Thank you to Pauline Barclay and CHILL WITH A BOOK readers

Many thanks to Pauline for her enthusiasm for promoting Indie writers and to the readers who make the award possible… Delighted that JIGSAW ISLAND is your choice.

Chill With A Book Readers Award 23 November 2020

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Two new reviews for Jigsaw Island

Thank you, Jenny and Bob for taking the time to read the book and share your thoughts.



A very readable life enhancing book that addresses contemporary issues without being rose tinted.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 November 2020
In JIGSAW Island the author so skillfully conveys incredible insight into a complex-wide range of contemporary social and emotional issues. Ranging from a teenager coming to terms with adoption, racial prejudice and homelessness. Seeking sanctuary on a Greek Island only to have personal problems brought into perspective by the plight of refugees arriving on Greek islands in flimsy boats. This book helps one to more compassionately understand what is happening to human beings so often depicted as almost “a problem’ in the European media each day.

Jenny Saunders


An excellent read.

This is a very entertaining book, a really good read. The family drama draws you in, with engaging characters and plot twists. The setting is so beautifully evocative you will forget the grey UK skies. The ideal book to curl up with on a Christmas evening in front of a roaring fire.

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Kristallnacht and Remembrance

Thanks to Guy Verhofstadt for posting about Kristallnacht yesterday. Known, too, as the Night of Broken Glass and the November Pogrom(s), it was a pogrom against Jews and civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by the Sturmabteilung, the Nazi party’s original paramilitary wing. The German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”) comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues  were smashed. The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German diplomat by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday spoke of Germany’s shame over the events of Kristallnacht and recognised that the blight of Nazism is still with us.

It is ironic – or perhaps appropriate – that we hold Remembrance Day observations on the day after this anniversary. We remember the fallen in WWI and every conflict thereafter, but do we think deeply enough about the causes of war and what has actually happened since 1918? Concentration camps were not restricted to WWII; they were a horrific aspect of the war between Croatia and Serbia when concentration and extermination camps were run in Srebrenica, Omarsk, Jasenovak and others. We, in Britain, knew it was happening then, just as we knew it was happening in WWII and chose not to see it until many had lost their lives in the most inhuman of circumstances. Shamefully, it was the British who instigated the practice of concentration camps in which 48,000 people died during the Second Boer War, 1899-1902.

Within 2 months of Kristallnacht, the first German Jewish children arrived in Britain in what was termed Kindertransport. It was a humanitarian welcome of which the British should be justly proud – a stark contrast to the current Tory government’s edicts on refugees, some of whose ministers are even the descendants of them. By extension, the outgoing US President, so admired by our Prime Minister, separated children from their families and even had them incarcerated in cages. It is unknown how many still await reuniting with their families. While many NGOs and humanitarian groups support refugees, the political world, with the notable exception of Germany, does not seem to have moved on far enough.

When I was writing my last novel, I researched the condition of refugees in the Greek Islands and met private and professional people who gave their time and care, in addition to material generosity, to the rescue and support of displaced people who journeyed to their shores. Here in Britain, I have been in touch with Aegean Solidarity Network UK (which I first encountered in Symi through one of its founders, Andrew Davies), and Refugee Support Devon, which offers support from education to legal assistance. Through the latter, I met Alaa, a young Syrian who has become a friend, and whose real life story appears at the end of Jigsaw Island.

Through him, and the people I met in Symi and Leros, I have a better understanding of the wretchedness and fear so many refugees endure. I have also conducted drama workshops in an Immigration Return Centre. It was a dour place. One of the exercises I did was for participants, one by one, to describe a room that was very special to them – and then invite another person to share the space. It was a moving experience for us all, with happier memories and significant experiences evoked. Some of the brief conversations I was able to have with detainees described a more harrowing past. I particularly remember a young man, almost dull with acceptance at the terrifying reception awaiting him on his return to Gaza by Hamas for evading conscription to their force. Another man had been in the centre for three years waiting for legal processes to grind to a resolution. When I hear people in the UK complaining about acceptance and support of refugees, I am utterly sickened and ashamed. All I can think to say is ‘Walk a mile in another man’s shoes’.

The ‘hotspot’ Leros

This is a photograph I took of a refugee child awaiting processing with his family in the ‘hotspot’ on Leros. It doesn’t say it all – but it says a lot.

Posted in European Union, Fiction, Greek Islands, new writing, non-fiction, Refugees, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New book CROW COURT by Andy Charman

Today I received a signed copy of CROW COURT – my friend Andy Charman’s debut novel set in C19th Dorset.

McV with copy of CROW COURT

Andy and I met on an Arvon Editing course in 2018. He read an extract to the group and I was enchanted. Can’t wait to read it!


Posted in Crowdfunding, Dorset, Fiction, Life on the edge, new writing, Unbound publishing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Fiction Feature for Jigsaw Island

Many thanks to LORRAINE MACE, creator of the hugely popular D.I. STERLING series ( for including JIGSAW ISLAND in her blog today.

