Cover Reveal – Heart Search: Betrayal

For those who follow this trilogy, it’s been a long wait for the final book in the series. However, the time has finally come. The author, Carlie M A Cullen, has unveiled the cover, and will launch the book next Saturday! Keep your eyes peeled for more to come!

Betrayal front cover


One bite started it all . . .

Joshua, Remy, and the twins are settled in their new life. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. An argument between Becky and her twin causes unforeseen circumstances, an admission by Samir almost costs him his life, and the traitor provides critical information to Liam. But who is it?

As Jakki’s visions begin to focus on the turncoat’s activities, a member of the coven disappears, and others find themselves endangered.

And when Liam’s coven attacks, who will endure?

Fate continues to toy with mortals and immortals alike, and as more hearts descend into darkness, can they overcome the dangers they face and survive?

About the Author

HEADSHOTCarlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing.

She has always written in some form or another, but started to write novels in 2011. Her first book was published by Myrddin Publishing in 2012. She writes in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for New Adult and Adult.

Carlie is also a principal editor for Eagle Eye Editors.

Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. They have published four anthologies so far, two for adults and two for children, all of which raise money for a local hospice.

Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.

Find her here:


Twitter: @carlie2011c







Heart Search, book one: Lost:

Heart Search, book two: Found:


Looking for Alaska by John Green

by Sarah-Jane Bird

How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?

John Green’s books have a fandom so intense I was almost reluctant to read his award winning debut novel Looking for Alaska. Social media idolises Green and his characters, and he is the second most followed author on Goodreads, second only to Cassandra Clare. I’m quite a tough sell on YA fiction, but I knew I wouldn’t stop wondering about this book until I sat down and read it. So I did.

Miles Halter joins Culver Creek boarding school, hoping to seek ‘A Great Perhaps’. A self confessed bookish nerd with an obsession with famous ‘last words’, Miles is and dare I say it – your typical so uncool he is kind of cool teenage boy. His roommate Chip introduces Miles to Alaska. Enigmatic, intense Alaska Young.

On the surface, Looking for Alaska is a story of the nerd who meets his ‘Manic Pixie Dreamgirl’ and falls desperately in love. Green has taken an overused trope and twisted it just enough that we get real depth with his characters. Alaska is deeply troubled, and even though she admits how unhappy she is Miles only sees the side of her that he wants to see. Miles idolises quirky and vibrant Alaska, and struggles to accept her as a whole, troubled person.

Looking for Alaska is a funny, touching and very realistic portrayal of a group of teenage outsiders. Beneath the adolescent veneer of alcohol, cigarettes and sex is a story about growing up, in one of the harshest ways possible.  I loved reading this book, Green writes beautifully.


Writing – the (not so) lovely endeavour

by Anna Jones Buttimore

The lot of a writer is one of long hours hunched over a keyboard in a dimly lit room with nothing but a cat for company. Shut away from the real world we pull faces and make hand gestures as our characters do, mutter dialogue to ourselves, and live in a strange environment peopled entirely by creatures of our own imagination. Alone we face the frustrations of edit after edit, and the crushing disappointment of rejection after rejection of our precious offspring. It’s little wonder that many of us seem to be a little eccentric, if not downright mad.

As least, that’s how it used to be. These days writing is no longer the lonely and solitary profession.

