Guest Posts

The White & Gold People – Segun Starchild

When I saw the blurb for The White & Gold people, I was instantly fascinated – I mean, who doesn’t remember the fuss over THAT dress? I am honoured to welcome Segun Starchild to my blog today, to tell us more about the background to the book. Many thanks to Segun, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Over to you, Segun:

The white and gold cover

We were ALL amazed by the dress saga of Feb 2015. Yes, it was certainly a treat for the eyes, being furiously debated yet light-hearted at the same time, and a total mind bender which forced some of us to question our ideas about reality. Yes, even those who said, ‘I don’t know why everyone is so caught up in the dress,’ and ‘I don’t care about something so simple,’ have to admit it was bloody interesting.

Experts in the field of Neuroscience have tried to explain why we see the dress in the colours we do, using neatly packaged ideas such as colour constancy which allows us to view an object under different light sources but keep the same colour constant throughout. Unfortunately, with #thedress, there’s a lot more to the story than that!

The reason for the difference in colours as told by Pascal Wallisch a neuroscientist from NYU, is that if your brain had decided the dress was photographed in a shadow, you saw it as white and gold. If your brain thought it was illuminated artificially, you saw it as blue and black. Our brains are too clever for our own good it seems.

I get it (to a point), who am I to argue with neuroscientists? But I will take things in a different direction to them, so bear with me. The dress is clearly blue and black, it’s not a mystery like the pyramids of Egypt or the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing in 2014. I get that it was a ‘money shot’, a one in a million-chance event, when the lighting conditions were exactly right to produce that effect, and I get the science behind optical illusions, but for half the population to see two colours that totally weren’t there I think something deeper is at play!

In the context of the dress; if you saw it in blue and black you were absolutely right, it was, so those who see the dress in white and gold are wrong, because it wasn’t. But if we remove the dress from our focus and look at the wider world, they weren’t wrong they are gifted. Why? Because they can see past the 3rd dimension, past our physical reality where the dress is blue and black, they can see into another dimension, the 4th dimension where the dress is white and gold.

The 4th dimension is another plane of existence where spirits and other beings reside. As physical beings we have a body which is affected by the elements and death, but we also have a spirit which is energy, that cannot be destroyed but rather transferred from one state to another. This is what goes on to the afterlife when we die, and this is what clairvoyants and dogs are thought to see. E.g. dogs have been known throughout history to see spirits and ghosts of the dead and it seems humans are finally catching up.

Those who saw the dress as white and gold have evolved into a new species with superhuman abilities and higher intelligence that I call ‘homo pas horáō’ (all seeing man). They have awakened the mystical third eye, which acts as a direct window into the 4th dimension where one can learn great mysteries and see things on a higher level.

Many spiritualists say that the 3rd dimension is fading away and there will come a time when it is gone for good. Perhaps this dress is the first stage in our rise in consciousness, and there are more weird, wacky and wonderful things to come our way? What does that mean for the blueys? For whatever reason, they aren’t included in the genetic shift, they can’t see past reality, they can only see what’s there. It’s natural selection all over again, one species will adapt to the new surroundings and rise to power and dominance, and the other may unfortunately, cease to exist. They will not be able to function on the 4th dimension, which according to some will replace the third dimension, they will have to find some way of ascending or seek life elsewhere.

I know, it’s pretty far-fetched. But according to German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer; ‘all truths go through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’

Many thanks Segun, for that fascinating insight. Read on folks for the all important book details.

The White and Gold Promo image


A dress causes a huge debate across the world as some see it as black and blue and others see it as white and gold. The white and gold people suddenly start to get even stranger visions and develop super human abilities making the black and blue people seem old and inadequate. The government try to quarantine and control their power but the white and gold people react setting the stage for a war between the rival groups.





Barnes & Noble




The White and Gold Author PhotoSegun Starchild is a writer whose previous works include ‘Black Egyptians’, ‘The Capability Test’ & ‘Kamun vs. Leviathan’. He is a self confessed seeker of ‘The Truth’ and has a great hunger to know the mysteries of life. He has studied the esoteric mysteries of great sages to gain a reputable amount of wisdom and has the blessing of taking a journey through life with confidence and true knowledge of self and kind. He hails from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and is for the unification of the African continent. Segun currently lives in London, working in IT Development and Support and the director of Akasha Publishing Ltd.