Find it HERE

Artwork by Lynne McVernon / Digital render Martyn Stead
Posted in Greek Islands, Humour, Leros, Life on the edge, new writing, Refugees, Single mother, Single mothers, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Goodreads review of Jigsaw Island

Thank you to David Tucker for this lovely review on Goodreads September 22, 2020

A very timely, humane book, full of heart and humour. It is believable and its structure is never contrived. One is drawn in through the alternating first-person narratives that take the reader on journeys both emotional and locational. There is a real sense of authenticity about it that manages to tell very personal stories while shining a light on the very global issue of the ongoing refugee crisis.

Artwork by Lynne McVernon / Digital render Martyn Stead

Posted in Greek Islands, Leros, Lesbian interest, Life on the edge, new writing, Refugees, Remain in EU, Single mother, Single mothers, Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Girl from the Hermitage by Molly Gartland

Published by Lightning Books 2020

Fascinated by this period of Russian history since a teenager – after watching Dr Zhivago – I wanted to review Molly Gartland’s The Girl from the Hermitage, and I’m glad I did. Inspired by a portrait discovered by the writer in Moscow, a tragic sweep of decades is reflected in the lives of one woman, her friends and family, progressing through WWII, Perestroika and Glasnost to the 21st Century. Starting in 1941, the contrast between deprivation during the Siege of Leningrad with conspicuous consumption in 2016 carries the sense that, somehow, nothing changes, just the nature of the venality, fear and suppression. Galina is the girl from the Hermitage, as a child, living through the siege in its cellars with her art restorer father, following the death through cold and hunger of her mother. When he is commissioned to paint the portrait of the young sons of a colonel, the difference in wealth and lifestyle between himself and his sitters highlights the callous dishonesty of Stalin’s military, a negative precursor to the Soviet concept of egalitarianism. Galina becomes an artist and we follow her experiences, the theme of art and portraiture interweaving with the growth of capitalism, and overshadowed by increasing corruption. Enough of the plot; the characterisation is truthful and engaging, relationships as simple and complex as reality. Galina is a heroine of talent, wisdom and restraint, patience being her heritage from life in the Hermitage. As she aged through betrayal and injustice, I found myself angry and frustrated on her behalf and wanted to know what became of her – the mark of excellent storytelling. Molly Gartland’s knowledge of and connection with her subject is evident throughout; so firmly rooted in reality, the writing is also rich in imagery and attention to detail without ever halting the narrative. This is a book to be savoured and to learn from. Thank you for letting me read it.

Posted in Art, Contemporary Women's Fiction, Fiction, Life on the edge, new writing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Herkos odonton – a barrier of teeth i.e. keeping secret

OK, opening the barrier, and about to give away one of my secrets. Not that I have a bronze medal for Scottish Highland and Country dancing, not that I was asked to give up maths in 5th year because I was causing the teacher anxiety, and not that I pretended, when I lost my train ticket in 1967, that I was French and couldn’t understand the ticket collector at Raynes Park.

The secret I’m about to give away is one that many fellow writers share, and that is…when you say you’ve bought our book on a specific day, or will by our book, we can always tell whether or not you have because…




Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Leros, new writing, Review, reviewers, Single mother, Single mothers, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another five star review for JIGSAW ISLAND

Thanks to Jillian Morton for her review of JIGSAW ISLAND. Deleted a couple of words because – oops – they contain a spoiler 😱 But thank you, Jillian, for a great review. Taken a while to get here from Oz but those luxury cruisers take their time 😎😎

Continue reading

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The cuts to our brainchildren that we can’t bear to lose.

Cutting and editing is one of the most difficult things to do as a writer. Some years ago, I started a novel based on a situation (a hugely dysfunctional neighbourhood) then realised there wasn’t a strong enough story. So I’ve backtracked and provided a plot. Now I have to lose a lot of what I enjoyed writing – particularly the bits that made me laugh. So I thought I’d post some outtakes. Hope they make you laugh, too…

From WIP: Working title: THE LIFE OF LALLA

Number Eight, Chatt Abbas Close, Ruby’s home, New neighbour: Day One
Ruby was at school. Her father, Steve, abandoned American Football on Sky in favour of hovering by the window with his lager and squinting through the net curtains. His Vauxhall Astra gleamed on the drive and the council white van that he drove was parked outside next door. He always parked the van in front of number seven A) to give him a clear view of his rival Tolly’s, at number one, and B) to show who was king of the road.

In the front garden, his sons, Cashus and Tisan, dismantled another motorbike. Their mother, Yvonne, was playing a computer game, Djinn Ja Tan’gul of Minnjh: The Tongue of Thighbold (V2) on the laptop with her headset on. In her pocket was a note from Ann Cann passed to her by Ruby before school that morning. Unable to read, herself, she would pretend to read it with her youngest daughter, later.