  • Today Hellen is coming to my house to work on her novel. She’s coming partly because I have a spare desk and she won’t be tempted to do housework in my house (although I’ve told her she’d be welcome to), but also for the company. And once in a while she can ask me, “What’s that word that means..?” or “How would you describe the smell of..?” Hellen and I have written a book together, and writing in the company of others is a lot of fun.
  • Years ago when my first novel was printed my editor put me in touch with a fellow author I admired, Kerry Blair, and she in turn “virtually” introduced me to several other authors, most of whom I have now met in person. For many years we emailed each other frequently with messages of support and encouragement. We congratulated each other on books accepted and published and commiserated on rejections. We cooed over baby photos and offered support in times of illness and despair. Most of all, though, we shared the experience of writing, its rewards and its difficulties, and we were there for each other. We email less frequently than we once did, but we do now share a blog.
  • Hardly a day goes by without me receiving an invitation via Facebook to a book launch party; probably because around half my Facebook friends are writers. I also belong to many writers groups on Facebook where I find discussions on editing, naming characters and every and any aspect of this strange craft of ours.
  • I belong to two writers’ groups (Writebulb and Rayleigh WINOS) and thus two Saturdays a month are spent writing flash fiction, undertaking challenges and setting goals with other writers. It’s a really wonderful opportunity. One Writebulb member pointed out “We learn far more in two hours than we could at any creative writing class”.
  • Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month – November) sees groups of writers meeting together in libraries for “sprints” on their laptops, badges popping up all over Facebook, and a real sense of solidarity as thousands of writers struggle to write 50,000 words in just one month. I’ve only done it once, and I failed due to poor planning (got 20,000 words in and realised I had no idea where the book was going and needed to do some major research) but I’m going to try again in this year.

Writing may once have meant working in glorious solitude, but it doesn’t have to any more. We authors can support and encourage one another, get together and share our experiences and goals, either online or in person. Even if, at the end of the day, we like to retreat to our dimly-lit attic room with our laptops to immerse ourselves once more in the worlds we create.


Book Review: Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

by Sofia Andrewski


Dellarobia lives in poverty on a farm in the Appalachians in Tennessee, and is forced into an early marriage by an unplanned pregnancy. On the way to meet with her extra-marital lover she stumbles across a mind-blowing sight: the forest near her family’s land is blazing like a fire, but instead of flames it is thousands of Monarch butterflies that light the branches.

Despite the beauty before her, Dellarobia soon realises she is not witnessing a miracle, but a sign of a disintegrating climate. But fighting the short-sighted schemes of her fellow countrymen is more than a challenge where money is involved—and the community is forced to choose between alleviating their poverty or the survival of a species.

Kingsolver graduated with a science degree in biology and ecology, and these themes permeate Flight Behaviour. The extreme rural setting helps to encapsulate the story and the message into a coherent whole, like a snow-globe separates a scene from the outside world. This is somewhat ironic considering that the core message is not an isolated issue, but one that applies to the whole planet as a biological system in its own right.

The text skilfully records the micro-moments of Dellarobia’s claustrophobic life whilst constantly underlining the reality of an impending environmental catastrophe. In addition, the author utilises a range of characters, often from very different positions in the social hierarchy, to illustrate the problems of social justice and responsibility that face humanity.

For example, Dellarobia’s husband Cub is an uneducated but good-natured bumpkin, and simply doesn’t grasp the enormity of the unusual weather, whereas the affluent scientist Ovid—who comes to investigate the sudden butterfly migration—fully understands the implications but does not grasp the social idiosyncrasies of the farming communities.

The healthy mix of opinion given by different characters helps Kingsolver to avoid preachiness and she portrays the interplay between the religious and scientific elements of the book with both accuracy and fairness. The reader finishes the story with an unnerving sense of its reality; we only need look out the window to see evidence of the same bizarre weather that Dellarobia faces in the novel. There is a sense of recognition, partly because Flight Behaviour was published in 2012, and partly because Kingsolver chooses to focus on modern themes: climate change is interwoven with social disparity and how the media screens the information we receive.

Even though the story focuses on this at its centre, the plot is personal as the reader follows Dellarobia’s often mundane but identifiable life, and the style of writing does not lack good doses of humour. It is an enjoyable, meaningful read, and hard to forget.

Writing and composing

by Ian Wilson

In the half term break, my wife and I were faced with the problem of how to get a seventeen-year-old to take a family holiday with us. We hit on the idea of a trip to Manchester so that we could look do the university tour and consider the music department as a place for him to study. Wandering around the campus together, we were congratulating ourselves on our insight into teenage psychology when my wife noticed this plaque:

Blue Plaque to commemorate Anthony Burgess - writer

My first reaction was one of surprise. Who knew that the writer of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was also a composer? When I got home I decided to explore his work. To my astonishment, I discovered that composition was Burgess’s first love and that he’d written well over 250 works. Apparently, he spent much of his life unsuccessfully trying to gain recognition for his music, only managing one-off, unrecorded performances at literary events. I thought I’d have a nose round the internet to see if I could find something to which I could listen and found he’d written ‘A Manchester Overture’ ( to celebrate his time in the city. I was struck by its invention and the quality of his orchestration. Why wasn’t this music better known?

