. Went round the house yelling that if God forgave his father, he wanted nothing to do with either of them. God or his father.'

I felt puzzled, and said so.

'It was all to do with something that had happened when he was a schoolboy,' Julia explained. 'Something truly terrible . . .’

What are you working on at the moment?

Time to Shine is the first book in the Evie Adams series so I’m now working on the next one. Its title is Chosen? and it tells the story of an American who, happily adopted, seeks Evie out in his search to find his biological family – and uncovers a can of worms. Again, it’s set in Evie’s Exeter Cathedral counselling rooms, and another Devon location near Dartmouth.

It has been a pleasure having you on the blog Merrilyn. I am sure all bookaholics will join me in wishing you every success. 

Merrilyn Williams writes fiction under her family name, Mel Menzies. The author of nearly a dozen books, one a bestseller, she lives in Devon where she likes nothing better than taking her lovely grandchildren on the beach. Her website, An Author’s Look at Life, offers resources to inform, inspire and encourage.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A strategic Retreat Part 2

This is now day four of my writing retreat and it has been a roaring success. I've been head down, working hard and have achieved everything I wanted to achieve. Book 2 in the DI Shona Mckenzie Mysteries, Killer's Craft, has had its final edit and is good to go. I am now waiting patiently for the launch on 20th July, 2015. Okay, I'm not that patient but you get the gist. I am now storming ahead with book 3, Killer's Cross. I have managed to write up a storm, and that is partly down to the weather. I make no apologies for the dreadful pun here.

Initially I was praying for sunshine for the week. I had plans to sit out in the courtyard and write all day. This being Scotland, the weather had other plans. It has been dull, raining, windy, and today I have fog. Rather than sitting in a courtyard I have spent the week sitting at this writing desk, in front of a picture window.

It has been perfect. I have watched pounding waves break on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. I have been eyeball to eyeball with swooping seagulls and other seabirds, just inches from my face. Towering rocks in the distance look like derelict castles, depending on the light. Trees, clinging to the cliffside, have been windblown and rainswept. Today there is thick fog shrouding the landscape in mystery. As I type the fog is slowly moving , drifting past my window with icy tentacles. 

So, as far as writing mysteries go, the week has been an astounding success. The atmosphere of the changing landscape has given me ideas for this, and future, books. The week has taught me, that as a writer, I need to be flexible and make the most of every situation. Nothing is wasted. Everything I do or see can be stored away and used at some time in the future.

So my Bookaholic friends my retreat is fast coming to an end. Tomorrow I will be back home and ready to take part in life again. I will do so with more vigour and a renewed sense of why I write. I would recommend this to any writer. 

What is your experience of retreats? have you been on any or are you contemplating doing one?

Monday, 22 June 2015

A Strategic Retreat Part 1

I am sure many people feel that being a writer must be an easy life. You just have to sit at a computer each day and type. In some ways this can be true. However, a quote widely attributed to Ernest Hemingway describes otherwise. 'It is easy to write, just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed'. Both writing, and being a writer, can be hard work.

Recently life has been busy for me. I have been both editing one book, and writing another. I have also been doing events, giving talks, and doing research as well as trying to have a social life. Most writers will agree that being a writer means juggling a number of different roles. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and writing time can be eroded. Sometimes, it feels good to retreat and spend time just writing.

I am fortunate, this week, to be on a writing retreat. I am staying in a cottage at the top of a cliff and the spectacular view from my window can be seen below.

The picture does not do it justice. The view is magnificent with waves breaking on rocks at the foot of the cliffs, multicoloured wildflowers and gorse in the fields, sheer cliffs dropping to the sea below and birds soaring below me. This is a writers paradise. One cannot help but be inspired writing in such an idyllic setting. It is both beautiful and peaceful, and conducive to writing. In fact I have spent the whole day doing so. Im writing this blog at 10:45 at night and, as this is Scotland there is still light in the sky. As I watch the cliffs grow darker, they are still magnificent. I count myself blessed to have such an opportunity.

I believe that retreats are an important part of a writers life. They give the writer time to reflect, relax and write. They provide time for the writer to focus and take stock of where their writing is going. This is just the first day but already I am energised and ready for the next book. I am looking forward to seeing how much I can do over the next few days. I look forward to seeing you back here again tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

An Author's Thoughts Revealed

It has been a bit of a busy time for me recently. Book two in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries is finished and I am waiting for the proof copy to turn up. I am reliably informed it will be here today. This means I can't settle and my thoughts are all over the place. There is still much to do before the launch which still seems so far away. Yet it is less than five weeks. The launch will be held in Waterstones, Dundee on 20th July at 6.30 pm. I'm excited beyond belief, and very much looking forward to the event. So I am sure you can understand why my thoughts are erratic. 

