Be My Baby Book Tour!

Two’s company…

If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she’d have to cover her daughter’s ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie’s never been happier. Well, that’s what she’d tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different – not better…but easier – with a team mate.

Three’s a crowd?

But Esme’s dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn’t interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can’t believe her eyes. And soon, she’s got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn’t want her to?


About A.L. Michael

A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. She likes learning and hates essays.

She's a fan of cheap wine, expensive chocolate and still wants to be a secret agent when she grows up, but she'll settle for lying on the page.


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#MeetTheBlogger Series Interview 48

Meet the Blogger!

I have decided to start a new series here on Writing & Rambling after meeting so many lovely bloggers on Twitter I would like to get to know them. So I am going to try to recruit as many as I can as I think everyone deserves a chance to be in the spotlight. =)
Q1: Hello there, nice to have you here on Writing & Rambling! Please could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your Blog:

Im Fiona and I blog over at Wishes, Hopes and Dreams which is a lifestyle blog. I blog about anything and everything but mostly reviews, recipes, books, how to posts, stationery and travel.

Q2: At what point did you decide to make a Blog and share it with the world??

Id been considering it for a while after having major surgery but the idea changed when I was doing volunteering for the 90kg Rice Challenge and the team was looking for a different social media channel to make use of.

Q3: How would you describe your writing style? Has it changed over time at all?

I try and go for a chatty/conversational style of writing and it has definitely changed over time. As a student I tried to write the way I did for reports and essays and then realized I couldnt do that for a blog. I think the way I write will always change as I evolve and get better.

Q4: Was there anyone in particular who inspired you? Which Bloggers do you emulate?

My best friend Amanda-Jaied (Love and Other Awesome Stuff) is also a blogger and she definitely inspired me and still does. I would so though that I dont try and emulate anyone. I blog as me and if I tried to be someone Im not, my blog wouldnt be mine anymore. Im always inspired by other bloggers but that would be it, I think.

Q5: Do you have anything in the pipeline on the Blog which you are particularly excited about?!

I have a few review posts that Im really looking forward to but I dont have the products yet and dont want to ruin the surprise but they should be really fun to do.

Im also looking at blogging while Im in NYC in June and once Im home so those posts will be fun too and a great way to keep all my memories of the trip.

Q6: Does anyone else know about your Blog? What do they think about it??

My mum, husband and all my friends know about my blog. Husband is ambivalent I think but mum loves it as she loves seeing all my blogger mail. My friends that also blog love coming to me for help as I usually have the answer to their questions and if I dont then Im happy to go off and figure it out.

Q7: Are you obsessed with Lush!?!? If YES, what is your favourite product?!

Actually Im not and there are a couple of reasons why. 1 We dont have a bath which means bath bombs are a no. 2 I have several allergies and at the moment I dont feel up to upsetting my routine now Ive figured out which products I can and cant use.

Q8: Has your Blog helped you in other areas of life?!

Its helped me become more confident and has helped my academic writing too as Im able to keep to the point and keep a word count lower rather than ramble on.

Q9: What is it that makes you so fabulous?!

Im honest, genuine and straight to the point. Im also willing to help all bloggers with any questions they may have and just try to be friendly.

Q10: Finally, can you recommend anything to us today!? (Skincare/Beauty/TV Show/DVD/Music/Food Item...anything!)

Skincare Puriskin Cream

Beauty MAC Lipstick in Twig

TV Show Pretty Little Liars

DVD Tangled

Restaurant Bodeans (BBQ in London its epic)

So that concludes our 'Meet the Blogger' for today! Thank You So Much for taking the time to answer these questions today, much appreciated!

Please take the time to check out the blog/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc., be sure to leave a comment saying you found them via Writing & Rambling! Thank You!!

Bloodwise Charity
Image source: Day Donaldson via Flickr
38,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancer every year – that's one person every 14 minutes.’
Did you know that more people lose their lives to blood cancer than breast or prostate cancer? Specifically, 38 people die from blood cancer every day in the UK. Where any one life is lost, hundreds are affected. It could be your friend who you lose, your mum or maybe your child. All of you need support and that’s blood cancer charity Bloodwise’s mission.