This made me think about whether it is possible to be a successful polymath. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Omar Khayyám notwithstanding, most famous people are only recognized in one field. Does our need to pigeonhole people prevent us from appreciating their broader contribution to culture? Or is it that we are too narrow in our understanding of creativity?

I have been a composer for some time ( but it has only been in the last year that I have turned my attention to writing. Trying to put a young adult novella together has been a steep learning curve for me and has made me consider the similarities and differences between the process of writing and that of composition.

The most important similarity that I’ve found is the need to constantly revise my work. I find it so easy to settle on an idea before I have had the chance to consider other possibilities. At one song writing workshop that I attended, the leader stressed the need to write lots of potential verses so that the best ones could be selected for the final lyrics. I have often used internet forums to ‘road test’ initial versions of my songs so that I can get extra pairs of ears on them before honing them to their final forms. When I wrote a song cycle for the Dunblane Chamber Orchestra, I had to revise the work considerably after the first performance because they found it so hard to play, as you will hear if you follow the link (2 mins 11s into the video on the front page of

It is a great comfort taking the same approach to the ‘terrible first draft’. Author Anne Lamott claims that her first drafts are so bad she worries about getting into a car crash and dying as she’d never want others to see her work before she’s had a chance to revise it. I used the Beta Read service from Eagle Eye Editors ( to get someone else to sample my writing efforts. Alison DeLuca, an author of young adult novels, read my book and gave helpful feedback which I am now trying to apply.

The second similarity that I have found between writing music and writing fiction is the need to develop your themes. At university I was taught how Beethoven explored simple ideas (such as the ‘knocking on the door’ theme from his fifth symphony) to the full limit of their potential. In my writing, I am trying to achieve the same clarity of expression, ensuring that I know what central ideas I am following and how they might be developed coherently.

Am I labouring in vain, like Anthony Burgess appears to have done when wearing his composing hat? Almost certainly, but I’m having a lot of fun on the way.


Mary Shelley

by Beverley Townsend

Mary Shelley

Thirteen private letters written by Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, have recently been found at the Essex Records Office archives. The letters were written between 1831 and 1849 to family friends Horace Smith, a stockbroker and author and his daughter Eliza who Mary had become close to following the death of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. The letters cover many subjects including: Mary summoning a hairdresser at 3am so she could look her best for William IV’s coronation the following morning.

I read Frankenstein many years ago and became curious about the author.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born in London 1797, the second daughter of famed educator, and writer Mary and the equally famous anarchist philosopher William Godwin. Her mother died ten days after her birth and her father, left to care for Mary and her older half-sister quickly married again. Under his tutelage, Mary received an excellent education, unusual for girls at the time.

She met Percy Bysshe Shelley a political radical and free-thinker like her father, when Percy and his first wife, Harriet, visited Godwin’s home and bookshop in London. Percy, unhappy in his marriage, began to visit Mary more frequently (and alone). In the summer of 1814 he and Mary (then only 16) fell in love. They eloped to France. Upon their return several weeks later, the young couple were dismayed to find that Godwin, whose views on free love apparently did not apply to his daughter, refused to see them. Despite disillusionment and tragedy, Percy was the love of her life. Percy, too, was more than satisfied with his new partner in these first years. Mary and Percy shared a love of languages and literature.

During May of 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva to summer near the famous and scandalous poet, Lord Byron. One night, however, she had a “waking dream” then set herself to put the story on paper. In time it would be published as Frankenstein. Its success would endure long after the other writings produced that summer had faded.

Frankenstein is full of references to her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and her major work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which discusses the lack of equal education for males and females. The inclusion of her mother’s ideas in her work is also related to the theme of creation/motherhood in the novel.