Whilst I am writing this blog, and doing anything else in fact, all I can think about is the postman arriving. Only a writer will understand what it means to hold the first copy of a new book in my hands. This is a time of magic. It belongs to me, and all those months and years of hard work have come to fruition. For five weeks I can hold it in my hand. There is still time to nurture it and make changes. However, in five weeks it will be set free and into the hands of the reading public. All authors know that this is an anxious time. Will readers enjoy the book is what fills my thoughts on launch day. 

So, today, I am finding it difficult to settle. I am finding it difficult to concentrate. What does an author do in such circumstances? Why read a book of course. In order to be an author, you first need to be a reader. My love of reading is up there with that of my writing. I have bookcases full of books which I have not yet read. I can savour the glorious feeling of anticipation as I choose the perfect book. I will then grab a cup of tea, a chocolate biscuit and sit down with the book. It will occupy my mind and hold me in its grip. It will stop me thinking about the postman's arrival.

What's that you say? What have I chosen? That my friends will remain a mystery until next time. See you all back here soon with a review of my chosen book. 

In the meantime I will leave you with a picture of the cover of book two in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. If you haven't yet read book one you can get it from the links on the right hand side of the blog. By for now, and keep reading. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Review of Dawkins' God by Alister McGrath

I've had a rest from fiction for a little while and have been reading an in depth and interesting book.

Dawkins' God is a well reasoned, clear, and critical analysis of some of Richard Dawkin's works, particularly The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. This is an in depth book, and is jam packed full of detail. It has the potential to be dry, but, McGrath has an excellent style which makes the book imminently readable, for all. Even those with little understanding of the science and the arguments surrounding the issue will feel that they have learned a lot.

The book is well researched and it is clear that McGrath knows his subject well. It is also interesting in the extreme. It is rare, that a book packed full of factual details, has me wanting to read on. This one achieved that and more. The way in which he deconstructs Dawkin's arguments is clear and easily understood. Yet, despite disagreeing with Dawkin's, McGrath is respectful and gives him credit for his theories and the way in which he puts them forward. It is refreshing to see such respect in a religious academic argument. 

Although I have not read either of the books which are being discussed, I did not feel this was an issue. McGrath has written the book in a way which makes sense. However, it has left me wanting to read the other two books, in order to gain an all round perspective. 

I would highly recommend this book to everyone as it is well worth reading.


That's it for today my Bookaholic friends. See you all back here very soon. My next post will be a review of an excellent thriller. I'm off to finish reading it. Have a great day and enjoy whatever book you are currently reading. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Deadly Crime Box Set

Dundee Crime Series Box Set

I have a real treat for all Bookaholics on the blog today. I bring you news of a deadly trio of crime novels in one great value box set.

Hot off the press, Chris Longmuir has combined the three books of her Dundee Crime Series into a Kindle box set, which means you can get the three books for the price of two. I have read this series and these books are gripping. Chris Longmuir is a highly talented writer who uses words with killer effect.

Three Scottish suspense thrillers featuring Dundee detective, DS Bill Murphy. I love the character of Bill Murphy. He's the sort of man you want to take under your wing and sort out. Don't let this fool you. As a detective he is as sharp as a tack.

Night Watcher: Obsession and death! Two stalkers, one target, and a woman seeking revenge! Can DS Bill Murphy find the killer before he strikes again?

Dead Wood: A mystery and detective story. A combination of police procedural and woman in jeopardy. (Dundee International Book Prize winner, 2009)

Missing Believed Dead: Missing children! Internet predators! Dead bodies! Is Jade alive or dead? Or has she returned to wreak a terrible vengeance?

Three books that will have you looking over your shoulder, and keep you off your sleep. I cannot recommend them highly enough, as you probably realise from my waxing lyrical.


Amazon UK:
Amazon US:

That's it for another week bookaholics. See you all again back here soon. Until then, grab these books, and keep reading. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Book Launch - I Once Had a Farm in Ireland

About the book:

A wheelbarrow, a cable drum, gardening tools, and a pickaxe are unusual items on a wedding registry. They are what Mac and Siggy, a German professional couple, need to fulfill their dream of organic gardening. When Chernobyl blows up a few years later, they are scared enough to undertake fundamental changes in the lives of their young family to seek a simpler and healthier lifestyle in an unspoiled country.

They buy a farm in Tipperary, Ireland. They give up their jobs, friends and home to raise their children in an unpolluted environment. Although Siggy shares her husband’s environmental convictions, she would prefer a warmer climate, maybe an olive farm in Tuscany.

A period of intense learning and acquiring new skills follows: how to raise chickens, pluck geese, breed cattle and sheep, and how to grow all kinds of vegetables. Soon they find out that farming means a never ending workload. They almost kill themselves ─and each other─ to produce healthy food.

I Once Had a Farm in Ireland not only gives advice for budding organic gardeners but it is also the story of a woman who sacrifices her own ideals for the sake of her family until she discovers her own dreams.