How does Bloodwise help?

Bloodwise works to provide in-depth information on all the 137 blood cancer types, from well-known forms like myeloma through to less common ones like monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significant (MGUS). They cover the signs and symptoms of the diseases through to life after you or your loved one has had treatment, and they run events which people can take part in to raise money. This money is then invested in research, raising awareness, and providing support through their website, support line and community hosted on their site.

How do they decide what will help patients the most?

The thought that goes into where the money is invested is an important and exhaustive process that involves significant research. In 2015, Bloodwise undertook a large UK ‘patient need’ study to determine what patients really need. This involved:
  • 19 focus groups across multiple UK locations
  • Interviews with over 20 medical professionals
  • 7 extremely thorough interviews with people currently being treated for blood cancer
  • 2 surveys – 1 for people who have bene affected by blood cancer and 1 for the public to determine the current status of blood cancer awareness in the UK
  • Analysis of the ‘National Cancer Patient Experience Survey’ (NCPES) data
The benefit of this undertaking is that Bloodwise can understand all the relevant peoples’ perspectives – not just what the doctors prescribe, and not just how patients feel. As we all know, people can have very different viewpoints on the same situation or topic. Whilst the views on the patient’s welfare probably don’t differ that much, people notice different things A boyfriend, for example, may notice that his girlfriend is vomiting more frequently and can convey this information to her doctors. Often close relatives or partners are better placed to keep track of these developments, given the gruelling nature of treatment.
All of these viewpoints create a clear picture of the patient’s day-to-day life and what they need and when. Finding out what the general public knows about blood cancer allows them to understand how much work they need to put into raising further awareness so they can ensure people see the signs before they become a patient, or before it’s too late. This helps them know what the patient needs before, during and after their diagnosis.

What is Bloodwise doing right now?

This information has led to 24 key patient needs being determined, 6 of which Bloodwise has prioritised as urgent:
  1. Focusing on the biggest killers – myeloma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), myelodsyplastic syndromes (MDS), and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
  2. Understanding pre-malignant conditions to ensure health professionals can potentially prevent them from progressing
  3. Understanding what causes early deaths so patients at a higher risk can be identified and helped ahead of time
  4. Ensuring people have more awareness of blood cancer and its symptoms
  5. Increasing awareness of the differences between blood cancer and other cancers
  6. Ensuring patients can easily find information and know where to look for it
These are the patient goals Bloodwise is focusing on at the moment – these are the issues which once addressed, can make the biggest difference to patients’ lives and to the lives of those who we hope won’t need to become patients.
Just like my post on Baking For A Change: #STOPbowelcancer!, it’s hard to hear that in today’s world, 38 people are dying from blood cancer every day. Take the time to understand the signs and symptoms so you can look after yourself and your loved ones. Bloodwise Twitter | Website

Thanks for reading.

Sarah xoxoxoxoxox

My First Christmas Gift Guide 2016!*

By now Christmas shopping for most of us in well under way or even completed! But there are a few out there (or a lot!) who haven't even started and have no idea what to get for the significant people in their lives. Well worry not for I am bringing you my very first Christmas Gift Guide which I hope will help you out. So sit back, relax and let me tell you about the gifts for all those last minute, secret Santa, stocking filler presents you're still looking for!

For Mum, Girlfriend, Grandma, that special lady in your life we have these beautiful blooms courtesy of Beards and Daises; flowers delivered through your letterbox, all carefully and individually wrapped to ensure they arrive to you in perfect condition. These Christmas flowers are guaranteed to last at least 2 if not 3 weeks, ensuring they last right through the festive season and beyond. What could be better than bringing a bit of Christmas colour to your table with a beautiful bouquet which will also scent the room beautifully. These Christmas flowers and a whole range of other gorgeous bouquets are now available on the Beards and Daises website,in different colours and styles so you are bound to find one which suits the lady in your life perfectly. (Website / Prices start from £29.99 with free delivery and greetings card.)

