#BlogTour Unprotected by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Today it is a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Unprotected by Sophie Jonas-Hill.

About the Author

Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artists and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages, and thank goodness has never seen the light of day.

She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hand’s down to the publishing industry’s gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path.

She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.

Follow @SophieJonasHill and @RetreatWest on Twitter, on Goodreadson Facebook,Visit sophiejonashill.com , Buy Unprotected

About the book

She’s fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save herself?

Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt and loss in rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.

As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.

Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself for who you really are.Review

It’s raw, unfiltered and brutally frank at times. The author lays her main character bare and autopsies her mind, body and soul right in front of the reader. There is no unicorn fluff to bolster the hardness or any candy floss moments to make you melt inside. It’s just life as it happens to be for many people – sometimes it’s bleak and full of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Lydia is probably her own worst enemy when it comes to enjoying what she has achieved, as opposed to dwelling on what she considers to be her failures. She feels isolated, misunderstood and quite frankly often patronised by those who are supposed to be her friends and family.

When her boyfriend demands a break, because he he is unable to cope with her obsession and need to have a child, which is exacerbated tenfold by her history of miscarriages, she feels abandoned. Lydia spirals and ends up picking up a romp buddy who turns out to be just on the right side of legal and dealing with his own baggage.

Simultaneously her instincts, as the mother she would like to be, start to scream when she notices something odd going on with a young girl in her neighbourhood. Everything starts to escalate and culminates in a conclusion Lydia could never have anticipated.

It’s women’s fiction and urban crime, it shines a light on the children who fall through the cracks of the system, which makes them vulnerable and targets for predators. At the same time the author presents the hypocrisy of society when it comes to motherhood, ageism and women embracing their sexuality and desires.

I enjoyed the honesty and the lack of need for approval. This is Lydia and she isn’t even going to try to be sorry for embracing herself. Why should she? Why would anyone want her to? Kudos to the author for this captivating and daring piece of work.

Buy Unprotected at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Retreat West Books; pub date 24 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Retreat West.

#BlogTour Remember Tomorrow by Amanda Saint

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Remember Tomorrow by Amanda Saint. It’s post-apocalyptic fiction with a futuristic flair.

About the Author

Amanda Saint’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, reached #3 in the WHSmith Travel charts; was selected as a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month; and chosen as a Top 20 Book of 2016 by the Book Magnet Blog.

Her short stories have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, twice appearing on the Fish Flash Fiction longlist and the Ink Tears Short Story shortlist. She runs her own creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs writing courses and competitions; and an independent publishing house, retreat West Books. Amanda also works as a freelance journalist writing about climate change and environmental sustainability.

Follow @saintlywriter @RetreatWest on Twitter, on Facebook, Visit amandasaint.net

Buy Remember Tomorrow

About the book

England, 2073. The UK has been cut off from the rest of the world and ravaged by environmental disasters. Small pockets of survivors live in isolated communities with no electricity, communications or transportation, eating only what they can hunt and grow.

Evie is a herbalist, living in a future that’s more like the past, and she’s fighting for her life. The young people of this post-apocalyptic world have cobbled together a new religion, based on medieval superstitions, and they are convinced she’s a witch. Their leader? Evie’s own grandson.

Weaving between Evie’s current world and her activist past, her tumultuous relationships and the terrifying events that led to the demise of civilised life, Remember Tomorrow is a beautifully written, disturbing and deeply moving portrait of an all-too-possible dystopian world, with a chilling warning at its heart.

Review

It doesn’t matter how far into the future we go, we can always rely on humans to never learn from history or their past. The human race excels at destroying themselves. For some reason they seem particularly talented at repeating the most heinous acts of the past centuries. The title of the book is therefore quite apt.

Instead of moving forward and evolving, a community in the future has reverted back to the days when the mere whiff of suspicion could mean the difference between living in peace and being burnt at the stake for witchcraft. Healing becomes spells, witchery and the devil’s work. This places Evie in the unfortunate position of being a target.

The fact that religion always seems to make an appearance in some way, shape or form is definitely part of the problem in this dystopian, post-apocalyptic and futuristic story. A once thriving community set in the year 2073 in England is facing increasingly harder struggles to survive. Food has become scarce, which makes people desperate.

