Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Getting To Know... Brian Stewart

Today on Getting To Know... I am welcoming author, Brian Stewart (BRM Stewart). Brian is the author of the Digital Circumstances and Digital Investigations

Both Digital Circumstances and Digital Investigations are very tech heavy, what is it that fascinates you so much about computers?

It goes back to a programming course I did at Glasgow University – this was in the early 70s, and the computer took up the whole basement of one of the buildings. I just loved the process of getting it to do things, both the intellectual activity and the results. Ten years later I had a computer in the house, and we had a dozen of them in the school where I taught.
Then email and the world wide web in the early nineties, and all that interaction and information right there for you. Now I have Raspberry Pis and Arduino boards connected to LEDs and motors, and a robot project underway. All fascinating.
I just love it all, despite viruses and cyber crime and the rest.

Does a lot of research go into your writing both with the technical side and the police procedural side of things?

I like to be accurate about tech because I don’t like books and films where they do ridiculous things as a lame plot device – just ‘hacking into’ computers as if it was trivial. So I do enough research online to make sure the tech side is right. I also know tech experts who reassure me, and I plan to check with them in advance on the next project.
I don’t dwell heavily on police procedurals – plenty of others do that, and do it very well – but I like, again, to be accurate. I have a brother-in-law who is in the police, and he helped a lot with what the structure of a major enquiry would now look like in Police Scotland nowadays, with a Major Investigation Team rather than just the local DCI.
When I was writing Digital Investigations, I went up to Maryhill and into Maryhill Police Station, and a very nice PC on the desk answered a lot of my questions. Possibly the most important fact was that they didn’t have a canteen there (I’d already written a big scene in the canteen, so that was quickly changed!).

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

This is a tough one. Martin McGregor is me, of course, born later and with a different start in life, so I sort of have to like him, though he can be annoying. I like Mark Grosvenor, the jaded wise old owl from the FBI, and the earnest Amanda Pitt. I wouldn’t like to pick a favourite character in case I annoy the others!

Over the past few years you have done quite a bit of travelling, do you have a favourite place that you have visited?

I loved BC and Vancouver for its friendly people and the space and beauty. I loved where we went in Australia for the lifestyle, and – again – the beauty and scale of the place. Norway is such a sensibly run country that you can’t help but feel Scotland could have been like that.
But I’ve been to the Algarve several times and I love the people, the climate, and the history. So maybe that’s my favourite.

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

I’m a member of Rotary – in fact I’m currently president of our club – and we’re well involved in raising money for groups and individuals, and supporting the community, so that takes time. I’m in our local Speakers’ Club, and got the job of allocating tasks for meetings. I enjoy playing bridge. I try to swim or get to the gym a few times a week – or out on the bike if the weather’s fine - and I usually play golf twice a week. There’s Eden Court for plays and films. I was never this busy when I was working!
And I play with tech, of course. The house is alive with gadgets doing stuff. My wife just smiles.

Most people say that you can do either maths or English but not both. You however can do both as you used to be a maths teacher and now you are an author. Do you have a preference of one subject over the other?

This does seem like a paradox to some people, including several former colleagues of mine, but it’s not really. Maths is a creative subject – it’s not just sums.
I love both sides, though, but when I’ve finished the whole creative process of writing the story, I go back and check it all makes sense – that it’s logical! I think the whole left-brain right-brain thing is a simplification, and often used to justify a weakness in one area – ‘I can’t do maths!’ Everyone uses both sides.

Do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow when you are writing?

When I retired and started writing seriously, I studied a short OU course on creative writing. I learnt a lot, and was reassured that I actually had a talent, but mainly it got me in the habit of writing. My routine is usually to write in the mornings, then do other things – like taking exercise while thinking about where the story is going -  and maybe do some editing and revision later in the day if there’s time. I write in my study, with no music.
Over the last couple of years I’ve got more flexible. I can write anywhere in the house on my laptop, and at different times of day. But if I have more than a couple of days without writing, I feel unsettled and strange.
The only schedule I’ve ever had was this year when I determined to knock out a first draft of a new project between January and the end of March. I made it! But usually it’s putting the hours in: sit down and write. I can always edit and delete later, but it has to be written first.