If flowers are not her style, perhaps a beautiful scarf would be a more appropriate gift?? This gorgeous palm tree printed scarf is from Lylia Rose and would make an excellent gift for Christmas. There are plenty more designs to choose from, each handmade and lovingly packaged. Lylia Rose also sells jewellery so you could even shop for the two most important women in your life on the same website! Read my Owl Print Scarf Review for more information. I adore Lylia Rose and can honestly say their scarves are incredibly soft and will become a staple in your Mum's, Grandma's, Wife's, Girlfriend's wardrobes should they be lucky enough to receive one from you at Christmas Time. Website/Prices start from £4.99 for the scarves.) You can use my code: ANSUNSHINESARAH* for 10% off (excluding treat boxes)  at *Affiliate code

For stocking fillers/presents for the kids in your life how about this cute lion toothbrush holder or Hersheys Movie Mix Lip Balms? The lip balms come in five flavours; jolly rancher grape/cherry Reeses milk chocolate peanut butter, Hersheys kisses milk chocolate and Hersheys syrup all presented in a fun box shaped like a popcorn holder!! Yes they may be sickly flavours but I'm sure you have some small people who would appreciate this fun gift. (Lip balms £12 from claires accessories and debenhams)

This lion toothbrush cover from Den-Tek hygienically stores your kid's toothbrush and features a suction cup to easily attach it to your bathroom mirror. This toothbrush cover fits most toothbrushes and allows for proper ventilation to help keep your child's toothbrush free of dirt and germs. To open the cover simply use your finger to open the tummy of the cover, push the toothbrush head inside the tummy until it rests on the back. The cover will effortlessly close around the toothbrush. To use the toothbrush, gently pull it out of the cover as the tummy opens. Simple and fun! What could be a better way to get your child to think brushing their teeth is fun than by 'hiding' their toothbrush in the belly of a lion/panda!? Personally I love it and I already know exactly who this will be going to this Christmas!! As parents you have enough battles to deal with and getting kids to brush their teeth can sometimes be a nightmare so let this Den Tek toothbrush cover do some of the work for you. (£3.99 from Boots instore)

For the man in your life, whether that be your boyfriend, husband, father or annoying brother I have something they will love! (If they have hair of course!) Demon Dust Thicken-Up Styling Powder is a powdered styling paste which gives strong hold but doesn't weigh hair down. It makes even hard-to-style fine straight hair look thick and textured. Invisible hold for all hair types,use like a gel, paste or wax. Strong hold, matte finish. Apply to dry hair. A small amount goes a long way!! Beware guys, this is so good your girl may want to steal it!! (£4.99 from Superdrug)

Now here's a gift which ALL women will love. Yes, talking about periods and tampon/sanitary towel disposal is deemed TMI by most but the fact of the matter is that far far too many tampons are still being flushed down toilets ending up in our rivers/streams, not to mention clogging up our drains!! I have previously talked about Fab LittleBag so head over there if you want to find out all about this amazing invention; but basically what it allows us women to do is discreetly, easily and responsibly dispose of our tampons/pads without the need for wrapping in loo roll and feeling embarrassed as to what to do if there's no bin inside the toilet cubicle or if you're at a friend's house and don't want to put your used tampon in their bathroom bin, or worse, flush it down their loo! The ingenious finger loops make one handed opening and closing so easy and quick you'll wonder what you ever did before! They feature a sticky strip to close the bags so nothing can fall out or be seen if placed in an open topped bin. Never be embarrassed again with Fab Little Bag!! These would be perfect for a secret Santa gift or a stocking filler or even to give to your teenage daughters to encourage them to be environmentally friendly and responsible. So think a little differently this Christmas and give the gift of Fab Little Bag. (Available from Waitrose/Ocado/Fab Little Bag website from as little as £1.99!)