Her own family uses religion to make Evie seem like a threat and the guise of her being a danger to the community is probably just hiding the fact it is a way to rid themselves of community members. Less people equals less mouths to share food with.

Humans tend to target the vulnerable, the different and the non-conformists to deflect from their own failings or hidden agendas. Evie and any other person refusing to become part the fanatical religious group have a big bullseye painted on their back.

It’s post-apocalyptic fiction with a futuristic flair. Given the rise of certain radical groups and the attacks upon specific religious groups and ethnicities at the moment, despite prior tragedies and atrocities in the last century, this isn’t a far-fetched premise at all.

Saint captivates the mass hysteria of religious zealots, which supersedes any common sense or prior knowledge that questions the beliefs of the fanatics. It’s a recipe for violence and disaster.

Buy Remember Tomorrow at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Retreat West Books; Ecopy pub date 21 Mar. 2019. Paperback pub date 17 March 2019.

Read my review of The Word for Freedom and Nothing is As it Was.

#BlogTour The Word for Freedom: Short Stories Celebrating Women’s Suffrage

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour – The Word for Freedom: Short stories celebrating women’s suffrage and raising money for Hestia and UK Says No More.

About the Authors

Authors that have donated stories:

Isabel Costello is a London-based author and host of the Literary Sofa blog. Her debut novel Paris Mon Amour was published in 2016 and her short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies. She teaches Resilient Thinking for Writers with psychologist and author Voula Tsoflias. @isabelcostello www.literarysofa.com

Christine Powell lives in County Durham and is a member of Vane Women, a writers’ co-operative dedicated to the promotion of the work of women writers in the north east of England ( www.vanewomen.co.uk ). Her stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines.

Victoria Richards is a journalist and writer. In 2017/ 18 she was highly commended in the Bridport Prize, came third in The London Magazine short story competition and second in the TSS international flash fiction competition. She was also shortlisted in the Bath Novel Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and long listed in the National Poetry Competition. Find her at @nakedvix and www.victoriarichards.co.uk

Carolyn Sanderson has worked in a number of fields, including teaching, training, counselling and working for the Church of England. She has written articles, reviews and a number of hymns. Times and Seasons, her contribution to the Hometown Tales series was recently published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Sallie Anderson is a writer living in Gloucestershire. She now works as a bookseller, but has had many jobs, including election polling clerk, which provided the inspiration for this story. Her short stories have been published in magazines and short-listed in a number of competitions. @JustSalGal

Abigail Rowe lives and writes in Cork, Ireland. Currently completing her first novel, she delights in honing her craft writing short fiction, flash and the odd poem. Abigail’s passions include bees, decent coffee, history, her granddaughters and looking for beauty everywhere and anywhere she goes. @RoweWrites and ismidlifeliminal.wordpress.com 

Rosaleen Lynch is an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London. She pursues stories whether conversational, literary or performed, keen to explore them as part of the learning cycle of everyday life. @quotes_52 and www.52quotes.blogspot.com

Sophie Duffy is the author of The Generation Game, This Holey Life, and Bright Stars. She has won the Yeovil Literary Prize, the Luke Bitmead Bursary, was runner-up for the Harry Bowling Prize and longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker. She also writes as Lizzie Lovell and is part of the team of CreativeWritingMatters who administer the Exeter Novel Prize. She lives in Devon.

Kate Vine is a graduate of the MA Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her short fiction has been published by Dear Damsels and she is a recent winner of the City Writes competition. She is currently working on her first novel. @Kate_ElizabethV and deardamsels.com/ 2018/ 02/ 16/ he-loves-that-story

David Cook’s stories have been published in the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Stories For Homes 2 and a number of online journals. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter. You can find more of his work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com and @davidcook100.

