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    Welcome to my Travel Thursday blog where I'm going to be talking to some authors about how the places they've been to, or lived in, have influenced their writing. And opening the blog is Natali Drake. Natali writes as N J Simmonds.

    Hi Natali.  First, can you tell us a bit about where you live.

    Hi Karen. I currently live in in Delft, in The Netherlands. Here's a picture of it.




    It’s home to the famous blue and white pottery, Vermeer and the backdrop to The Girl With The Pearl Earring...it’s about as arty as you can get. I even live in a 16th century canal house, which is both impractical and impressive, and so far not haunted. I say I’m ‘currently’ living here as I’m a bit of a nomad. Holland is the fourth country I’ve lived in so far...in fact the first time I emigrated I was just three week old. I’ve since moved from one country to another five times!

    Do you like to travel? What is your favourite means of travel?

    I love travel – the idea of settling for one place forever makes me feel physically ill. Before I had children I would use up all my holiday time travelling; on a good year I could go abroad up to eight times. I’m happy with any mode of travel as long as I’m moving...I’ve travelled by every boat imaginable, experienced amazing road trips that have lasted days and even ridden through Italy and Vietnam on the back of motorbikes. Mind you, I now live in The Netherlands and I’m still not very confident on a bicycle!

    How exciting, Natali.

    What countries have you visited or lived in?

    I’ve always called myself a proud North Londoner but, although I was born there, I was less than a month old when I returned to Barcelona, Spain, where I was raised by my English mother and Spanish father. At seven years old I moved back to London, at 25 I set off to Australia for a year alone (where I found my future husband), after a year we moved back to the UK together, then five years later we moved to the south of Spain where we lived in the sunny seaside town of Estepona. August last year my husband’s job offered him a great opportunity in The Netherlands and we packed up and moved on again - this time with two kids in tow. We’re a family of restless gypsies...but with portable jobs and an IKEA at every port. In a couple of year’s time, once our girls are old enough to carry their own bags, we aim to spend a couple of months backpacking through South America so we can use our Spanish and see Machu Pichu and the Rio Carnival!



    I’ve seen a lot of the world – from southeast Asia, southern Europe and parts of America to India, Morocco, the Caribbean and every inch of Oz. But when it comes to making a difference I would say that my life changed in Australia. I have often wondered if it was the country itself that made such an impact on me or whether it was the moment that I truly found myself.  For starters I was travelling alone. For the first time in my life I had no one to answer to – no friends, parents, boyfriend or boss. I was totally free. I conquered fears (I got over my arachnophobia and qualified as PADI scuba diver), life took a spiritual turn for me (I trained in Reiki and got into meditation and astrology), I found the confidence to do some amazing things and I saw sights that will stay with me forever. But it was on a sunny non-descript morning in October when I clambered onto a sweaty coach heading to Sydney from Cairns when my life changed forever – because the hung-over guy that stumbled on to the bus and gave me a shaky smile before tripping over and sitting behind me ended up being my husband. And we never stopped travelling the world together after that...

    That's so romantic. :)

    5) Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    Absolutely! In fact, I think my entire YA series has featured nearly every place that has ever touched me. Ella, the protagonist of ‘The Path Keeper’ lives in Highgate in London – which is where I grew up from the ages of 7-25. She hangs out in Camden Town, as I did as a teenager, and her father’s family is from Ronda...a stunning, very old, town in Andalucia which I visited a lot when I lived in Spain. There is even a short scene in Morocco in my second book ‘Son of Secrets’ – which is where I spent my honeymoon!



    6) Has any country/place you’ve visited ever given you inspiration for a story?

    All of them, even the horrible places. My most inspirational destination is Tarifa in the South of Spain. It’s such a magical place that oozes Moorish charm and has a very unique mystical energy to it. Not only is it just 20 miles away from the north of Africa, which you can see from the beach, but it’s where the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet. It has a crazy wind that blows year round and bright yellow fine sand. It’s full of windsurfers and kite surfers yet the streets are labyrinthine, as if you have stepped back in history. It captured my imagination so much that I featured it in ‘The Path Keeper’ there, then partly set the second book ‘Son of Secrets’ there too.