For the make-up lover in your life I'm sure you know the hassle caused by make-up brushes littering the sink as they try to keep them clean between uses! The main culprit is usually eyeshadow using at least 3 or 4 different brushes trying to create that smokey eye or glittery eyeshadow look. #Nightmare! Not any more! Introducing Shadow Switch by Beauty Essentials; this clever black sponge effortlessly removes colour from your eyeshadow brush completely without the need for soap and water! No product transfer, preserves brushes (prolonged contact with water can cause some brushes to shed and weaken), on the go use (perfect handbag size!), hygienic cleanse, eco-friendly, quick and refillable!! This innovative product extracts all traces of make-up from your brush, allowing you to effortlessly switch between different colour and shades. The Shadow Switch also eliminates the possibility of product transfer between your powders when using the same brush. To use simply press and rotate your brush over the Shadow Switch in a circular motion until all traces of colour powder have gone. Test your brush on the back of your hand to confirm full removal of powders. I happen to think this little beauty is one of the best inventions to happen in the make-up/beauty world, ever! I honestly have no idea why it hasn't been invented before now! Imagine all the time we could've saved....all that effort washing brushes.....!! Not that I'm saying you should stop washing them because you still should but perhaps Shadow Switch now allows you to go a little longer between washings...! This is so good I think every woman/girl in your life who uses make-up should find one in their stockings to save anyone fighting over it! (Amazon £5.99 and once launched, in Debenhams stores and Arch Angelz brow bars in the UK!)

Now here's a gift which is perfect for anyone. Boxcitment are a stationery subscription service who deliver boxes on a 3, 6 or 12 month basis – they can also be bought as a one-off gift. They make the perfect gift for that person you don't quite know what to buy for! I'm sure we all have that one person on our list which makes us go 'Now, what the hell do I buy them'!? Boxcitement simply takes all that stress out of it and delivers a differently themed box every month, for instance in Summer they had a Mid-Summer Night's Box based on the Shakespeare play 'A Mid-Summer Night's Dream' which featured quote postcards, a tote-bag to take lunch al-fresco, pencils, a notebook, a window hanging, a bracelet and gold and silver wrapping string. Read all about that box in my previous Boxcitement Post

What's different about Boxcitement is that they make everything themselves, from the laser cut acrylic candle holder/tree decoration to the handcrafted star zipper pull for your winter coat. It always gives me immense satisfaction when I #shopsmall and support a small British Business like Boxcitement. This month's box is based on the Danish philosophy of 'Hygge' which means getting cosy (one philosophy I can easily get on board with!) and it contains fluffy socks which you can wear whilst drinking hot chocolate sitting in front of the fire! #VeryHygge! For Christmas, Boxcitement have a wide range of options, from mini-boxes for colleagues, teachers and secret Santas, to one-off purchases and subscriptions that keep on giving long after Christmas. Order for delivery direct to your recipient just before Christmas, or choose the mini-box or 'oh so hygge' box which can be posted to you straight away.

Single box options: one-off surprise box £20/one-off mini box £9.50, this 'oh so hygge box' £18.
Multi-box options: 3 months of boxes £51*, 6 months of boxes £96*, ongoing monthly sub £18/month.
All prices include UK P+P. Cut off date for International orders is Dec 10th and for UK is Dec 18th.
*As a thank you from Boxcitement, if you were to purchase 3, 6 or 12 months of boxes as a gift, they will send YOU a pack of goodies completely free! Just use code 'GIFTBOX' at checkout!
In my opinion, Boxcitement boxes make the perfect gift for anyone – including yourself! (Website)

For the beauty lover in your life, there is the Look Fantastic subscription box! Packed full of beauty and make-up goodies to help you shine throughout party season, this Look Fantastic #LFSparkle Box will ensure your hair is shiny, your skin is radiant and your make-up effortless! Inside this special #LFSparkle Box you will find:

L'Oreal Professional Mythic Oil, a lightweight hair treatment infused with Avocado and Grape Seed oil to nourish the hair and provide antioxidant protection against environmental aggressors.
Monu Recovery Balm, containing Rose Essential oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Peptides and Blackcurrant Seed Oil to refresh and revitalise your complexion, leaving you glowing.

A Look Good Feel Better angled blending brush which has been specially designed to contour and shade the eye area to give the ultimate definition. Allergy free and environmentally friendly it is perfect for those with sensitive skin. Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is the only worldwide cancer charity providing practical support for women and teenagers struggling with the visible side effects of their cancer treatments.