If you could give younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

Be more confident about yourself and what you can achieve, and stop wasting so much time thinking about doing things: just damn well get on with it.

Do you have a favourite author?

I mostly read crime fiction and I’ve read all the big-hitters, of course, but I’d be reluctant to pick a favourite.
I’d rather give a different answer to the question and select my favourite books from the past few years – either books that I feel a better person for having read, or books that just seemed to be perfect. I’d single out ‘Sweetland’ by Michael Crummey, ‘The Guilty One’ by Lisa Ballantyne, and ‘Little Black Lies’ by Sharon Bolton. I’m sure I’ll think of others once I’ve emailed this back to you.
And add to that list just about anything by Terry Pratchett or Jasper Fforde, who create such wonderful alternative worlds.

What can we look forward to next from you?

There’s a third ‘Digital’ book currently with a couple of beta readers. It’s a bit different from the others, and actually has less tech in it. Amanda Pitt is again the major character.
I’ve also been working on a book which is set in the near future (though my wife says I’ve spent so long on it it’s going to be set in the present). I think I have a good draft but there’s something missing and something not quite right, so I’ve a lot of work to do on it. It’s almost a political thriller, but there is a police anti-terrorist aspect to it.
And somewhere in the back of my mind are all the lies and situations from Martin McGregor’s and Amanda Pitt’s past lives. I can see little possibilities of scenes that would play out. ‘Digital Revenge’ would be a working title.

Thank you so much to Brian for joining me today and answering my questions!

To connect with Brian

Twitter - @BRMStewart

Digital Circumstances

Martin McGregor left school in Glasgow with nothing but a talent for working with computers. He built up a successful business, installing hardware and software for companies and individuals. He was settled in a loving relationship. 

But Martin's company steals theirs and their clients' data, all of it: account details, credit card numbers, identities - and sells them on to international cyber-criminals. 

Martin never meant this to happen: it was all from circumstances all through his life, starting with a gangster's money which gave him what he thought was his first lucky break. 

Now he is trying to get clear, but his attempts attract the attentions of police and gangsters from three countries, and some people die. His partner knows something is going on, and she once told him never to lie to her. 

And in New York, FBI agent Mark Grosvenor is on his trail. 

The Outlaw's Ransom by Jennifer Ash - Blog Tour Guest Post and Book Extract

Today on Life Of A Nerdish Mum I am handing over the reigns to Jennifer Ash, author of The Outlaw's Ransom who is joining me as part of her blog tour. 

The Outlaw’s Ransom: Playing with History
Jennifer Ash

Thank you for letting me visit your blog today to celebrate the release of my first medieval mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom.
Many many years ago, long before those mobile phone things came along, and laptops were but a pipedream, I studied ‘Medieval English Economy and Crime’ at Leicester University. Basically, I spent five years in historian heaven researching the correlation between the political songs and ballads of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the real criminal records of the day. I read a lot of Robin Hood stories and crime rolls!
My research became a PhD, and since then I’ve I always wanted to use my work. To begin with I taught, but then my husband’s job was moved to Scotland, and as they don’t teach English Medieval history north of the border, my career was somewhat scuppered!

Now, 17 years later, after being a professional writer for 12 of those years, I have finally put my efforts and historical detective work to use in The Outlaw’s Ransom - my very first medieval mystery.

The Outlaw’s Ransom story revolves around the real life fourteenth century criminal gang, the Folvilles- the very gang I concentrated much of my doctoral research on. This family, made up of 7 brothers (John, Eustace, Richard, Robert, Thomas, Walter and Laurence), was based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, but they ruled a larger area of the country, which included Rutland, Northamptonshire, and part of Derbyshire.
I must confess I rather enjoyed taking historical fact and giving it a fictional spin. Although The Outlaw’s Ransom contains many factual events- I have played fast and loose with history. Please don’t go using any of the information within its pages in a pub quiz without checking it out first!

The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.
When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.
Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…
A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.
Here’s a little taster for you.  In this snippet, Mathilda is about to learn what the Folville family wants from her…

Usually Mathilda bathed in the village ford, splashing about in an attempt to scrape off the flour, leaves, dirt and dust of daily life. Total immersion in a bath was a completely new experience for her.
When she’d been handed over to the austere female servant who’d been instructed to bathe her, Mathilda had been almost as frightened as when she’d been plucked from the cell to stand before the Folvilles.
Nothing that was happening to her made sense. Everything was changing so fast. Now she was being told to strip off her dirty, but familiar, clothes, and get into a wooden tub of water that steamed before the fire in a small room off the main hall.
Her fears, in this case at least, were unfounded. Plunged into the blissfully warm lavender-scented tub, the water unexpectedly soothed her undernourished body and eased her tense muscles. Mathilda sighed with the release of fear, even though she had no doubt it was only a temporary reprieve. While she immersed in that pool at least there was nothing she could do about anything except get clean. She found herself unexpectedly grateful for a period of forced inactivity, where she could neither receive instructions nor fruitlessly plot to run away.
I’m alive, she thought. And if, as Robert de Folville himself had told her, she’d been exchanged for a debt, then her family should also be alive and well enough to be able to work towards paying that debt off.
As the tight-lipped housekeeper undid the remaining ties of her hair, and washed out its knotted tresses Mathilda resolved to believe that her new master was basically kind. It was less frightening that way. If the opportunity arose for her to ask about her family again, then she would do just that.
Robert de Folville spoke sternly, and at once Mathilda could see why, unless you were very sure of yourself, it would be unwise to argue with his man.
It was as if he had two sides to him. A side that was never to be questioned, that was ruthless and determined, and a kinder side, considerate of the individual and, most of all, the locality. It was how these two halves mixed and intertwined that intrigued Mathilda as she stood shyly in only her chemise before him.
The housekeeper who’d bathed her had produced fresh clothes for Mathilda, and despite all her experience and sharp temper, had been unable to persuade the ransomed girl to put them on, claiming that enough had happened to her, and she wanted to keep her own clothes on, no matter how worn they were. Eventually the older woman threatened to fetch his lordship to dress her himself, whether Mathilda was naked or not, and with grinning determination had fetched Robert.
Mathilda had only had time to wrap her arms around her modesty before Robert came striding in, annoyed impatience across his face. ‘You will dress in these,’ he pointed to the remainder of the pile of semi-new clothes. ‘I can’t waste my time with things like this, girl.’
Shaking her head firmly, Mathilda braced herself as she risked provoking his temper. The housekeeper was looking expectantly at Folville, and Mathilda suspected if she was disappointed when Robert steadied his anger before speaking with deliberate clarity.
‘Mathilda, it is important that you temper that natural directness of yours, not to mention your boldness. Those are valuable skills, but I need you to hide them beneath style and grace.’ He pointed again to the garments laid out before them. ‘These clothes will help you give the impression we require you to portray. Your own clothes will be cleaned and returned to you when the job is done.’
‘You see my directness as a skill, my Lord?’
Robert almost smiled as he replied with exasperation, ‘Boldness, intelligence, directness and an uncanny knack of knowing what’s going on when you shouldn’t may well get you out of here alive. But overconfidence will not be your friend.’
Mathilda’s face flushed. ‘I am no scandalmonger, my Lord.’
‘I had not suggested such a thing. But as you prove to me once again, you are bold.’ He turned to the housekeeper, treating the older woman to the edge of his simmering anger, ‘Now, for the Lord’s sake, Sarah, get some clothes on her. She looks like a whore.’
With that he stalked out of the room. Red with embarrassment, Mathilda allowed the disgruntled servant to help her into the fresh clothes. Over the chemise, she was pushed into a tightly sleeved dress of light brown, and on top of that came a longer sleeveless surcoat in a fine blue wool, a little paler in shade than her temporary master’s cloak. Finally, a wide leather belt, with a plain circular clasp, was used to pull in and girdle her waist, and a pair of practical leather boots adorned her bruised feet.
Clothes such as these, Mathilda knew, placed her in the arena of those who worked for the rising gentry, rather than those who traded for a living. For the daughter of a potter who only just kept his family alive on his own tiny stretch of land, and his skill with clay, it was a major transformation.
I hope that’s whet your appetite!
You can buy The Outlaw's Ransom for your Kindle here -
Many thanks for letting me visit today.
Happy reading everyone,
Jennifer x

Jennifer Ash is the author of the medieval murder mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom (Dec, 2016). Her second novel, The Winter Outlaw, with be published in 2017.
You can find detail’s of Jennifer’s stories at www.jenniferash.co.uk
Jennifer also writes as Jenny Kane
Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary romance Another Glass of Champagne, (Accent Press, 2016),  Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).
Jenny’s fifth full length romance novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published in June 2017.
Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)
Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Don't forget to heck out the rest of the blog tour

Monday, 5 December 2016

November 2016 Bookish Wrap Up And December Feature Announcement

Flipping heck, where is time going? I completely missed doing an October wrap up (which I will still get round to doing I promise!) and I'm already late putting this together. But here it is!

Life Of A Nerdish Mum continues to get busier and busier and though it can be hectic and stressful, I really enjoy it and the challenge. I also seem to have started to get my reading groove back (but shhh in case I scare it off) so I seem to be getting through books again. In November I read 10 books which were

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto - 5 Stars
Isabella's Adventures In Numberland by Peta Rainford - 5 Stars
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne - 5 Stars
Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington - 5 Stars
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare - 4 Stars
All Things I Can Do by Lilly Rowe - 5 Stars
Pee Wee The Christmas Tree by George Wells - 4 Stars
For The Love Of Shakespeare by Beth Miller - 5 Stars
There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake - 4 Stars
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - 5 Stars

As usual I have linked the reviews that are already up and will add the others as they go up too. I participated in some really exciting blog tours and I have plenty more coming up in the future.

My Getting To Know... feature continued and is as popular as ever and I am currently writing the last few questions for the next set of guests. Though I'm horribly behind as real life got in the way due to my white goods all hating me apparently! The guest featured in November were

Kaisha Holloway - The Writing Garnet
Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn - Author of The Broken Road 
Emma Welton - Damp Pebbles
F J Curlew - Author of To Retribution
Rebecca Bradley - Author of Three Weeks Dead
Nicky Clifford - Author of Never Again
Ben Parker - Author of Beetlebrow
Peter Taylor-Gooby - Author of The Baby Auction
Lorraine Rugman - The Book Review Cafe

I still thoroughly enjoy getting these together and it's still so exciting when an author or blogger agrees to take part.

Now onto my December feature announcement! I've been working on this since January so I really hope you enjoy it!

Starting on Tuesday the 13th of December I will be doing my 12 Days and 12 Books of Christmas feature, coming to an end of Christmas Eve. Each day I will share the book that I loved the most from each month this year and do a mini spot light on it. I've really been looking forward to this coming together and I'm really excited to be sharing my choices with everyone!

So that's my November wrap up, what did you read in November? Did you buy any awesome books? Are you looking forward to my 12 Days and 12 Books of Christmas?

Friday, 2 December 2016

Getting To Know... Jo Howarth

Today I am happy to welcome Jo Howarth to Getting To Know... Jo is the creator of The Happiness Club and author of Glad To Be Dan.

You are the creator of The Happiness Club, can you tell me more about that and what inspired you to set it up?

I am a mindfulness practitioner and advanced hypnotherapist by trade and I realised that, whether I was seeing someone on an individual basis or running a workshop, what I was helping people to do was find their happiness. We all have our own definition of happiness and the things that we think will make us happy. And happiness is really what we are all after, whether we think that happiness will come from being successful or being loved or being relaxed or having a big house, the thing we are all after is happiness. Once I realised that then it became obvious that the best way to help people do that was to give them daily guidance and that is what the club does. My members receive a daily tool, tip or thought to help them ditch the negative stuff, root themselves in the present moment and embrace a positive future.

Your book, Get Happy! The Essential Guide To A Happier Life, gives advice and tips on how to "choose happiness every single day" can you give any examples of what we could expect to find?

Absolutely. The book is a compilation of the first 6 months worth of daily thoughts from The Happiness Club so is designed to be read one page a day, in the same way as the members of my club receive their daily thought. An example would be:

How often do you say to yourself "I want that" or "I wish I had this"?

As humans we do this all the time.

We talk and think about things we want, the things we wish we had in our lives, the things we are lacking.

When we "want" something, what we are doing is focusing our attention on the lack of it, if we want it then we don't have it. We are reminding ourselves that we don't have it. Does that make us feel good? Nope.

Today when you get one of those "I want" thoughts, take a moment to imagine, just pretend that you already have that thing. Allow yourself to experience how good that feels.

Now hold on to that feeling as you go through your day.

Glad To Be Dan, is a story aimed to help children deal with different emotions, what made you decide to write a children's book?

I am passionate about working with children to help them learn how to deal with different and difficult emotions. In my opinion it is one of the most important things we will ever learn as human beings and if you can learn it when you are 4 or 7 or 9 then it stands you in better stead for the life and the world ahead. It is about building emotional resilience within children from an early age so that it becomes second nature to them, so that these tools and techniques are a normal part of their every day life, so that the resilience is inbuilt in them. Writing Glad To be Dan was a way to get these tools and techniques into the hands of as many children as possible in an affordable way.

Both of my books can be accessed through my website: www.thehappinessclub.co.uk/books-downloads

Does a lot of research go into finding methods that work to make people happy?

Yes it can do, a lot of the techniques that I teach to people are ones that I use or have used myself and they are techniques that I teach to everyone I work with. But I am also constantly training and learning as much new stuff as possible, I believe that we are always learning and that we should always be learning in order to expand and grow within this world. I love coming across new ideas and using them myself before passing them on to my clients.

You are also a mindful hypnotherapist, can you tell me anything about what that entails and how it works?

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, for me it is about increasing your awareness on a conscious level and awareness is the key to life, the universe and everything! It is about paying attention to all the brilliant things within you and around you. Practising mindfulness helps us to realise that thoughts are just thoughts, they do not need to have the power over us that we give them.

Hypnotherapy allows us to work with our limiting beliefs on a subconscious level. The subconscious mind is by far the bigger part of us and allows us to operate on auto-pilot, which is ace when we are doing routine things like putting on a pair of socks but not so ace when it makes us repeat negative behaviour patterns over and over again. Hypnotherapy is the best way that I have found of stopping those automatic knee-jerk reactions to things. Hypnosis is also a completely natural state of mind to be in - we all spend roughly 85% of our day, every day, naturally in hypnosis.

Have you always known that you wanted to write your own book one day?

Yes but I didn't realise until a couple of years ago that it would be about happiness!

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

I run workshops for businesses, teaching them simple practical techniques to help reduce stress and sickness absences levels. And I run a Happiness Programme for schools which is Mindfulness based that teaches children and the staff that teach them how to be happy and mindful. 

When you are writing, do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?

Yes I write every morning as part of my daily routine - I get up at 7am, meditate for 15 minutes and then write for approximately half an hour every day.

Do you have a favourite author?

There are so many! I like Eckhart Tolle, Dr Robert Anthony and Alan Cohen at the moment and my favourite children's author is Jude Lennon, the co-author of Glad To Be Dan, she's ace.

What can we look forward to next from you?

I have just begun my journey into the world of webinars so the next one I'm running is called A Happier Family in 5 Easy Steps and is on Monday 5th December, you can book a place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-happier-family-in-5-easy-steps-tickets-29047890021

The next two books in the Get Happy! series are underway so look out for Get More Happy! and Get Even More Happy! on Amazon in 2017.
Plus Jude, Trev and I are currently working on 8 more children's books to help them learn about dealing with more specific emotions such as frustration, anxiety, sadness and specific situations like bereavement, divorce and the arrival of new siblings!

Thank you so much to Jo for answering my questions and sharing more information about The Happiness Club

To Connect With Jo Howarth 

Glad To Be Dan

Dan doesn't feel very happy. In fact he's feeling sad. His mum's on hand to help him out But can she help Dan feel glad? Dan is having a bad week. He's feeling sad, anxious and worried. His mum has some great ideas to help him feel glad to be Dan again. But will they work? This delightful and charming story includes mindful exercises to help young children learn how to cope with different emotions.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Getting To Know... Lorraine Rugman

Today I welcome the extremely lovely Lorraine Rugman from The Book Review Cafe to Getting To Know... 

You have the wonderful blog, The Book Review Cafe, what first inspired you to set this up?

Last year I had an accident and tore the tendons in my hand and arm and was off work for three months come the third month I was getting so bored I decided to set up my own blog The Book Review Cafe. After some research I set up a Wordpress account and spent a month creating my blog, amid lots of shouting and swearing (I'm not particularly techie minded)

From your reading and reviews, you seem to have a preference for crime fiction, what is it that draws you to this genre?

I have always been a huge fan of crime fiction I like the "unexpected" element to a crime thriller you never really know what's going to happen next, and of course, there’s the page-turning, heart-racing element of suspense, wondering if the bad guy will get away with his crimes, or will he be brought to justice? 

Do you have a favourite place that you like to curl up and read?

I mostly read sat in the corner of my lounge, coffee to my side and reclining in my favourite chair 

When you're not reading, what would we find you doing?

I don't have many hobbies outside of reading, as I work full time I don't get much time to myself. I do enjoy baking occasionally and make a mean cupcake! And I love spending time with my family. Most of my spare time is spent reading and writing review posts for my blog (it's a full time job in itself)

Have you always been a big reader or is it something that has come as you got older?

I've always loved reading, it's a part of who I am. As a child I spent all my pocket money on books and my love of buying books has just grown and grown, to the extent it's trying to find some where to put them all, thank god for the kindle! Otherwise I would have at least another 300 books to home!

Since becoming a book blogger, have you had the opportunity to meet any of your favourite authors?

No not yet, I've only been blogging for a year and although I've been invited to lots of events there mostly been when I'm working or there to far to travel from my home in Bristol. One day I hope to get to a bloggers event and meet some of my favourite bloggers and authors. 

Do you have a favourite author?

I have a few favourite authors whose books I always buy Kimberly Chambers, Robert Bryndza, Caroline Mitchell, Angela Marsons, James Carol I could go on and on.....

Do you use a bookmark, random piece of paper or do you dog ear?

No, No! I couldn't dog ear a book no more than I can crack a spine on a book! I'm very particular about my books and like to keep them pristine, it's got to be a bookmark. 

Will we ever see a novel written by you?

No not in a million years! my husband and family are always telling me I should write a book, but I don't have the imagination or the patience to write.  Also one rejection letter from a publisher and that would be it, I would give up. 

If you could share any advice of wisdom about becoming a book blogger, what would it be?

Follow other book bloggers and share their posts, they will generally do the same for you. The book blogging community is a very friendly one, but first and foremost; blog for yourself. do it for your own enjoyment.

Thank you so much to Lorraine for answering my questions and joining me today on my blog!

To connect with Lorraine

Twitter - @reviewcafe