    7) How do you do your research? Do you use Google or actually visit the place?

    I tend to write about what I know, so most of the places I mention in my books are places I have known well. Saying that though, a lot of research is involved when writing about settings in the past – such as East London in 1941, which features in ‘The Path Keeper’ and The Netherlands witch trials in the 1600s, which will feature in the third book in the series. One place  I have had to Google is Fiesole, in Italy, as although I love Florence I have never been there and I never had the chance to go before I wrote about it in ‘Son of Secrets’, but I was adamant I would include it.


    Camden Town


    8) Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    I am desperate to go to South America. I’m sure once my kids are older and we start going on holidays further afield again I will have a plethora of inspirational memories to draw on.

    9) What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while travelling?

    Oh dear, probably how accident prone I am. Writing off a hire car in Australia before leaving the premises, being hospitalised in the outback for a venomous spider bite, nearly breaking my hand in Goa after getting it trapped in a sun lounger, sinking in mud up to my knees on the banks of the Mekong river, having to be rescued from beneath a raft when I capsized in Thailand...I’m sure they weren’t funny at the time, but looking back at these surreal moments I’ve no idea why I always find myself in trouble in the most remotest of areas. Although the most hilarious thing that I ever saw was my husband jumping up in the air and screaming in a restaurant in Laos as something had tried to climb up his trouser leg, only to find that it was the smallest and most feeble looking kitten ever. We laughed for a very long time.

    10) What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen/done while travelling?

    I saw a family of humpback whales while living aboard a working pearling boat travelling up to Darwin. I hitched a lift onboard...as you do! I’ve also played with baby crocodiles in Darwin, a baby tiger in a wildlife sanctuary in Spain, raced camels in the desert and wrestled my water bottle back off a huge monkey in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I never thought I was much of an animal person, but looking back on it I’m a full on Steve Irwin!

    Angkor Wat

    Angkor Wat, Cambodia.


    Natali Drake is an accredited member of The Society of Authors and writes as N J Simmonds. She is a freelance brand consultant and writer and has had her work published in various UK newspapers, websites and publications including The Mother Book. In 2015 she co-founded The Glass House Girls, an online magazine for women who need to be heard. Originally from North London, Natali now divides her time between her two homes in the South of Spain and The Netherlands where she lives with her husband and two daughters. 'The Path Keeper' is her first novel from the series, her second book 'Son Of Secrets' will be available February 2018. Follow her writing adventures at njsimmonds.com.

    the path keeper front cover (1)


    Thanks so much for dropping by, Natali, and telling us about your travels.


  2. A warm welcome to my guest blogger Noelle Holten who blogs at https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk/ - which won the 'Best Newcomer Blog Award 2016'.  Congratulations, Noelle. :)


    My Cover Image

    Thank you for agreeing to guest on my blog, Noelle. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable then we'll begin.


    First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, why you blog, what inspired your love of books, what sort of books you like reading.

    Hi, Karen. I am a Senior Probation Officer by day and an avid reader of #AllThingsCrime by night!  I blog so I can share my love of books with others, shout out about the amazing authors I have come across and really just to connect with other like-minded people.  I have always loved reading.  From a young age, you would find me huddled away delving into the worlds created by others.  It was and still is the greatest escape from reality!  Anything to do with crime, psychological thrillers or horror are my favourite genres.

    It sounds fascinating, Noelle. What is your favourite book of all time?

    Crime & Punishment by Fydor Dostoevsky

    How many books, on average, do you read a month?

    This varies depending on my FT job, freelance work or if I fall into the dreaded reading slump!  But if I had to guess, I would average about anywhere between 10-20 books per month.