Educated in Germany with a Master’s Degree in English, Siggy Buckley lived in Ireland for over 15 years, first teaching at the University of Limerick as an adjunct professor, while building up an organic farm. She later ran her own businesses in Dublin before coming to the USA in 2003. In 2005, Siggy married an American and pursued her life-long dream of writing.

Buy from Amazon UK

Buy from Amazon USA
Contact Information

Email:  (for contact purposes only)


Friday, 5 June 2015

Interview with Scottish Crime Writer Michael J. Malone

Today on Bookaholic we welcome Scottish Crime Writer Michael J. Malone. Thank you for agreeing to take the hot seat Michael. 

I am sure the readers would love to hear about you. Could you start by telling them a little bit about yourself?

I’ve lived in Ayrshire all of my life and like most writers I’ve had a multiple jobs. From stacking shelves, to selling books and suits. From banking to publishing. But the one constant throughout has been books – both reading and writing.

I have a yellow Labrador (Bob) and a teenage son who keeps me grounded with comments like, “I hope you realise I won’t be reading your book, Dad.”

As Glasgow is so important to the story could you tell the readers something about the City?

When I was younger, Glasgow held a good deal of glamour. It seemed like an exciting, vibrant, funny and somewhat dangerous place. The clothes were better, the music more exciting and the girls more attractive than what was going on in Ayrshire. But that’s a (very) young man’s view and maturity teaches that cities like Glasgow have much, much more to offer.

Which is your favourite character in any of your books and why?

Ray McBain. He’s a man with enough baggage to keep an airport carousel in business for a month, but he’s also funny, vulnerable and honest to a fault.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

I read a variety of things. Crime mostly, because I review for Crimesquad. And I tend to seek out American and Scottish authors. I enjoy the scale of much of the stuff coming out of the US, and the grit and humour my fellow Scots are renowned for. But I like to mix it up with fantasy, historical and some contemporary fiction (I’m resisting  the “Literary” label – hate that word).

As for my favourite ever book, that changes depending on the prevailing winds, but my favourite authors include, Pat Conroy, Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, John Connolly, Don Winslow, Raymond Feist, Denise Mina, Fiona McIntosh. I could go on, and on. And on.

I have reviewed Beyond the Rage below. Can you tell the readers something about your other books?

Blood Tears and A Taste for Malice are thrillers starring D.I. Ray McBain.
The Guillotine Choice is an inspirational novel based on the true story of an innocent Algerian sent to Devil’s Island by the French colonial power.
Carnegie’s Call is a non-fiction book detailing the lives and successes of a number of prominent Scots.

Now we are getting personal. What is your favourite food?

But I also enjoy a fry-up – bacon, black-pudding, square sausage and eggs. Never get tired of that.

If you ever have a day off from writing exciting books what do you like to do in your spare time?

Walk the dog. Go to the gym. Read a book. Watch a movie. That’s pretty much my life right there.

Beyond the rage is a gritty novel and deals with the criminal underbelly of Glasgow. Where did you get your inspiration for such a dark novel?

Kenny O’Neill is the hero of this book – and he features in my first two novels as Ray McBain’s criminal best friend.

While my first two books were doing the rounds of the publishers and receiving rave rejections I knew I had to keep writing, but I didn’t want to write a third McBain book until the first two had a home, so I hit upon the idea of a book with Kenny acting front and centre.

Is there anything, which has surprised you as a writer? If so what is it?

Lots and lots. It has been a big, steep learning curve. The thing that occurs to me right now, given that I’m in the agony of writing a new book – is that I can manage to come up with another one.

Each time I’ve typed those two little words “The End” I have the strongest feeling that I will never EVER be able to do that again. That I’ve left everything on the page and there is nothing in the creative well. But, after a break the drive to write rises, there’s a spark of an idea and I’m off. It shouldn’t still surprise me, but it does.

Thank you for joining us Micael and for being patient in answering all my questions.

Beyond the Rage

This is the first book I have read by Michael and I am sure it won't be the last. This is a gritty book which is down to earth and real. Malone gives the reader a flavour of the Glasgow underworld which is realistic. His writing style is excellent and he does not pull any punches. I started of by disliking the main character Kenny, O'Neill but I ended up loving him. He is a multifaceted character with a lot of endearing features. For a gangster that is. The basic premise of the story is that Kenny is trying to find his long lost father. This leads to a well written story and a tight plot which races along. The story pulls the reader along with it, and the tension ramps up towards the end. This is an enjoyable book.

The only thing I will add is that there are  a lot of sexual scenes and references in this book. Whilst this supports the story well I felt I should let readers know in advance.

You can find out more about Michael and his books on his Amazon Author page

That's us for another Bookaholic day. See you back here very soon. Until then keep reading and writing.