Model Co blush cheek powder, a peachy blush which give cheeks a glowing flush of colour to make them radiant and healthy.
Sebastian Professional Volupt Spray – if volume and lift are what you're after then the Volupt Spray by Sebastian will be your new best friend. Giving lift from the roots for long-lasting hold and a beautifully soft finish. (Shake before use!)
Bloom and Blossom revitalising foot and leg spray – perfect to use after doing all your Christmas shopping!!

Look Fantastic offer great deals for 6 or 12 month subscriptions, making it easy for you to treat your loved ones every month. The boxes also makes great storage long after the contents have been used!! (Website/Prices start from £13.33 for a 3 month subscription!)

Lastly I have something for the foodie lover/vegan/vegetarian in your life! Something which will appeal to everyone and make buying for that fussy eater in your life much easier – Health Hampers. A monthly health hamper subscription offering an exciting range of vegan, dairy-free, gluten free and refined sugar-free treats, snacks and indulgences delivered to your door each month. Discover exciting products suited to your health concerns or specific dietary needs. They work with a degree qualified nutritionist and curate a selection of guilt-free bliss to enjoy as a gift or self-indulgence each month. Their hampers include 'raw chocolate' bars and treats, vegan and gluten free snacks and organic whole foods and teas; all sourced from clever manufacturers who share their belief in producing, clean eating food whilst maintaining great taste. I can attest to the 'raw chocolate' being delicious and the 'fit corn' being surprisingly different! Even as a non-vegan with no dietary requirements, I will happily enjoy tasting all these treats and of course drinking the teas because I am a lover of green/fruit teas myself and enjoy sampling differently flavoured teas! Health Hampers are available for pre-order for January now and are priced at £20 plus £2.95 p+p. (Website)

I also just want to mention that Kiehl's are having a 20% off deal thanks for #BlackFriday! Buy 2 or more products to qualify!!! It's well worth it as Kiehl's Skincare is some of the best out there and feel so lucky to have gotten my hands on some myself already!

Phew! That was a long one wasn't it?! You probably need a rest after making it all the way to the end! Haha! I hope I have given you some ideas so you can start your Christmas Shopping with more of a clue about what to buy for people! Please let me know if you support any of the brands/businesses here I would love to know! Thanks so much for reading and to all of the brands involved for sending me these items to feature in my very first Christmas Gift Guide! Merry Christmas to Everyone!

Love, Sarah

My Stay At Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough*

For my Birthday two weeks ago I was invited to stay at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, a luxury Scarborough Hotel and I couldn't wait to finish work and escape to the seaside for a night with my Mum to celebrate.

We arrived early but were given such a warm welcome by Lyndsey in Reception and were instantly offered tea and coffee and a seat by the fire in the lounge. What more could you ask for?? Well, how about a glass of Prosecco and a slate full of the creamiest and most delightful cakes you could ever ask for. They were all to die for and it's safe to say we didn't move far for the rest of the afternoon! 

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is located 2 miles from Scarborough and was a former country farmhouse which is surrounded by barns and out-buildings that has been beautifully and lovingly restored and extended to provide luxury accommodation. 

It is the perfect location for a wedding, family gatherings, romantic getaways and luxury short breaks in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

Once our room was ready (a twin luxury suite) we were shown through. It was a lovely room with twin beds, lounge area and bathroom with a bath and separate rainfall shower with the usual set of miniatures in the cutest little bathtub holder I think I've ever seen! I should note here that the Wi-Fi at the hotel worked better for us in our room because the router was outside our bedroom whereas in the lounge area the signal was not as strong and therefore we couldn't connect easily/at all! We all know how important a strong wi-fi connection is don't we?! =P

The outside of the hotel is beautiful, with a paved walkway all around the lake which makes it accessible for everyone of all abilities and those in a wheelchair too. Another tick in Ox Pasture's book from me!

Due to the weather (high winds and a forecast of rain) the TV in our room wasn't playing ball and we could only access certain channels but with a bath awaiting testing and a new magazine to read this did not bother me too much. I can confirm that the bath in our luxury suite at Ox Pasture was plenty big enough to get lost in, making it the perfect place to relax before dinner. 

We were again spoilt at dinner when we were given a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy. We had already chosen a bottle of red to go with our food so we naively thought there'd be no way we would be able to finish both bottles..............3 hours later however....!!

The food was incredible. we had chosen to dine in the restaurant as opposed to the Bistro and were not disappointed. My Butternut Squash Risotto was heaven, so creamy and full of autumnal flavours. The beef cheek was again perfection, it fell apart the moment I put my fork in it; this was only the second time I had ever had it but I will definitely be ordering it again whenever I see it on a menu because it is quite simply divine. For pudding we both chose to have the cheese which came with walnut bread, celery, grapes, quince jelly and chutney. A perfect way to end such an amazing meal. We had also been given little appetisers between each course which were refreshing and incredibly well made. I'm not sure you'd get these in the bistro so it is definitely worth booking into the restaurant just for these!

After dinner we retired to our room to get snuggled up in our robes and see what was on TV whilst drinking hot chocolate. (Perfect right?! #GOALS!) It was really lovely to be able to watch TV in our lounge instead of in bed, I mean I'm all for getting cosy in bed with a film but in this instance it was preferable. Especially if one of us wanted to retire early to read in bed. As it was we were both quite tired so didn't stay up too late. I for one couldn't wait for breakfast, because, the only thing better than hotel baths/robes is the breakfast right?! 

I can confirm that the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon was delicious and was the perfect way to set me up for the day ahead.

Unfortunately the weather had closed in around us which meant we couldn't enjoy the beautiful surroundings as much as we had wanted to but we did still manage to take a walk on the sea walls in Scarborough town centre and up and down the main street. Yes it was a blustery day but personally I much prefer sea-side towns out of season and on dull days when the sea is all angry and crashing on the rocks. I think it gives it more atmosphere.

All in all we both thoroughly enjoyed out stay at Ox Pasture and I was already thinking of when I could come back....! So if you are looking to escape for a night or the weekend, have an important birthday to celebrate or are looking to surprise someone for Christmas then I would highly recommened booking yourself in to Ox Pasture Hall Hotel because it is quite simply stunning yet it feels like you've just gone to visit a friend. The staff are all extremely friendly, willing to go above and beyond for their guests. As Lyndsey says herself, anyone who visits gets a cup of tea/coffee and a chance to relax after driving here. I couldn't have put it better myself. Thank you to everyone at Ox Pasture for ensuring that my Mum and I had a comfortable stay. It was the perfect way to celebrate my Birthday and I will definitely be coming back next year! 

Ox Pasture Twitter | Website |  

Love Sarah

*I kindly received a complementary stay on behalf of Ox Pasture in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and as you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed myself! 

Alora's Tear Book Tour


Alora’s Tear, Volume I: Fragments

There is no magic in Vladvir...

Tucked away in a quiet valley, the community of Tolarenz offers a refuge and safe haven for its people, keeping persecution at bay. One young citizen—Askon son of Teral—is destined to lead them, but first he must leave them behind: one final mission, in service of the king.

In the north, leering nightmare creatures known as the Norill gather. Their armor is bone and skin; their weapons are black and crude and cold. They strike in the night, allies to the darkness. It is to them Askon marches, his men a bulwark against the threat.

For there is no magic in Vladvir.

What Askon finds when he arrives seems impossible: smoke and fire, death and defeat, and all around a suffocating sense of dread. The Norill seek something they call ‘the Stone of Mountain,’ but in the half-remembered stories from Askon’s childhood, it was always ‘Alora’s Tear’: a gem with powers great and terrible. A gem that cannot exist.

Unless there is magic in Vladvir…

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Barham Ink






Nathan spends most of his working days with the students of Genesee Junior-Senior High School in Genesee, Idaho. Whether it’s essay structure, a classic literary work, or the occasional impromptu dance routine, he strives to keep students interested in the fun and the fundamentals of the English language.

When he’s not teaching, he wears a number of hats, though the one that says “Dad” is the most careworn and cherished (it says “Husband” on the back). It hangs on a hook in a house where music is a constant and all the computers say “Apple” somewhere on their aluminium facades. From time to time it is said that he ventures into the mysterious realm called outside, though the occasion is rare and almost exclusively upon request by son or daughter.

1. What inspired you to write the book?
So many inspirations: my wife, who was the subject of the original Alora and Heraphus mythology I wrote when we were in the 9th grade; the beautiful places I’ve visited near my home in the Northwest United States; all the fantasy and sci-fi stories that I loved, even when it really wasn’t cool to do so.
But the book itself came about mostly as a challenge to my own capabilities. As an English major and new teacher, I asked myself if that was all I would do with the education I had earned. Not that teaching isn’t enough of a job—it is—trust me. However, I wanted to be able to show my students, my employers, and most importantly myself that I could not only talk the talk about writing, not only grade academic essays and get students excited about Shakespeare and the like, but to inspire by example. In short, I wrote a 300k word novel (and later separated them into a series of three, of which Fragments is the first) because I wanted to see if I could.
2. How did you come up with the characters?
The author-ly thing to say here would be something about the characters creating themselves, that they popped into my head fully formed, Athena-style. The truth is, the prototype for Askon looked way too much like Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, bow and arrows included. Morrowmen might as well have been fireball-slinging wizard number 137 (“No he’s different because he’s wearing purple!”) while John and Thomas didn’t even exist. I honestly couldn’t relate to you the development of some of these characters because wading through the memory flotsam would look like random brain garbage.
So instead, I’ll say this, when I create a new character now, with some experience under my belt, I think about what will be this person’s defining characteristics or traits. What are their foibles? What are their strengths, weaknesses? What do they look like? The look is key, and my philosophy stems a bit from video game design principles in which characters need to be recognizable by their silhouettes. Simply by seeing the shape of them or the color of their gear, the viewer (and in the novel’s case, reader) knows who they are immediately and can prepare themselves accordingly. This instant recognition can also help when trying to disguise a familiar character. Take away their defining descriptive details, and readers have to guess at who or what is coming next.
3. Did you have any idea what form the story was going to take when you began writing it?
I knew it would be a two part story. At the time I was calling the first book Askons Tale and the second book ————’s Tale (you don’t know him/her yet). I knew that someone had to die (turns out it’s more than that). And I knew more or less the general geography of Vladvir. I did not know about the Norill when I started writing, nor was there a South Kingdom.
4. How did you develop the characters?
See question 2. 
5. Did you struggle at any point?
Honestly, I don’t recall struggling with the narrative itself. The more I wrote, the clearer the story and its world became. If there was a struggle it came after the second draft was finished. At that time I decided to make a run at publishing traditionally. I spent over a year simply writing emails to agents and publishing houses, reading about how to write the perfect query letter, all for some intern to read the first pages and send the manuscript to a sort of digital oblivion.

On top of that, I was looking for editing assistance to make sure that when the book finally did reach the right person it would seem polished and professional by comparison. Turns out there are good editors (like my now indispensable and trusted collaborator Zoë Markham—she’s fantastic) and bad. The bad are those who you can tell immediately want to have written the story themselves, and so they dig their greasy tentacles in and start to twist. It gets pretty graphic, and it’s an experience I’d rather never relive. How dare you remove something so important to the narrative I’ve crafted over a span of several years?! What gall to force one of my characters to behave contrary to their nature?! Such attempts by bad editors, I believe, are well meant, but they simply can’t separate polishing someone else’s diamond from being the one to cut the gem in the first place.
6. What was the best and worst part about writing this book?
For the worst part, see the previous question. The best points are the climaxes and the surprises. For Fragments there’s one of each that I recall fondly. Both occur near the end of the book and are non-trivial plot spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that. What I will say though, is that the surprises are great because they often surprise me. I use a connect-the-dots method for plotting, but sometimes there’s a dot that I didn’t see coming until I’m writing the scene. It’s the best, even when something bad happens.

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The first trilogy is complete and all three books are available:

Volume II, The Elf and the Arrow
Volume III, The Voice like Water
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