    Wow, that's a lot of books! Have you ever sat up all night because you were desperate to finish reading a book? If yes, what book was it?

    All the time!  I have chronic insomnia so staying up all night to read is a regular occurrence! LOL – the latest book this happened with was Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead – OMG- What a book!

    Do you ever cheat and skip to the end of a book?

    Never!! I am not sure why people would even do this….the best part is the anticipation of finding out how a story will end….for me, any way!

    What sort of plots do you dislike reading?

    Really, really SLOW plot-lines….if I am not hooked within the first few pages, I struggle.  I also dislike really chaotic plot-lines – when you have no idea what is happening because there is just too much going on.

    What sort of things would you like to see in a novel?

    I love characters.  They make or break a story for me.  You could have the best storyline ever, but if I don’t connect with the characters, I am afraid I struggle to keep interest.  I love books that really mess with your mind as well.  I often play amateur detective as I am reading and if I cannot solve the crime before the book ends…well that is a great book for me! 

    What is the most unusual place you’ve ever read a book?

    I am probably a bit boring on that front as I cannot think of anywhere particularly unusual!  If I can read, I will read…no matter where I am!

    What author would you most like to have a cup of coffee with? Why?

    I have been privileged enough to have shared a coffee or a few drinks with a few authors, but one I would love to meet is Angela Marsons because she is brilliant and devious in her writing!  I would love to pick her brain about DI Kim Stone!  

    Do you have any other hobbies?

    Reading/blogging is my main hobby and takes up a vast majority of my time.  I enjoy going for walks with my chocolate Labrador (Buster) –but they are generally short because of his hips (Poor Poor doggy) and I like watching a good film or TV series. I also now enjoy attending book events and festivals but other than that, I am pretty much your classic introvert! 

    Do you write? If so, what sort of things do you write. If not, would you like to be an author?

    I am trying to write but really need the motivation and inspiration to stick with it.  I did NaNoWriMo in 2015 but scrapped most of what I had written.  I am attending Crime & Publishment at The Mill in Gretna Green this year to pick up some tips and inspiration.  I have an idea, random chapters (very chaotic) written but really need to sit down and put it into some meaningful context.  Whether it sees the light of day or not, I would like to at least write one Crime Novel in my lifetime.  I think, however, I am better placed on the reading and promo side of things….for now! 

    You can contact Noelle here:


    Twitter: @nholten40

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/?fref=ts

    Thanks for dropping by, Noelle. Good luck with your crime novel!


    Bring a little sunshine into your life!  Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with. Published by Accent Press



  3. I'm delighted to welcome guest author, Shelly Betts, to my blog today, to talk to us about her writing career.



    Welcome, Shelly. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    Hello, Karen. I’m forty seven, and live in Warwickshire with my husband. I have a grown up son who is married and a stepson. I suffer with Fibromyalgia and Primary Immunodeficiency. Writing gives me the escape I crave when housebound for endless days.

    My short story “Dance Floor Days” took second prize in the Herefordshire & Worcestershire 2013 Active Age Literary Festival. My first novel “The Power of Goodbye” was long listed (final twenty) for debut novel of the year with Cinnamon Press in 2015. I love music and listen to it every day. Sadly most of my preferred songs are those from the eighties and I am pretty much stuck in that era with my music, much to my family’s despair!


    The Power of Goodbye


    Congratulations, Shelly. How did you get started writing?

    I began writing after spending time in the classroom as a teaching assistant. Helping the children produce storyboards, characters and dialogue, sparked a light within me to write my own story. After suffering severe depression in 2010 and taking time off work, I used my first novel as a cathartic therapy, helping me push through the darkness. “The Power of Goodbye”, although a novel, is quite autobiographical. I wrote it in the hope that it would help others who are experiencing difficulties in their life.

    Have you ever attended a writing course? 

    I began attending a writing course run by Sue Johnson at No 8 in Pershore on Friday mornings, back in March 2013. Here I wrote short stories during the sessions (as well as drink coffee and eat delicious biscuits) and I actually created, without knowing, some of the characters for my second novel “Let it Go”. I really enjoyed my time on the creative writing courses, but unfortunately my health intervened forcing me to stop going. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis which limits what I can do.


    Let it go

    Do you have any other interests apart from writing?

    My other passion in life is dogs. I have had a dog since I left home (many years ago!) and currently have a huge Rottweiler crossed with a Doug de Bordeaux (like Hooch) who slobbers and snores but is a gentle giant. My other dog was from Dogs Trust and she is a husky cross. She doesn’t slobber but nudges my arm for endless fuss. They are great company and my best buddies.


    Sonny & Larna - aren't they gorgeuos!

    What writing tip would you give other writers? 

    My writing tip would be to write what you know and what you feel. If you write a little every day, you will keep your fire alight and want to keep going. If I’m writing a novel, I try and finish the day’s work with something ready for the next day so that I am driven to get back to it. I had writers block with my third novel and didn’t write for months but then an idea just came to me. I was two thirds through it and I knew I had to finish it. Sometimes you have to be patient and let the ideas come to you.

    What are you working on now? 

    My forthcoming novel is “Don’t You Want Me?” It’s a time split plot and takes place in the 1980’s and 2016. Here’s a peek at the blurb and cover…

    Want me



    Where can we find out more about you, Shelly?

    You can find me on Facebook or my website. My books are available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

    Thanks for dropping by to talk to us, Shelly. Good luck with your new book!


    Thanks so much Karen for inviting me to write on your blog.


    Shelly x


    Bring a little sunshine into your life!      

    Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with on cold winter nights. Published by Accent Press








  4. A warm welcome to this week's Monday Meet Up guest blogger Kate Noble. Kate blogs at The Quiet Knitter.

    IMG_4257 - Copy


    Hi Kate,  Thank you for agreeing to guest on my blog. Grab yourself a cake and tell us a bit about yourself, why you blog, what inspired your love of books, what sort of books you like reading.



    Hi Karen. I’m mum to 1 human child of the toddling variety and 2 canines (a border collie and a border collie x).  I’ve had a fascination with books for as long as I can remember and most of my spare time is spent either reading or knitting.  It all really came about as a place for me to witter away about my thoughts on the books I’d read as a hobby, but since then it’s grown into a place where I feel proud to share my thoughts and reviews and I’ve recently  taken the leap into participating in blog tours.   I grew up surrounded by books so it seemed only natural to pick one up and get lost in a new world.  My favoured books are generally crime fiction and thrillers, but I do dip into contemporary and historical fiction for a break now and again.

     Knitting and books sounds a good combination to me. What is your favourite book of all time?

    Without fail it has to be Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.  I read this in my teens and found it so hauntingly moving and it stayed with me.

    How many books, on average, do you read a month?

    Not enough to make a dent in my TBR pile!  I would guess between 6 or 7.

    Have you ever sat up all night because you were desperate to finish reading a book? If yes, what book was it?

    Absolutely, I have a bad habit of doing this, I fall victim to “just another chapter” every time! 

    Do you ever cheat and skip to the end of a book?


    What sort of plots do you dislike reading?

    Anything overly silly, or takes too long to get to the point.  I don’t like reading something and feeling like I’m wading through treacle. 

    What sort of things would you like to see in a novel?

    Clever writing, creative plotting, interesting characters, and jaw dropping twists are all things that immediately spring to mind. 

    What is the most unusual place you’ve ever read a book?

    Erm I’m not too adventurous so it would either be in the bath or on a sun lounger in Tunisia.

    What author would you most like to have a cup of coffee with? Why?

    Ooh good question….erm I would say either Stuart MacBride, I really enjoy his books and he seems to have quite an interesting sense of humour (and it would make my dad very jealous) or maybe perhaps Sarah Ward as she has excellent taste in Bakewell tarts and writes some amazing books!

    Do you have any other hobbies?

    Knitting would probably be the only other hobby I have, as I don’t think ironing counts even though I seem to spend a ridiculous amount of time doing it.

    Do you write? If so, what sort of things do you write. If not, would you like to be an author?

    I would love to write, but I don’t really have the attention or imagination to pull it off.    

    You can find Kate here:

    Blog: https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/

    Twitter: @TheQuietKnitter


    Lovely to talk to you, Kate. Thanks for dropping by.




    Bring a little sunshine into your life!      

    Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with on cold winter nights. Published by Accent Press



  5. We're off to France for our Friday Read this week. Jennifer Bohnet has dropped by to tell us all about her latest release Rosie's Little Café on the Riviera.





    It's a summer of taking chances for three different women down on the exotic French Riviera.

    Rosie is opening her dream cafe and intends to spend the summer turning it into a success -  only to find life tossing some unexpected events and people onto the menu.

    Then there's GeeGee who uses the cafe as her summer office - but this year she’s facing a summer of no money and no home.

    Recently widowed Erica runs a gift shop with a difference that she has been neglecting since the death of her husband. This summer, together with her young daughter Cammie, she needs to find a way of moving on with her life.

    What none of them expects is a summer romance.

    Buy Links 

    Amazon link: goo.gl/wDA6gy

    Amazon Book page: http://goo.gl/UzPSMx


     Meet Jennifer



    I asked Jennifer to tell us a big about herself

    I’m English but I’ve lived in France for the past 17 years. After 11 years down on the Cote d’Azur where Richard was a guardien for a villa, we moved from the Mediterranean coast to a small quirky cottage in Finistere, Brittany. A bit of a culture shock to say the least! When I’m not writing I love reading, cooking and having friends around for lunch - lunches that follow the French tradition of lasting for several hours. Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera is my tenth book and I’m thrilled @HQDigital are issuing it in paperback in conjunction with Sainsburys.

    Have you always wanted to be a writer?

    Always, but it took a long time for me to achieve my dream.

    What do you like writing most?

    The genre I read most of - women’s contemporary fiction.

    Do you have a special place for writing?

    When we moved up here to Brittany there was a room of sorts at the back of the cottage - corrugated roof, windowless and damp. Richard has done a great job in converting it into a ‘proper’ room and it’s now my office cum spare room for visitors.

    Are you a pantster or a plotter?

    I’m a pantster desperately trying to be more of a plotter - after ten books I’m getting better but I still hate it when editors ask for an outline upfront!

    Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?

    Inspired yes - but never ever used verbatim.

    What are you writing at the moment?

    I’ve just started my eleventh book which I can’t talk about because I’ve no idea yet whether it’s actually going to work!

    What time of the day do you write best?

    I find the mornings best for writing - if I don’t start writing then, I don’t seem to do any that day. This year I’m trying to be strict with myself - mornings are for writing, afternoons for e-mails and life stuff and the evenings for editing etc. It’s trying to fit in all the promo and networking that has to be done that I find so difficult.

    What are your hobbies?

    I occasionally get the urge to do some knitting or sewing. Not really a hobby but I also try and have at least an hours walk every day. The countryside around us here is lovely and it’s good thinking time - and hopefully goes some way to helping banish writer’s bottom!

    What advice would you give to other writers?

    To remember that you’re in it for the long haul - and it can be a very long haul! Very few achieve overnight bestseller status.

     Good advice, Jennifer!

    You can contact Jennifer here:

    Website: http://www.jenniferbohnet.com/index.html

    Facebook Author Page: goo.gl/6hsfZw

    Amazon.com author page: http://amzn.to/299rvVv

    Twitter: @jenniewriter

    Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Jennifer. :)




    Bring a little sunshine into your life!     

    Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with on cold winter nights. Published by Accent Press