Helen Irene Young is the author of The May Queen (Crooked Cat Books) and a digital editor for a book publisher. She attended the Faber Academy six-month novel writing course. She splits her time between London and Colombia, when she can get there. Her next novel, set in 1940s Bogotá, is about a broken architect trying to build something new. @helenireneyoung and www.helenireneyoung.com

Katherine Blessan is the author of Lydia’s Song: The Story of a Child Lost and a Woman Found (Instant Apostle, 2014), a hope-filled story about sex-trafficking in Cambodia. As well as writing her second novel, Katherine is a screenwriter and short story writer. She lives in Sheffield with her Indian husband and two children where she works as an English tutor and examiner. www.katherineblessan.com and @kathblessan

Anna Orridge has a Masters in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University of East Anglia. Her short stories have appeared in Mslexia, Paper Cuts and the Retreat West anthology Nothing Is As It Was. She is currently writing a Middle Grade Fantasy novel in collaboration with Kickback Media.

Julie Bull lives in South London and Sussex, where she also studied English Literature many moons ago. She is a recovering civil servant and now writes full time. Her first novel lives under the bed. Her short fiction has previously appeared in MIRonline. @juliebu72 instagram: juliebu72 Facebook: Julie Bull.

Karen Hamilton caught the travel bug after a childhood spent abroad and worked as cabin crew for many years. The Perfect Girlfriend is her first novel. It is a psychological thriller about a sociopathic flight attendant, Juliette, who will stop at nothing to win back her pilot ex-boyfriend. @KJHAuthor

Angela Readman’s stories have won The Costa Short Story Award, The Mslexia Story Competition and been on Radio 4. Her debut collection Don’t Try This at Home (And Other Stories) won The Rubery Book Award and was shortlisted in The Edge Hill Prize. She also writes poetry and is published by Nine Arches.

Anna Mazzola is an award-winning writer of historical crime fiction. She has published two novels (The Unseeing and The Story Keeper) and several short stories. She is also a human rights solicitor. She lives in South London with two children, two cats and one husband. @Anna_Mazz and www.Annamazzola.com

Anne Hamilton is a writer, tutor and editor of fiction, and the editor of online magazine, Lothian Life. Her stories are published in several journals and anthologies, and she has read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Her travelogue A Blonde Bengali Wife, inspired the charity, Bhola’s Children, and she is now working on her second novel. Anne lives in Edinburgh, with her young son. www.writerightediting.co.uk and @AnneHamilton7

Dane Divine is an emerging writer from Plymouth, UK, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing. She now lives in Wellington, New Zealand where she works at an art college. Dane creates short stories and flash fiction. She is also working on a novel. instagram.com/ dane_divine 

Cath Bore is based in Liverpool. Her fiction and essays are published in Mslexia Magazine, Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class (Dead Ink), National Flash Fiction Day Anthologies, I Hope You Like Feminist Rants, Fictive Dreams, Spontaneity and more. She also writes about music, books and pop culture. @cathbore and cathbore.wordpress.com

Taria Karillion – As the daughter of an antiquarian book dealer, Taria grew up surrounded by far more books than is healthy for one person. A literature degree, a journalism course and some gratuitous vocabulary overuse later, her stories have appeared in a Hagrid-sized handful of anthologies, and have won enough literary prizes to half-fill his other hand. Despite this, she has no need as yet for larger millinery.

Emily Kerr is proud to be a feminist. Her day job is as a journalist for ITV News and she spends her spare time writing fiction. Her novel Who Does He Think He Is? was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award 2017. She is currently working on her second book. Twitter: @EmilyKerrWrites and www.emilykerrwrites.com

Angela Clarke is the award-winning, Sunday Times bestselling author of the Social Media Murders, including Follow Me, Watch Me, and Trust Me. Her new novel is a gripping psychological thriller that highlights the plight of pregnant women in UK prisons: On My Life is out March 2019. www.AngelaClarke.co.uk

Rachel Rivett – Author of three picture books, Little Grey and the Great Mystery, Are You Sad, Little Bear? and I Imagine, Rachel Rivett has an MA in Writing for Children. She is happy to have short stories in anthologies with Mother’s Milk and Retreat West. www.writewild.weebly.com

Editors:

Amanda Saint founded and runs @RetreatWest, providing creative writing competitions and courses, and in 2017 launched Retreat West Books indie press. Her debut novel, As If I Were A River, was a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month and a Book Magnet Blog Top 20 Book of 2016. Her new novel, Remember Tomorrow, is coming in 2019. Her short stories have been widely published and been long and shortlisted for, and won, various prizes. @saintlywriter

Rose McGinty is the author of Electric Souk. She lives in Kent and is a creative writing tutor and editor at Retreat West. Previously she worked for the NHS. Rose has won a number of writing competitions and had short stories selected for anthologies. She also enjoys running creative writing workshops in support of social causes. @rosemcginty

About the book

A collection of 24 short stories celebrating a hundred years of women’ suffrage, from both established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories, whether set in 1918, the current day or the future, focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.

A clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster encounters Emily Davison in a broom cupboard; a mermaid dares to tread on land to please the man she loves; a school girl friendship makes the suffragette protests relevant to the modern day; a mother leaves her child for a tree; an online troll has to face his target; and a woman caught in modern day slavery discovers a chance for freedom in a newspaper cutting.

These stories and many more come together in a collection that doesn’t shy away from the reality of a woman’s world, which has injustices and inequalities alongside opportunities and hard-won freedoms, but always finds strength, bravery and hope.

Through this anthology Retreat West Books is proud to support Hestia and the UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Review

The stories are inspired by the suffragettes and also by stories of women and oppression. The tip of the iceberg was fighting for the right to have a voice and vote, but the fight for all the other freedoms is still a raging battle.

Each one of the stories comes at the topic of oppression, domestic abuse, rape, sexual abuse, neglect, slavery and inequality from a completely different angle. The importance of that might not be relevant until you read each story and perhaps recognise a factor or a character you can personally relate to in a few or just in one story.

That in itself is an important statement, because the authors don’t purport to be the same as you or I or to have lived the same lives, but they do want each of us to connect with what we have in common. On some level or another each one of us will have experienced something in life that has tried to or still tries to define us as being the weaker gender, the prey, the never quite equal player in business, sport, politics or the world in general. Somewhere out there, there is always someone thinking or acting upon the concept of ‘but you’re just a girl’ – and that is certainly one of our common denominators in life.

Women, and I have said this before, are often their own worst enemy and greatest opposition, because they have been raised to believe the misconceptions and the rule created by the patriarchal systems and society we live in – that woman is less than man. Everything about women is based upon that archaic thought. When society created a layered hierarchy they created it with women as the plus one at the table.

The only way we can alter the thought-process, the system and the way we are treated and perceived is to link together and support each other. Stand up, speak out and be counted. Don’t let men, and women wearing rose-tinted glasses, steal your voice and allow them to take us back into the Dark Ages. Let me tell you that you will be sneered at, ridiculed, abused and denied your rights, but one day change will come. Women like Sarah Parker Remond, Elizabeth Stanton. Alice Paul, Emmeline Pankhurst, Sushama Sen and PL Roy fought for their voice and ours, and we have to fight to keep it.

The book contains the following:

The Word For Freedom, Counting For England, Below The Line, Women Don’t Kill Animals by, One Woman – One Vote, Cover Their Bright Faces, My Mother Left Me For A Tree, Myopia, The Colour Of Sunflowers, Enid Is Going On A Journey, To The Sea, Sayyida Nanda, Relevant, Those Who Trespass Against Us, Past Present Future, Tiny Valentines, The Silent Woman, Not Our Kind Of Girl, Treading On Needles, The Second Brain, The Servitude Of The Sudaarp, Out Of Office, Gristle and Brick.

It’s full of distinctive and powerful voices. In some of them you can feel the anger, the disillusionment, the concern that it may never change, but you can also feel and read the fight. Never lose the will to fight for what is rightfully yours. The right to be safe, to be heard and be equal unto others.

Buy The Word for Freedom at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Published by Retreat West on 1 November 2018

Retreat West Books is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks.

Founder, Amanda Saint, is a novelist and short story writer. She’s also a features journalist writing about environmental sustainability and climate change. So all Retreat West Books publications take advantage of digital technology advances and are print-on-demand, in order to make best use of the world’s finite resources.

Retreat West Books is an arm of Amanda’s creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs fiction writing retreats, courses and competitions and provides editorial services.

Initially started to publish the anthologies of winning stories in the Retreat West competitions, Retreat West Books is now open for submissions for short story collections, novels and memoirs. Submission info can be found here.