Giveaway to Win a T-Shirt, in the colours of the dress, in either white and gold or blue and black. (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.


Don’t forget to pay a visit to the other blogs taking part in the tour for more information about this fascinating book.

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Guest Posts

Bell, Book & Candle – Jay Raven

Today I join the blog tour for Bell, Book & Candle, book one in the To Catch A Witch series, and I am thrilled to be hosting the author Jay Raven on my blog. The gothic horror and fantasy writer talks about the allure and potential pitfalls of using magic in books. I’ll tell you all about the book in a sec, but for now, over to Jay.

To Snare Jay Raven 5It’s a trap that too many writers fall into – especially fantasy writers.  We create plot holes that need to be glossed over, have events taking place so far apart geographically that it would take days, sometimes weeks, for our heroes to rush to the rescue, make our protagonist so outnumbered and overwhelmed that only a ridiculously convenient and implausible way of breaking free or turning the tables can resolve the jeopardy and save the day.

And we turn to that narrative band-aid – the get out of free card of story-telling – magic. The hero clicks a finger and summons his superpowers, his trusty sidekick mutters an ancient spell to open the impenetrable wall , the brave wizard points his staff and lightning bolts shoot out killing the orcs, giant eagles swoop down to carry the goodies aloft and transport them hundreds of miles, the wand suddenly shines an eerie light on the faint inscription containing the answer to the mystery.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see this sort of thing in a film or read it in a book it makes me groan. It completely destroys my suspension of disbelief. It also makes me feel a bit cheated. Was the protagonist ever really in peril if she had the means of escape literally at her fingertips all along?

It’s made me very cynical about the use of magic in storytelling and means that when I include magic in any of my tales I desperately strive to make it as real and fallible as possible. I quiz myself to make sure that the necromancy is a vital component in the story and not just a lazy device for getting out of self-created plotting problems.

And it’s given me a personal take on all things magical – a philosophy that I (almost always) stick to.  There are two main threads to my approach – that magic must be limited, difficult to control and unpredictable and, more importantly, that it must be terrifying; something that any character would only consider under the most extreme of circumstances.

On the limitations of magic, I see it as a power that can only be employed in small doses and only by an incredibly knowledgeable few who have studied it for years – perhaps decades. There’s not a one-size-fits-all enchantment that can be used, but hundreds of very tricky hexes and spells that can only  conjured up in a precise and skilful way. Each spell has its own purpose – curing a singular ailment, warding off a specific threat, working as a love charm on a particular type of person.

Even with a talented practioner, there are no guarantees of success. There’s so much that can go wrong.

On the frightening prospect of using magic, there is no doubt in my mind. Magic is like nuclear power. It can bestow great benefits but comes with so many dangers. There is no white magic or black magic – only this primal force that is likely to inflict as much harm to those who invoke it as those it is aimed against.

Control is an illusion and there are always consequences to those who dabble – both physical and psychological. Necromancy ages humans before their time, enfeebles their bodies and can drive the unwary to madness. There is always a price to be paid.

In my To Snare A Witch historical horror series I’ll be examining all these chilling aspects. In part one: Bell, Book and Candle I’ve tried to show just how difficult it is for the heroine Elizabeth Fiennes to gather the ingredients it takes to put together the spell she needs to try to save her lover, and in the future instalments I’ll be highlighting the havoc magic brings to her life – no matter how well intended she is.

One thing is guaranteed, her future will be full of scares and surprises… 

To Snare A Witch EBOOK

Many thanks Jay. As a novice fantasy writer myself, this is great advice. Now, onto all the book info.


A Chilling historical tale of lust, sorcery and devastating revenge

No female dares spurn the lecherous advances of Sir Henry Cruttendon, 17th Century England’s most reviled nobleman. To do so risks a retribution that would terrify the Devil himself.

But Elizabeth Fiennes is no ordinary woman, blessed with stunning beauty,  intelligence and guile. Coming from an influential family, she believes she is safe.

What she doesn’t understand is that the Earl is determined to satisfy his lust and plans to use the wave of witch trials, fear and superstition  sweeping the countryside to force her into his clutches.

And as he springs his malicious trap it triggers a chain of unholy events plunging hunter and prey into a maelstrom of deceit, terror and depravity – leaving them both staring into the face of true evil…


Amazon UK


Jay Raven is the author of Gothic chillers and historical horror reminding readers that the past is a dangerous place to venture, full of monsters and murderous men. He blames his fascination with vampires, witches and werewolves on the Hammer Horror films he watched as a teenager, but living in a creepy old house on the edge of a 500-acre wood may have something to do with it.

If you would like to be informed of new releases, enjoy free short stories and access exclusive giveways and competitions, please subscribe to Jay’s monthly newsletter on his website at





For more information about the To Snare a Witch series, head on over to the other blogs taking part in this tour.

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Guest Posts

Hollie Anne Marsh

As part of the blog tour for her latest book, Tabby’s Big Year, I am delighted to be hosting Hollie Anne Marsh today, as she tells us more about her riding adventures. Without further ado, I will hand you over to Hollie.

I grew up in Australia and we lived in a suburb not too far away from the centre of Sydney. It was quite suburban, however, it used to be full of green spaces where many people kept horses. I was introduced to horses when I was around eight years old, and quickly became obsessed! My friend Nicole and I used to spend countless hours at the paddocks, a ten-minute walk from my house, where she kept her naughty bay pony, Billy.

I started riding through meeting Nicole, and afterwards at the local riding school. I’d work half days in the blistering sun in exchange for a half hour lesson! It was kind of slave labour but I was desperate to be in the saddle. As soon as I was old enough, I got a paying job as a checkout chick (the slang name for supermarket cashiers in Australia) so I was able to loan a scruffy grey pony called Apollo. Apollo was fourteen hands and boy could he jump. I trusted him wholeheartedly and he was my best friend. We used to have a great time exploring the Australian bush. I also attended Pony Club and participated in some gymkhanas and One Day Events.

One of my favourite memories was galloping through the bush, with my friend Nicole, being chased by park rangers as we dodged low hanging tree branches. We took a trail that horses weren’t meant to be on… oops! At the end of our dare-devil gallop, we made it safely away, to the other side of the bush (the rangers couldn’t get through the path with their 4WD) and we were in absolute hysterics. We were probably twelve years old. It was a bit rebellious, but this carefree and funny moment stayed with me all these years!

When I grew out of ponies, I had a few ex-racehorses that I retrained. They weren’t always so easy, and I had a few spills including one bad fall – resulting in a broken ankle with metal in it ) :

During University, I used to wake up at 4 am to go and exercise race-horses at the Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney – funnily enough, I never had any falls at the race track. I also used to take the racehorses to the races on the weekends for their owners and trainers… ‘strapping’ and I always enjoyed the excitement of a race day!

After finishing University, I got a ‘proper’ job and I decided to buy more of a purpose bred horse. That is how my first warmblood (a breed specifically bred for equestrian sports), came to my life. I bought Spot at an auction as I got a bit carried away with the atmosphere! He was beautiful, a gentle giant that grew to be over seventeen hands. He was dark grey with a curious white spot on his hindquarters – thus the name. I trained him for show-jumping and later on I preferred the challenge of doing dressage. Out of any horses I owned, I think he had the best temperament. Like a big dog. My friend owns him now since I moved to the UK.

In my late twenties, I wanted to do some travelling and have a fun job for a while (as I started a career in marketing for big brands)! So, I moved to the UK and organised with a well-known stable to work for them, in return for training on their dressage horses. The stable was picture perfect – in Godalming in Surrey… but the cottage I was meant to live in I discovered was filthy. It smelt dank, and what was meant to be my bedroom, was up a ladder into a loft, into a threadbare room with no curtains, and a mattress coated with thick dog hair resting on the ground – with no sheets or blankets. After flying over twenty-three hours I had to lug a sixty-kilo bag up the ladder by myself to get into the sorry room. The riding trainer was a thin stern German lady, who chain-smoked and wasn’t very welcoming. I left after a few days as I just couldn’t live like that and I expected at least one friendly face. The kindly owner I had been talking to over email to organise my job, was nowhere to be seen the whole time I was there. In hindsight, I think I should have been tougher and stayed longer – but I was homesick almost as soon as I arrived and looking for some a little bit of comfort.

After leaving Surrey, I moved into a house share in Hampstead in the north of London with five people! All from different corners of the world. I found a job in marketing again and I spent most weekends traipsing all over Europe like most Aussies, escaping the weather and exploring. However, it wasn’t long before another horse came my way. My marketing director’s son gave up riding and as they were moving to America, so they sold me a big grey horse called Joey for a song. I trained him for dressage and after a year or two, I bought a black Danish bred horse called Odin. I trained him to medium level of dressage, however when I moved to Spain, I sold him. I did bring along my baby horse though – a foal that was bred in Devon.

Living in Barcelona in Spain has been interesting. We live by the beach and not far from the centre, in quite a lively cosmopolitan area – full of international people. My baby horse Frieda has grown up and I have been training her with a Spanish trainer, who has represented Spain in competitions.

Here is a photo of Frieda and I.

Hollie and Frieda

The stable where I keep her is quite modern with mainly performance horses. There is a mix of Andalusian and warmblood horses that people enjoy; riding for pleasure and sport.

During my time in Spain, I also visited Seville a few times where I had lessons on Andalusians. My trainer also allowed me to ride one very special Andalusian before he was sold to a home in Florida. Andalusian horses are so willing, comfortable to ride and sweet.

I also visited a few of the famous equestrian stables including the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, and the Royal Stables in Cordoba. It was wonderful to learn more about the Spanish equestrian culture, the traditions and see the stunning horses in action. The only thing I don’t like about the south of Spain is the bull fighting… that makes me sad – I think it’s very outdated and barbaric. Fortunately, in Catalonia (the region where Barcelona is) they stopped bull fighting because the people thought it was cruel.

I must confess that I am quite envious of everything that Hollie has experienced. If this has whetted your appetite for more equestrian adventures, here come all the important details about the latest Sweetbriars book.


Tabbys Big Year_EBOOK

After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.

Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family.
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?


Amazon UK



Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda.

Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail-riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage.

The Sweetbriars series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments!

Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had.
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.






For more information about Hollie and Tabby’s Big Year, why not check out the other blogs taking part on this tour?

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Guest Posts

How I Write, My Method – Joseph Lewis

I am delighted to be hosting Joseph Lewis today, as part of the blog blitz for his book, Caught in a Web. This is one for all you writers out there as Joseph kindly stopped by to tell me all about his own writing method.

Caught in a Web 3D Facebook Image

I think every interview I’ve ever done, the question comes up, “How do you write? What is your method?” Sometimes there is a variation, “When do you find the time to write?” I’m going to tackle this topic as best I can.

First of all, for me it isn’t a matter of finding time to write. Writing is my stress release. My wife runs each morning (probably something I should do as well) and goes to Cross Fit each afternoon. Yes, she is a warrior. Me, not so much. But a long time ago, she stated to me that running is her morning cup of coffee. She said that if she didn’t run, she would be tired and sluggish all day.

 I feel the same way about writing. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing, even in my day job. I do quite a bit of “prewriting” in my head: what is this character going to say or do, how would he/she react if I place him or her in this situation.

 Then each evening after supper, I take out my trusty laptop and sit either at the kitchen table or on the sofa in the family room. The TV is on. My wife and daughter are talking, reading or watching TV. You see, I cannot write in isolation or in quiet. I need to have noise swirling around me. I can actually concentrate better. Besides, if I come to a passage that I’m not sure how I want it, I can bounce it off Kim or Hannah and see what they might say. Usually, my youngest, Emily, (senior year in college, an avid reader and a great writer in her own right) is my first set of eyes.

I always begin with what I had written the night before. It serves two purposes: 1. I can self-edit, clean up, change, add or delete what I don’t like; 2. It puts me in character and setting for what I’m about to write that night. Mostly each night, same routine. I write for at least an hour, sometimes two, and I have to say that the time flies by.

Like Kim with her running, my writing is important to me. So much so, I feel cheated when I can’t pull out the laptop to give it a go. Even now as I write this post, I’m thinking of a scene.

Stylistically, I write what I call Patterson Chapters. James Patterson uses short chapters and seldom does he end them cleanly at an “end.” Each individual chapter seems to lead directly into the next and pulls the reader along. Truly, page-turners. My writing is similar.

Two examples come to mind. I had several readers tell me that they cannot read me at night. Not so much because I scare them, though there are elements of suspense, especially in Caught in a Web (drugs, death and gangs) and the more recent, Spiral Into Darkness (serial killer with a list, but no one understands the “why” behind the list). It is because of the Patterson Chapters that keep the reader going and unable to close the book. One reviewer wrote, “If you like James Patterson, you’ll love Joseph Lewis.” That is not only flattering, but humbling at the same time.

It takes me anywhere from start to finish approximately nine months to a year to finish a book, have it edited and shopped to a publisher. Spiral Into Darkness came out this past January, but I am already three-fourths complete with the first draft of a follow-up titled, Betrayed. And, I’m using the same methods as I outlined above. It might not work for everyone, but it seems to work just fine for me.

Keep reading for the all important details about Caught in a Web.

Caught in A Web Large Cover


The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson.  But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives come to realize that the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.


Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble


Caught in a Web J Lewis BRW Picture 10-16-17

Joseph Lewis has written five books: Caught in a Web; Taking Lives; Stolen Lives; Shattered Lives, and Splintered Lives. His sixth, Spiral into Darkness, debuts January 17, 2019 from Black Rose Writing. Lewis has been in education for 42 years and counting as a teacher, coach, counselor and administrator. He is currently a high school principal and resides in Virginia with his wife, Kim, along with his daughters, Hannah and Emily. His son, Wil, is deceased.

Lewis uses his psychology and counseling background to craft his characters which helps to bring them to life. His books are topical and fresh and appeal to anyone who enjoys crime thriller fiction with grit and realism and a touch of young adult thrown in.





Don’t forget to check out the other blogs taking part in this mini blog blitz.

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Guest Posts

My Favourite Places – Paul Ian Cross

I am thrilled to have a guest post from Paul Ian Cross to share with you today. Thank you so much Paul for taking the time to tell us all about your favourite places.

Paul Ian Cross

Thank you for inviting me onto you blog! After I finished university I went straight into work. I really regretted not taking some time out to travel, so now I’m making up for it! My partner Adrian and I have travelled a lot in the last five years and we have been to some amazing places. We’ve been to Scotland (especially the Isle of Skye), Spain, Canada, Greece, The Philippines, New York, Ireland and Japan. I loved Japan, especially Tokyo. We arrived in the city, then travelled around the country for a few weeks but returned to Tokyo early so we could spend more time there. It’s such an incredible city! We were worried it would be a little overwhelming, but we were surprised to discover lots of relatively quiet and relaxing areas amongst the metropolis. Pretty cool for a city of that size. My favourite place in Tokyo was Asakusa.

Asakusa Japan
Asakusa, Japan

We are currently away on a long-term trip as I write. We took two months off to visit Los Angeles, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands. I was able to finish my novel while I was away (mainly working on the final edits) and it has been an inspiring time to work. In fact, we travelled around so much during the last few weeks of edits that we moved through space (places) and time (several time zones – including moving across the international date line). I think moving through space and time was the perfect end to completing a book about space-time travel!

During our current trip, I have loved so many places but French Polynesia and New Zealand really stood out to me. New Zealand has so many different landscapes from mountains and rivers to wonderful coasts and volcanic landscapes with geysers and sulphur lakes! We also did a helicopter trip above the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers which was amazing.

Rotorua New Zealand
Rotorua, New Zealand
Fox Glacier New Zealand
Me on a mountain near Fox Glacier, New Zealand

As I write I am sitting on an island called Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. It’s an ‘almost atoll’ and we can see the sea from our veranda, but the area in front of our cottage is a lagoon. We’ve been watching fish jump around during sunset and it has been incredibly relaxing.

Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands
Our current view – Aitutaki Lagoon, the Cook Islands

In French Polynesia, we visited an island near Tahiti called Mo’orea which was teeming with wildlife. We swam with stingrays and reef sharks before we received news that a humpback whale was singing in the bay near us. We quickly returned to the boat and moved to the area. The lead biologist running the tour told us to get into the water fast, so we did. I placed my head under the water and my ears popped. I thought how strange and tried again. It then dawned on me… the pressure in my ears was whale song. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Not only could you hear the whale song, but you could feel the sound waves reverberate through your body. At one point, I felt a roar of sound through me and it turned out the whale had passed right underneath us. This experience was definitely my number one. I’ve always had a love for whales and this has only enhanced my love for these incredible animals!

My passion for travel has also influenced my writing and some of the places I’ve visited have made it into my story – as Engella, the main protagonist, travels through time and space during her adventures. You can see the photographs from my previous and current trips (some of which have made it into the novel) on Instagram. My handle is

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog and I hope you enjoy reading The Lights of Time! It won’t be long before Engella’s journey continues. Perhaps she’ll make it to French Polynesia in the next book! 😊

Paul’s book, The Lights of Time can be purchased through the links below. Head over to the book review section of my blog to read my thoughts on the book.

Amazon UK

Guest Posts

Bizarre honeymoon thanks to the most unusual gate crasher

I am delighted to have Lexi Rees guest posting today to tell us all about her nautical adventures. Over to you Lexi:

Hi Mai, Thanks so much for having me on your blog! Obviously, you know about my new book, but I’m not always writing. I spend a lot of time sailing, as you might guess when you read Eternal Seas.

Until I met my husband, the only time I had set foot on a boat was a car ferry to Mull, and a school cruise (on a converted car ferry) when I was about 15. But he is a keen sailor, so I gave it a go. We started off doing the Spring racing series from the Isle of Wight. It was cold and wet, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. “Better a happy boat, than a winning boat,” the skipper used to say. Although I did notice that he only invited my hubby to the join the very competitive team which he won a different series with every year.

Before we even thought about getting a house together, we bought an old boat in Italy and spent a few years doing it up. We then sailed it from Italy, all the way through the Greek islands, and into Turkey.

I haven’t seen many kids’ books where the sailing described in it is realistic so I wanted to bring my experience into Eternal Seas.

I purposely avoided putting Finn and Aria onto a large galleon style boat as it would be impossible for a family to crew it. Even in Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow steals a ship ready prepared for sailing. The Alcina is based on a live-aboard family that we met in the Greek islands and their boat, Indianna.

All the terminology in Eternal Seas is nautically accurate – gybe, galley, windlass etc. I didn’t want to lose the impact by saying “change direction”, “kitchen”, and “anchor lifting machine”.

Stunning early morning departure

Over the years, we’ve been joined by many friends, and the arrival of my son which involved adding a lot of netting to the boat and some changes to the routine: “prepare to tack” became “move the baby to the low side, prepare to tack”. The boat is a bit like a giant jungle gym. Kids do tend to pop up through hatches like a jack-in-the-box so supervising is hard work!

Never too young to learn how to use a winch

It’s hard to pick favourite sailing moments, but being joined by dolphins on the bow is always amazing – the dolphins feature in Eternal Seas. I haven’t seen any dolphins for a few years now which is worrying. We did get joined by turtles last summer though which was a first for me.

If I had to pick a single landmark, sailing through the Corinth canal was spectacular, and we had my dad and uncle on board too so it was a great family trip.

For me, it’s not just about the physical sailing, it’s about the family memories. The sunset drinks, the lazy days where there is not a breath of wind and you spend the whole day swimming and reading …

A perfect end to a day’s sailing
Guest Posts

The Barefoot Road – Guest Post

As promised earlier, here is Vivienne Vermes to tell you, in her own words, what inspired her to write The Barefoot Road.

I didn’t choose to write my novel. It chose me. It was like a bird landing on my shoulder that kept pecking at my ear until I began my story. Let me explain. . .

I am on a very gruelling hike in Transylvania. Night is falling. We’re in the Valley of the Wolves (actually, not in the valley, but high on the hillside, in a forest). Way below, I can see the lights of the farmhouse where our group will be staying tonight. The woods are full of shadows and silence. If I stay very quiet, I feel the trees will start whispering to me. I let the group go on ahead. Our guide warns me not to linger too long, as the owner of the farm where we are staying is a dragon lady by the name of Paraschiva. I assure him I won’t stay long. But I do. For some reason, I’m totally unafraid. There is something haunting and magical about this place. As if it connects the depths of the earth with the stars overhead. It is so strong, so beyond human comprehension, that it effaces my petty human fears. I stay in this place until it gets dark.

Then I scramble down the mountain track. Anxiety returns. I am very late. I will get scolded. I will be unpopular with the group.

The farmhouse gets closer. Then I see it. The image will stay with me, and will be the beginning of the novel. A huge wooden gate, the entrance to the farm. Above the gate, the portal, with the shape of bats’ wings stencilled out of the wood. The stars glitter through the empty spaces. Underneath, a smaller door is encased in the big gate. It is open. A figure is silhouetted against the light coming from the farmhouse yard behind. It is Paraschiva. She is old, and bent. Her hands look like black claws. I am afraid. When I approach, she opens her arms and hugs me in a warm embrace. After a meal, we sit down over a glass of palinka (the local apricot brandy) and talk, in broken German, into the night. Her eyes are bright blue-green and shine out of her old face.

I have never met this woman before. Yet I feel I have come home.

Long after I have returned to my normal city life, I learn from the guide, with whom I have kept in touch, that sadly Paraschiva has died; that on her deathbed she revealed that her real name was Anna Schwarz*, and that she was born in Budapest, a Hungarian Jew. My father’s family was Hungarian Jewish. Their name, before they changed it to Vermes, was Schwarz. A common enough name. An uncommon experience. I began to write about Paraschiva, making up story after story about this woman who lived in the Valley of the Wolves, and had bright turquoise eyes.

Later, on the same hike, up in the Maramures, we trudge wearily into a long straggling village. We are exhausted. It has been a very hard climb over a mountain ridge, where we were caught in a fierce summer storm. I have a sore throat and my feet are dragging on the ground. We come to a farmhouse on the edge of the village. I lie down on a hard bed. Flies buzz around my nose. I vow never to go on an arduous hike again. Then I hear the music. A group of local musicians have arrived in a beat-up car with no windscreen but with the windscreen wipers working furiously. Soon we are all out drinking palinka and dancing on the uneven grass. The musicians are talented. Our spirits are raised by the magic of their songs. Yet we notice the violins are out of tune. Someone asks why. “Oh, the people who used to tune and repair the violins left the village long ago”. I sense a discomfort around the answers. Later, I discover they are talking about the Rrom and the Jews. They “left” during the 2nd World War. Deported, often with unimaginable brutality. The metaphor is strident. How simply “out of tune” we become when we stamp out racial diversity, when we retreat into fear of the “other”, the outsider, or even of the unknown – the mystery beyond our small human understanding. How we diminish the music of our existence when we try to limit it to our own worldview. “I’m right, you’re dead.” We do like certainty. A comfortable cop-out. A village – a country, a continent? – out of tune.

That’s when the story chose me.

My father was one of the last Hungarian Jews to escape Nazi-occupied Hungary in 1940. He managed to flee to Northern Ireland. To do so, he had to renounce his Jewish faith and declare himself a Catholic. In Northern Ireland, it would have been fine to be a Jew (there were too few of them to pose a problem) but to be a Catholic! Then he wanted to marry my Northern Irish mother, who was Protestant, and who had to convert to Catholicism to marry a Jew! In the end, they got married in a non-denominational church in Belfast, and spent their lives on a spiritual quest for a way of life that would transcend religious and political divides and prejudices.

Coming from such a family, and in today’s Europe, so torn apart by intolerance, the rise of nationalism, the refugee crisis, how could I not listen to the bird that landed on my shoulder? How could I not write the story, “The Barefoot Road”?

* Not Paraschiva’s real name nor our family’s. I have changed it to protect privacy.

Vivienne Vermes

Paris, 2018



Vivienne Vermes is a writer and actress of Irish and Hungarian descent who divides her time between Paris and London. She has published four collections of poetry: Sand Woman, Metamorphoses, Passages and When the World Stops Spinning, and has performed her work in festivals throughout Europe. She is winner of the Piccadilly Poets’ award, the Mail on Sunday’s Best Opening of a Novel competition, as well as Flash 500s prize for short prose and the Paragram national competition for best poem and “petite prose”. She has taught creative writing in universities in Transylvania, and runs a writers’ workshop in Paris.

As an actress, she has played roles in a number of French films, including Les Trois Frères, Le Retour and in Les Profs 2 in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II. Her voice also warns passengers on the Paris metro to “Mind the gap”.

The Barefoot Road is her first novel.

You can follow Vivienne on Twitter.