Returning to England in September of 1816, Mary and Percy were stunned by two family suicides in quick succession. On October 9th 1816, Mary’s older half-sister, Fanny Imlay, left the Godwin home and took her own life at a distant inn. On December 10th, Percy’s first wife drowned herself in London’s Hyde Park. Discarded and pregnant, she had not welcomed Percy’s invitation to join Mary and himself in their new household.

Over the following years, Mary’s household grew to include her own children by Percy, who moved his ménage from place to place first in England and then in Italy. Mary suffered the death of her infant daughter Clara outside Venice, after which her young son Will died too, in Rome, as Percy moved the household yet again. By now Mary had resigned herself to her husband’s self-centered restlessness and his romantic enthusiasms for other women. The birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley, consoled her somewhat for her losses.

Eventually the group settled in Lerici, Italy but it was an ill-fated choice. It was from here, in July 1822, that Percy sailed up the Adriatic Sea coast to Livorno to plan the founding of a journal with a group of friends. Caught in a storm on his return, he drowned at sea on July 8, 1822, aged 29. Mary was tireless in promoting her late husband’s work, including editing and annotating unpublished material.

She wrote a few more novels, including Valperga, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, and Falkner. Critics say these works do not begin to approach the power of Frankenstein; however, The Last Man, a pioneering science fiction novel of the human apocalypse in the distant future, is sometimes considered her best work, as is Maria, a novel published posthumously. Matilda is a short novel which was not published until the 1950’s.

Mary Shelley died of brain cancer in 1851, aged 53, in London and was interred at St. Peter’s Churchyard in Bournemouth. At the time of her death, she had become a recognized novelist.

To see the Mary Shelley letters which are  housed at the Essex Records Office visit: and search reference d/drh  c102

The Birthplace of Inspiration

by Sofia Andrewski

It is a common experience for a writer—or even an enthusiastic reader—to stare with awe at the words and ideas imparted on paper by the great authors and storytellers. Sometimes it is hard to understand where their inspiration came from, whether it be the imaginative worlds of Tolkien or J.K. Rowling, or the complicated network of passageways in Mervyn Peake’s castle Gormenghast. There are a million and one other examples of course, a lot of them quite ordinary. For instance, little accents of character, or an intricate plot-line. Sometimes these little touches strike the reader as a brand of genius.

If you are dabbling with writing, these strokes of brilliance in other’s works can be quite depressing. Thoughts such as, I could never do this, or, my imagination isn’t good enough, may be overwhelming. Sometimes it seems better to close our books and ignore the existence of every decent writer while we are attempting to put pen to paper.

However, this could be a mistake. Whilst no one wants to plagiarise, humans learn best by imitation. Looking at how something is done is a surer way of picking it up than turning our backs and trying to figure out how to do it ourselves. When it comes to generating fresh ideas, or recharging inspiration levels, it is helpful to re-read authors we admire, and work out why their stories are so immersive.

There is another benefit of scouring for new concepts. Not only does the mere act loosen the mind enough to see things from a new perspective—which can actually alter our style of prose—but it puts the subconscious to work, encouraging it to come up with new connections. Countless writers confess to forming the first structures of their story from ideas they had during sleep.

This is something I have experienced many times, and even just a few nights ago is another example: in the dream I was quite impressed by the inventiveness of one of the dream characters, as he found a variety of uses for a magnetic shield. I remember thinking in the dream, wow, I never would have thought of using it like that, completely unaware that it was indeed my brain that had come up with all the ideas—let alone the fact it was constructing the whole environment I was so engaged in. I woke up convinced that if my brain does that every night, creating such an absorbing environment, then surely it is capable of creating enough concepts for a decent story!

There is a certain beauty in the way the mind works, and how the imagination can flex its muscles, mixing bits of information together and coming out with something new and personal. Sometimes it is easy to forget we all have this ability, even the novice writer. It doesn’t really matter if you can’t afford to travel the world, or can’t break out of a chain of mundane situations; as long as we have access to a library, a world full of stories and inspiration awaits.