Steve clenched his teeth as the new next door neighbour pulled up outside number six, Minnie Chickerell’s house, in her Series 1 BMW.

‘’Oo she think she is? Lady Muck…People like ’er – think they own the bleedin’ road.’
He glanced round at Yvonne, but she hadn’t heard his remark, lost in her game world, mouth slightly open, fingers working rapidly. He turned back to the window and pulled himself to his full five foot five, tension jacking up his shoulders to his hairy ears. Steve had a problem with women or, rather, women he couldn’t bully. He would probably have been more comfortable living in Saudi Arabia, except for not being a prince and therefore unable to circumvent the ban on alcohol.
‘Whoever moves in number nine’d better be more normal.’
Truth to tell, no-one who moved into number nine, the end-terrace on the other side of his mid-terrace house, stood much chance of Steve liking them, what with the council turning down his application to do a swap.

Number Eight, Ruby’s house. New neighbour: Day Two
Ruby’s father Steve believed the rest of the world existed to make his life difficult. Had to be up early because of a hospital appointment for Yvonne. Women’s stuff. Went in the van. Couldn’t get the Astra out because half a motorbike was in the way.
‘Bleedin’ kids, blockin’ me in. Where’s Cashus? Where’s Tisan?
Yvonne was listening to Showaddywaddy on her MP3, her stare fixed on the ground. She zipped up her hoody and got in the passenger seat of the van, anticipating the stirrups and the cold metal spectrum. Leaving the safety of the house filled her with anxiety.

Steve arrived back from the hospital with Yvonne to find that the stuck up cow next door had parked her posh car outside number seven. Number seven was her house, true, and he hadn’t met his next door neighbour yet. But she was obviously a stuck up cow for having a newer car than his and parking in his favourite spot. His fury was boundless.

Number Seven
With the phone at her ear, Alison prepared the bedroom for their first night in their new home. She didn’t allow Granny into her head, being able to imagine the conversation word for word. Granny would call Clark an untrustworthy, two-timing shyster, Alison would defend him, Granny would say they could have written the Ten Commandments about him and Alison would fall back on being forty two and Clark being her best hope of fathering her baby. At this point, Granny refused to be shut out.

Granny Lalla: Ask me you’re better off having a bundle with that clapped out old carpet man. (Currently steaming the carpets)

Despite Alison’s realistic approach to their relationship, Clark’s many unscheduled absences often stirred her imagination to alarming scenarios, such as his being horribly mangled in a train crash or knifed on a secret mission in a trans-gender brothel, deep in Soho or, given the current climate, his arrest for seducing an underage beauty many years ago. These fictions were sometimes darkly amusing but more often unsettling. As she pulled the bedcover straight there was another hammering at the front door, this time so urgent that she dropped her mobile and fled downstairs, propelled by dread. Walter Arrowsmith poked his head out of the living room as she passed.

‘Spotted what it is, missus. Dog urine. Unmistakable.’

At the front door was an angry, short, middle-aged man dressed in jeans, a singlet and a baseball cap.

‘You parked in my parking place! Mine! Come ’ere, think yer own the road!’

‘Who are you?’

‘Next door. Twenty-three years. Always parked there.’

Alison glanced past her fuming neighbour. ‘Erm – I’ve parked outside my house, not yours.’
This passed as though she hadn’t spoken.

The argument became circular. A warning bell rang in Alison’s head and she was about to apply her superior power of persuasion when a taxi drew up. Clark! Carrying a profusion of gerberas, sunflowers and asters – all her favourites – he strode up the garden path past the fuming pint-sized neighbour and lifted her off her feet.

‘Mah wee darlin’! Good to be home!’
The neighbour retrieved the fallen bouquet and held it uncomfortably.‘’Ere – yer dropped yer flowers.’
Clark turned on his best bloke-bonding act. ‘Sorry, pal. Thanksalot. Ma first day in ma new home. Clark MacArne – and you’re…?’
‘Steve. Live next door.’
‘Real privilege to meet you, Steve. New neighbour, new friend!’ Clark held out his hand.
Steve, initially hesitant, launched into a strange ritual of punching knuckles and clasping palms at forty-five degrees. All dead serious. Steve, the pudgy, fifty-something adolescent. After which he restarted his harangue about the BMW being parked in his space.
Clark mentioned the motorcycle parts blocking their drive and Steve smirked with pride at the opportunity to prove that there had, at one time, been lead in his pencil –
‘O them. My twin boys, Cashus and Tisan, they’ll get it sorted for you, Mark.’
– then swaggered down the path, ignoring Alison.
(All characters are the work of the author’s imagination and any coincidence to persons living or dead is coincidental.)
This is how I see Steve (apologies to whoever posted this on FB)

Steve Shackley?

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Fiction, Humour, Life on the edge, new writing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment