What’s Up



Welsh Poet, Author and Playwright

To kick things off, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? Who is M. L. Farr ? 

I would describe myself as a middle-aged Welshman who likes playing about with words. Having failed at many things in my early years I decided to concentrate on something that I enjoyed. If I was going to put my time and effort into anything it should be something that brought me joy. The creative process gave me that happiness. 

You are a very prolific writer, spanning across a variety of genres. What is the secret behind your creativity?

I’m not sure that there is a secret to one’s creativity. If there is, I haven’t found it. I think that creativity is in us all. As children we think nothing of playing games and creating characters. As adults we often forget how to pretend, how to use our imaginations. Authors I believe are the ones that haven’t forgotten how to be someone else every now and then. 

Personally, I like to write everything down. I don’t trust my brain to remember all of, if any, of my ideas. No matter how strange or seemingly unimportant it may be, I make sure I write it down. Be that in a notebook, a scrap of paper or on my phone. Old notes can always be returned to. You never know when you may feel the need for a little change of direction, a plot twist, an extra character or an interesting location for your work in progress to take place. 

I have found that a good way not to get bogged down or stuck within the story (Writers block if you will) is to go and write something else. Something that is nothing at all like what I had been working on. The change in style, format or tone usually serves to fool my little brain into not concentrating on the hurdle that I could not find a way past. Often, as soon as I am no longer thinking about it, the solution will present itself when I am not even looking. 

Of all the books you have written what is your favourite and why?

Asking me to choose a favourite book is a little like trying to pick a favourite family member. We shouldn’t do it but it really depends on the situation and what mood I am in at the time. 

The Forgotten Town series is my best seller so that will always be up there. As I can be as shallow as the next man and we all rather like getting paid. If I did have to pick one, I would probably say Blood Island though. It took a long time to write with much research before I even put pen to paper. (Yes, I do still write everything long hand before I type anything, old school). 

Can you tell us something about your writing habits?

The way I approach each project is as individual as the work itself. Again, it depends on my frame of mind. I don’t like to force myself to do anything. Sometimes I like to spend time creating the plot beforehand. Other times I prefer to create the characters first and once I know them well enough, let them guide the story.

Which ever way I start I will always have a collection of notes and ideas. Many of which I will not use until a later book, but I will still take a look at them as I write. I find that they help push the chaotic side of my brain into something like the right direction. I have been known to jot down ideas at the dinner table, in the pub, in the bath, pretty much anywhere. If left alone I can sometimes write all day and night. Finishing a book before I have a chance to stop and think about it. Some days I will procrastinate, drinking tea and making excuses why I can’t finish a single page. Those days are fine by me too. One word is better than none. 

What were the most challenging and most rewarding moments in your career?

Any time I finish a page I feel that is an accomplishment but my ego does love it when people comment on a book. I recently overheard a conversation about one of my books and when I tried to give a little input considering the characters I was corrected. Apparently the two readers had worked out exactly what was going to happen in the next book and where it would be set. They were wrong by the way but it did make me smile as they had no idea I was the author. Does nobody look at the back cover?

As with many authors I find advertising the most challenging. That and realising that I cannot draw after finishing a children’s series that required illustration.

What can we expect from M. L. Farr in the future?

There will be at least another two instalments to the Forgotten Town series. One if which I have already started. Also, I have a WIP that is currently entitled Shouting at Shadows, (although that may well change as the story evolves) that is threatening to be unlike anything I have ever written before.

When you are not writing what do you like to read? 

I would recommend reading anything and everything that you can. I try to. From Agatha Christie to Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle to Terry Pratchett, William Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde. Graphic novels, magazines and newspapers can all provide information and inspiration as much as a novel big enough to prop a door open with. 

I would like to add that if you read something you like please pass on that information. Maybe even leave a review if that is possible. Too many people are ready to knock authors without realising that not every book is for everyone. If a book is not for you that does not mean it was a bad book. Only badly chosen by you. Be kind to each other and fellow authors. A lot of time and emotion will have been put into whatever it is you read. 

All books by M.L. Farr are available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3m7Eopg


Self-Promo 2023 (Ep. 7): Peter Draper

Author of the urban crime thriller series ‘The King of Gravesend’

The King of Gravesend Series. Peter Draper, 2022 – 2023.


The series follows the story of Chuds Douglas, who was once a big deal in his home town of Gravesend, Kent.  He left the country for reasons only hinted at and is deported back to the UK from America after 20 years away.  He is left at Heathrow with 200 Canadian Dollars, a sack of clothes and a few personal belongings. Calling on his family, friends and old business colleagues he starts to rebuild his life but falls foul of a new family in town who are involved in illegal activities that make his own chequered past seem positively tame.

With his life back in order, some successful businesses in hand and a new relationship Chuds seems to have everything he needs.  Except a challenge.  His new businesses takes him to The Philippines where, after flashing too much money in the wrong area, he is kidnapped by Abu Sayyef for ransom.  Can his old colleagues get him home? 


The books are based in Gravesend, the town that I grew up in, and are faithful to the location.  Many of the characters and plot points are based on actual people and events that have been somewhat exaggerated into an almost cartoonish state.  The fictional stories are woven around people that I knew and places that I grew up in. 

The books are full of dark humour, the kind that was our defence mechanism in darker times,  the comedy integrates with the stories and people.  It was described by a beta reader as being like “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels had a love child with Only Fools and Horses.” The action scenes are based on personal experiences and while not glorified, they are somewhat realistic.

While the books are inclusive, featuring LGBTQ+ characters, etc. they are not in any way politically correct, but they are funny, have a fast and engaging narrative and will keep you laughing and intrigued. 


Peter was born in Gravesend and spent the first 30+ years of his life there working, amongst other things, as a Cinema Manager, Assistant Entertainments Manager to the Borough and a self-employed businessman.  Wanderlust led him to travel to the USA where he discovered a passion for Skydiving.  He became a professional Parachute Rigger, Skydiving Instructor and Drop Zone Manager. He made over 7000 jumps including over 2000 Tandems and worked for a major Skydiving Equipment Manufacturer. 

It was there that he was introduced to the newly formed Qatar Armed Forces Airborne Group who offered him a position in Qatar with the Joint Special Forces as a rigger and instructor.  After working with them for 11 years he retired to The Philippines in 2020, where he lives with his wife, and writes.    


You can find additional info on my work on my website: https://pdraper108.wixsite.com/mysite

I am also on the following social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Editor Note: At the time of the interview, Book Three in the series was yet to be published – it was however released in February 2023. Peter’s books are available for purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B09DCJCXFY


Self-Promo 2023 (Ep.6): Greg Garrison

Author of ‘Children of Midgard’ (The Freyerton Saga, Vol.1)

Children of Midgard. Greg Garrison, 2023.

“Children of Midgard may keep you up at night. It may fill you with a sense of wonder and adventure. It is certain to stick with you and make you think about the power of family, the meaning of destiny, and the value of people you pass on the street every day”.


Mythology, horror, fantasy, and superheroes merge into a wild adventure when 12 years old twins Stephen & Joanne learn that they’re descendants of Norse gods and develop super powers, which they must use to rescue their Dad from a malevolent, psychopathic shape-shifter. Not all gods are good.


‘Children of Midgard’ tells an exciting story that starts with a terrifying scene and never lets up. Every scene advances a character, the plot, or both. World-building is extensive but concise, largely done through dialogue and action rather than exposition. It is a unique mashup of multiple genres, and while all of the elements feel familiar, the way they are told is fresh and wild.


The Freyerton Saga is planned to have nine or ten volumes, one for each of the nine realms in Norse cosmology. Each book will be self-contained to a certain extent, and as the series progresses, more people from Freyerton will emerge with powers, ultimately leading to a conflict that threatens to destroy the town and the High North along with it.

Volume 2, entitled ‘Outlaws of Alfheim’, is already a work in progress. I have been plotting it in my head and will soon move to storyboarding and then writing. Jo will narrate this one, so the voice will be distinct besides the setting, her perspective revealing things about Stephen that he did not include in his story. It opens with a piano recital at the town hall. While Jo is playing, giants arrive with the intention of kidnapping the twins. A group of elves rescue Jo, Stephen, Lori Grimmick, and a new character who goes to school with them and does not know he is a descendant of gods. The twins’ actions in ‘Children of Midgard’ have led to a war between gods and giants. Rogue elves plan to take advantage of the situation by waging a guerrilla campaign that will drive giants from Alfheim, the world of elves. This violates a treaty between the United Republics of Jotunheim and the Pacific Kingdoms of Alfheim. All the twins want is to go home, but instead they will join the fight and become outlaws in Alfheim.


I studied writing at Davidson College (North Carolina) with Pinckney Benedict and Dr Tony Abbott of blessed memory, who also mentored Patricia Cornwell when she was a student at Davidson.


My handle is @thegreggarrison on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Editor Note: Released in January this year, Greg’s YA novel has received excellent reviews both on Amazon and Goodreads. It is available for purchase in the UK on Amazon, in all the standard formats as well as audiobook: https://amzn.to/40YeIv8


Self-Promo 2023 (Ep.5): Rebecca J. Cole

Author of the recently released ‘Emma Grace: Dante’s Obsession’


Emma Grace lives with her stepfather, Frank, who has been abusing her most of her life. When they move to a new town, she gets a job as a waitress, where she soon meets Dante, a handsome but scary Italian man, who becomes a regular customer at the café. Dante refuses to be waited on by anyone but Emma Grace, and they soon become friends. She resists his attempts to become closer, out of fear of her stepfather. When Dante discovers that she is being abused, he threatens Frank, and the abuse stops, although Emma Grace does not know the reason. Emma Grace’s life is put into danger when Dante’s enemies seek revenge on him and try to kidnap Emma Grace. Dante is then forced to tell her about his ties to the mafia. Although she has fallen in love with him  this time, fear for his criminal background pushes her to try to get away from him. In the end, Emma Grace’s love for him overcomes her fear, and they plan a life together.


Mafia romance stories seem to be very popular, but this story doesn’t have the erotic sex scenes that most of them include. If you like clean romance, this would be a good choice.


I started writing in 2020, after I sold my business, and my father, who I had been helping to care for, passed away. I suddenly had a lot of extra time on my hands, so decided to try writing. Once I started, I became a little obsessed, publishing three books in one year. 


Website: rebeccajcole.com

Goodreads: Rebecca J. Cole

Facebook: Rebecca Cole

Instagram: rjcole101

Editor Note: A very prolific writer, Rebecca self-published another two romance novels in 2022. All her books are available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3XspGpL


Self-Promo 2023 (Ep. 4): Ben Andrews

Introducing Ben’s newly released novel ‘Secrets, Lies & Revenge’


Set in an affluent area of England, Emily Lamont moves to Beechwood Close with her grandmother. After years of struggling with money and a plan for revenge, Emily’s newly found fortune allows her to infiltrate the exclusive neighbourhood and transform her closest neighbours into trusting friends. One woman on the street is Emily’s target, but first she must gain the support of the group and exact her plan for revenge on one unexpected person. This twisted mystery dives into the lives of four women as you quickly find out every neighbour has their own secrets. When Emily’s plan reaches its conclusion, will she find revenge is the best answer? Or will these women she befriends surprise her with their own deadly secrets and lies?


What sets this book apart from anything I’ve written in the past are the characters. I wanted to make them larger than life, a feeling of Dynasty with their wealthy living and camp dialogue but with a modern twist on their individual story arcs and problems that arise during the book. The women appear rich and disassociated with the real world from the start, but as the book goes on and you spend time in the heads of these different characters, the reader gets to know these women and the problems they are suffering behind closed doors. The topics covered in the book can be dark, so I wanted to balance that darkness out with some black comedy and eccentric side characters and situations they can find themselves in. 


Ben Andrews worked for years in the hairdressing industry in the south of England, and along with the training, came the vast people he met from different walks of life. This wide variety of clients gave him endless stories and quirks to inspire his writing and twist the real world into his own works of fiction, and his newest release does exactly that. Selling his business and moving to Scotland with his partner Alex during the height of lockdown gave its own set of challenges, but with the extra time, he found space to write and get the stories from his head to paper.


Twitter: @Benand_rews

Instagram: @benand_rews

Facebook: Ben Andrews Author

TikTok: @benand_rews

Editor Note: Ben Andrews is also the author of the mystery thriller ‘The Grave Series’ (Volume 1 & 2), published in 2022. All his books are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3Yqu6OI


Melinda West: monster gunslinger

The first novel by KC Grifant

Melinda West: monster gunslinger, KC Grifant, Brigids Gate Press, 2023

“Somewhere here was the start of the Monster Massacre of Double Moon a hundred years ago, when the Edge appeared.” 

Melinda nodded, history lessons that Abel and Beatrice had repeated swirling in her mind. When trade opened across the plains and western oceans, newcomers from the Grand Isles arrived, some fighting to take over land from the firstcomers. But once the Edge appeared and its hordes of monsters took out a good chunk of residents, newcomers and firstcomers banded together to fight back. Since then, something changed about the Edge. The majority of creatures stopped straying into human territory, though there were plenty of exceptions, as evidenced by Melinda and Lance’s surplus of work.

Here’s Melinda: 28 years old, a monsters gunslinger who never missed a shot in her professional life, about to complete her last mission. With her, there is Lance: a sweet talker, great with weapons and ready to retire too. When we meet them for the very first time, they are fighting hard against a herd of critters that is attacking a village. The pair have been summoned by the local sheriff – ‘named Gatsum or Garry or something like that, Melinda couldn’t remember which’ – who is scared senseless, but also useless when it comes to fighting creatures that come from the Edge.

Melinda is about to take the final shot, when she stops: either the Sheriff gives them the money he promised, or she will walk. Gatsum or Garry or something like that agrees, however reluctantly. The mission is completed, money changes hands, Melinda and Lance collect some samples to take home to Aunt Beatrice, and they both call it a day on their life as monsters gunslingers.

Or so they believe.

While clearing up, Melinda notices something from the corner of her eye. It comes from a nearby mine, and her instinct tells her that, whatever it is, it deserves a closer look. Inside, in the pitch-black cave, she finds mother scorpion and dozens of her translucent baby eggs. But she also finds a stone, something as big as an acorn, silver as the moon, that hits her with a wave of vertigo as soon as she touches it, makes her fingers go numb and seems to whisper unintelligible words. Melinda collects two samples before blowing the mine off.

With one last look behind them, the two gunslingers start their journey home. It’s nice to be back to their village, reunite with Aunt Beatrice and Abel, an inventor who leaves next door and helps them in their line of work, relax, have an often dreamt of homecooked dinner and a real bed instead of beef jerky and camping for the night.

No one can imagine that this fragile euphoria will be broken so soon. Talking about their last mission, Melinda tells her Aunt about the mysterious stone she found in the cave.

“Eyestone” Beatrice gasps when Melinda shows her.

As soon as she pronounces these words, Abel becomes agitated and before he can add anything, a spider comes in through the window like a cannonball, quickly followed by many more and a red cloud of mist. Melinda is weirdly fascinated by it. There is something in there, a shape that slowly takes form, and, as unbelievable as it might seem, it’s the image of a man, but before Melinda can tell who he is, the light goes off, and when Aunt Beatrice gets the fire going, Melinda finds a spider right on her chest. Abel quickly swipes it away from her, but he gets bitten in the process, and passes out. It’s immediately clear that Abel is not just wounded, because he looks like he’s dead, even if he’s still breathing.

“What aren’t you saying?” Melinda asks Aunt Beatrice. The explanation is clear and simple: many years before, Abel was held against his will working on the railroads, and he would have done anything to get out of it. He actually did: he contacted a person that put a spell on him, a powerful one that let him see into people’s minds. In this way, Abel could persuade his guards to let him go. The spell didn’t stop working once he was freed and Abel used this power to bring peace in his country. But it also left him with a soul brighter than normal, and that is the problem: there are creatures, known as soul suckers, that feed on this type of souls. While Abel found a way to keep his aura hidden, the eyestone that Melinda brought back from her last mission neutralized this protection and left Abel vulnerable. The only hope they have to save him is to go after these soul sucker spiders and get Abel’s soul back.

And so, the journey begins. They will meet many more people, from Aine, the clairvoyant, to Angelo and Topaz the bounty hunters after Eloise, Harston the demon, and Eekuts, weird creatures similar to prairie dogs, or Snow Krakens, which are comparable to a twenty-foot octopus. They will face epic battles with Edge Raiders, a group of self-appointed guardians ensuring monsters from the Edge don’t stray too far. We will even descend into the edge itself with Melinda, a sort of Underworld where we look for our loved ones’ souls.

This book has everything one can ask for: a strong female leading character, monsters, irony, a supernatural setting, a fast pace, and a great narrative. KC is constantly in control of the narrative, she trickles new information at the right moment, just to give her readers enough to put some pieces together but not enough to stop wondering how it will all end.

I absolutely loved the prose: it’s clean, it’s linear, it’s concise but not clipped, even if it may have done with a few more descriptions, both of the environment and of the unnatural creatures. Apart from that, this book is an absolute jewel, a whirlwind of events keeping readers glued to the page and have them begging for more.

Which is, given how the book ends, highly likely.

And to be honest, here at Not For Vanity, we can’t wait to read the rest!

Get your copy now!

About KC Grifant

KC Grifant is a Southern Californian author who writes internationally published horror, fantasy, science fiction and weird west stories for podcasts, anthologies and magazines. 

Her writings have appeared in magazines and podcasts including: Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (cover story for issue #70), Unnerving Magazine, Aurealis Magazine, Fission Magazine, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Dark Matter Magazine, Tales to Terrify, the Lovecraft eZine, Sley House Podcasts, and many others. 

In addition to a Weird West horror novel, MELINDA WEST: MONSTER GUNSLINGER (Feb 2023), she has also written stories for dozens of anthologies, including: Chromophobia; Dancing in the Shadows: A Tribute to Anne Rice; Musings of the Muse; Field Notes from a Nightmare; The One That Got Away; Six Guns Straight From Hell; Trembling with Fear: Year One; Shadowy Natures; Beyond the Infinite: Tales from the Outer Reaches; and the Stoker-nominated Fright Mare: Women Write Horror.

In addition, she is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), as well as the co-founder of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) San Diego chapter, an organization that helps to connect writers and fans of horror literature.

All books by KC Grifant are available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3JSjKmD


Self-Promo Feature 2023 (Ep. 3): D.B. Rook

Author of ‘Callus & Crow’ (The Wayward World Chronicles, Volume 1)

Callus & Crow. D. B. Rook, 2022.


From the dry winds of the West to the shadowy council chambers of a dark city of innovation, Callus & Crow is a twisted odyssey of revenge and redemption. Following an exiled tribesman with a lust for blood, and his ward, a young ranch hand with a desire to thwart the ravages of fate as they follow whispers of prophecy across the monster infested sea. In the new world a tyrannical council seek to overpower each other whilst dominating their people.

Can a path of blood lead to redemption? Is redemption enough to amend a wayward world?


Callus & Crow is a genre hybrid with many appealing ingredients, at it’s heart it is a fantasy novel but its post-apocalyptic setting allows for many tropes and themes to be explored. The wayward world is a world rising from an apocalyptic event, the population build the new civilisations based on previous cultures and the remnants of a dead reality. Popular culture is mistaken for historical fact and technology and advancement occurs in isolated lands, separated by, until now, uncrossable seas. The wayward world allows for diversity and exploration beyond typical fantasy settings and offers the ingredients you want to read about in a plausible and engaging way.


DB Rook is a dreamer, a gamer, and an explorer of other worlds. He has spent over 10 years working on the frontline of homeless services in the North of England. Working in addiction with vulnerable people has fuelled the fire of imagination and escapism. Callus & Crow is the first of his Wayward World Chronicles and he is busy hammering away at the keys to create the next installment.


Your readers can find me on:

Facebook: DB Rook

Twitter: @DB_Rook

TiKToK: @DB_Rook

My website is also coming soon!

Callus & Crow’ is available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3JrPqPJ


The story so far: 6 months of Not for Vanity

A word from our co-founder Alex Mingoni

Today I asked The Internet: “Is a 6-month business milestone worth celebrating?”. According to search engines, it is only if you are a man in a relationship (??), have employees working for you or a new born baby. Well, here at Not for Vanity we are always challenging the norm, so I thought I’d ignore digital wisdom and go with my instinct instead. I am absolutely sure you are familiar with the overwhelming sensation of your fingers itching to write (on good days at least), so here we are!

On January 18th, we’ll be celebrating six months since we announced we were “Open for Business”. By WE I mean Ella – a writer like many of you and teacher in training – and Alex, a former consultant who left the hustle and bustle of London corporate life behind to pursue something she could call her own. 

Back in July last year, we took a gamble: are people even going to listen to us? Will our voice be powerful enough to give a meaningful contribution to the indie publishing world (easy tiger…)? Our idea for Not for Vanity had been a work in progress for quite some time when we launched. It was born out of recklessness and careful research, as well as a great passion for reading, writing, and the creative industries in general. To put it simply, we felt self-published voices needed to be heard louder. We’ve always been against the concept of “vanity project”, reductive and fundamentally unfair, given how challenging it is to enter the conventional publishing world. Yes, there might be badly written books out there (personally, I would NEVER put pen to paper, I am terrible at creating stories) but in our experience, there are also so many great self-published writers it’s extremely hard to keep up.

While we are still very small, we’ve never embraced a project with such passion and dedication, so we really don’t want to stop. Have a look below to find out what we’ve been up to so far.

17 BOOK REVIEWS PUBLISHED | We read all the books we review from beginning to end. We’ve tackled 7 fiction sub-genres so far: crime, dystopian, fantasy, LGBTQ+, romance, thriller and young adults.

11 BLOG POSTS | We’ve covered a variety of topics we know our audience cares about, from writing tips and other “how to” guides to book recommendations and writing competitions.

5 SELF-PROMOTION FEATURES | A few months into our journey, we realised we wanted to give space to more authors but were unable to keep up with demand, so at the end of 2022 we launched our ‘Promotion’ page: weekly self-promotion events featuring a specific author in the form of a short interview (read this post if you’d like to be featured too!). All our features are created with the utmost care and are bespoke to each of our writers.

4 AUTHOR INTERVIEWS | We only interview authors whose books we’ve read, to create the most relevant questions and a personalised experience. We prioritise impact over cliché. 

1 DIGITAL PARTNERSHIP | We are delighted to be sponsoring “The Mr.Mike Podcast: Wrong Answers Only”. The podcast is now in its second season and welcomes a variety of guests, primarily from the education and publishing world. What we like the most about Mike’s podcasts is that they are extremely entertaining and a source of inspiration, no matter the topic. The two best spent hours of our week and something we always look forward to. Intrigued? All episodes are available here: https://www.mrmikemtl.com

On a parting note…

Before Not for Vanity saw the light at the end of July, little did we know the life of a founder would be the most demanding we’ve lived so far (while juggling everything else) but also the most rewarding. As we celebrate the first six months in business, we would like to thank the authors who have trusted us with their work so far and hope we’ll be able to showcase many more in the future. Interested in being part of our journey? Get in touch at notforvanity@gmail.com


#selfpromofriday Meet: Rhys Reed-Johnson

It’s Week Two of our 2023 Self-Promo Friday event and a special week indeed… As we are expanding our horizons to new genres, the focus today is on children’s literature (the subject of last week’s feature also). It’s our pleasure to introduce screenwriter Rhys Reed-Johnson, author of the delightful ‘King Arthur’s Cat‘. Have a look at what he told us about his work.

King Arthur’s Cat. Creative Writing Club, 2022.


King Arthur’s Cat is mostly about… a cat. It is also mostly about King Arthur. Now I won’t say who… but one of them holds the title ‘Worst king of Camelot’ and spends most of the day sleeping, while the other eats fish and licks himself. For those interested, the cat happens to be called Sir Softpaws and King Arthur is called many things beside King Arthur, often using naughty words. When Sir Softpaws suddenly grows fifty feet tall as if by magic and Merlin is nowhere to be found, a whole bunch of trouble breaks out in Camelot. Every dog runs away. Giant hairballs block the streets. Somebody drinks the moat dry. Random bystanders are accidentally squished by a fleeing orange stripy suspect. It’s total chaos, chaos without rules, rules without hope, hope without a clue, especially when the chances of returning Sir Softpaws to his normal size seem less than certain. What’s worse, Arthur decides he wants to help, and no matter what nonsense the King tries to fix the problem, a right royal pickle is usually the result.


I’m thrilled you asked. There are just simply more reasons than I can possibly count, but here’s a few surefire wallet-openers. The cover art is age-appropriate, the book’s weight is evenly distributed, and its pages are much softer and more enjoyable to turn than the average itchy shelf-stacker. The font is easy on the eyes as is the author. The story has that beginning, middle, and end fad people appreciate in their fiction. Some characters are likeable and the ones who aren’t are routinely punished. For the first time in any book I know of, a cat has a frank conversation with a dragon, boldly breaking new literary ground. There’s an educational bonus too: readers can learn about the devastating effects of sawdust and what can happen in a cluckawort outbreak. Finally and very importantly, the book redresses a grave historical injustice: as a society we’ve heard far too many stories about one man and his dog at the expense of unfairly marginalising the relationship between one man and his cat – love is love and cats are pets. Finally again, it is my opinion some books are too heavy, especially for children, but this book you can easily grip in one hand and so prevent tears before bedtime.


Yes, yes I can. I am a writer, in this case, of books. Having learned to spell my name sometime in childhood, my literary career has come on leaps and bounds since then. I once dressed as a horse and almost got shot by Her Majesty’s Government for my craft. It remains my proudest achievement. Over the years, I’ve sat at a lot of tables and written a lot of stuff for a lot of things; the only medium I have yet to apply my trade to is sock puppetry (something I might do if the money’s right). I have won many awards and lost even more awards. So long as there’s a roof over my head and a roast chicken in my fridge, I am the happiest soul alive.


I think adults have read too much. As such, it’s much harder to trick them into believing dragons and/or magic exists, that going on adventures is a worthwhile hobby, or working hard and trying your best is what’s really important in life. Children are easier to entertain. I’d rather create obvious fun than something needing an intersectional postmodernist lens to be deconstructed for absolutely nobody’s enjoyment. As for where my inspiration comes from, I give everybody the same answer: the need to pay rent. It is so easy to be creative when there are bills to pay.


Readers can find me @rhysreedjohnson on Twitter and Instagram

King Arthur’s Cat’ is available here: https://cwcshop.company.site/King-Arthurs-Cat-p461321483


Love is the best Revenge 

The second full length novel by contemporary fiction author AH Bracken 

Love is the best Revenge. AH Bracken, 2022.

Set in the fictional town of Somerzoy, ‘Love is the Best Revenge’ tells the (love – hate – and everything in between) story of best-selling romance novelist Lady Marianne Clemenceaux and journalist Tom Underwood. What’s the catch? Lady Marianne, daughter of an Earl, is loved and respected by the local community and a well-established name in publishing. Life’s good until Tom Underwood takes a job at the local gazette and writes an unforgiving article about her, questioning her authenticity and ability to create relatable stories – given her privilege, does she really know how ordinary people live? It’s not really that simple though, as Lady Marianne has a secret: what is she hiding behind her pink aura of perfection and literary glory? Tom Underwood has a secret too: he’s in Somerzoy to rebuild his career and reputation following a journalistic reporting flop in his previous job. Tom’s article bewilders Somerzoy citizens, and they join forces to help Lady Marianne. One of them in particular, Maria – the enigmatic raven-haired town mechanic – seems really keen to seek revenge on Lady Marianne’s behalf. Instantly fascinated by her, Tom Underwood falls in love with her, failing to see her hidden agenda. Unfortunately, revenge is hardly straightforward, and all plans will come crushing down, as Tom and Lady Marianne’s paths finally cross. 

While as a reader I am not naturally drawn to contemporary romance novels, I am making it my mission today to explain the 5 reasons why ‘Love is the Best Revenge’ is THE quintessential romantic novel and one to read NOW. 

1 | A sympathetic heroine. Maria is a complex character with lots of different nuances to her personality. She is a strong-willed young woman who’s also vulnerable (but not weak), extremely intelligent and capable. Maria’s humanity makes her very relatable, especially when it comes to her constant struggle with her wealthy parents, who refuse to understand why she wants to distance herself from her family heritage and privilege by challenging stereotypes through her tattoos, raven-black hair and by working as a mechanic.

    2 | A strong, irresistible (anti) hero. Tom Underwood is perhaps the polar opposite of the irresistible, fascinating male main character you would expect in a romantic novel. However, Tom is also a well-rounded character with very interesting layers to his personality: career-focused and trying hard to restore his reputation as a journalist after believing the wrong person; confident enough to put himself out there and chase what seems to be an impossible romance but sensitive and brave enough to question his own decisions and challenge himself to be a better man. Thanks to these two very strong main characters, Bracken makes you buy into the story immediately.

    3 | Emotional tension. At the heart of every romance, emotional conflict keeps the heroine and the hero from being together throughout the story even though they want to be. Again, Bracken did a great job here, creating a tension that’s complex, never dull, believable, and grows from the interaction between the two characters. I must confess that while reading I almost found myself shouting at them to finally stop resisting their feelings and recognise they are made for each other.

    4 | A believable plot. The context in which the emotional journey of our characters develops is perfectly believable. In terms of the social aspect, Maria comes from a noble family so that’s probably hard to relate to as it’s further away from our daily lives, but her rebellious, freedom-seeking spirit is by all mean something we can all understand. Tom comes from a middle class, caring family and has therefore a very specific outlook on life, considering privilege by lineage old-fashioned and anachronistic; if you think about how different they are to begin with, what an amazing journey for Maria and Tom (credit to AH Bracken for her narrative skills)! The backdrop to their journey, the small town of Somerzoy, is no different from any small town anywhere in the country, where everybody knows each other and has its own allegiances and conflicts but a perfectly pleasant place to live. I loved all the secondary characters, especially Maria’s best friend Kitty, always ready to stand by her friend and Maria’s relationship with her sister Annabel, who is acutely aware of how much Maria is suffering because she is “so lost and unable to be the person she badly wanted to be”. While some elements of the plot may be a bit far-fetched, this story is aspirational, fundamentally optimistic and provides some much needed escapism. 

    5 | A happy-ever-after ending. Of course. Maria and Tom do commit to coming together as a couple in the end, as you would expect from this particular genre: happiness is part of the promise of a romance after all!

    If to all of the above you add seamless writing, Bracken’s great ability to create an organic flow of actions, revelations and unexpected twists… you are in for a real treat. 

    About AH Bracken 

    Happily married and living in Buckinghamshire, UK, AH Bracken is an avid reader of contemporary and historical fiction. Her favourite authors include Marian Keyes, Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Lindsey Kelk, CJ Sansom and Philipa Gregory.

    The desire to write finally became a reality in early 2021 when she began work on her first novel, and this enthusiasm also led to the release of ‘In December and Always’, ‘Someone to Cherish You’, and a new novel, ‘Love is the Best Revenge’.

    You can expect smart, strong female characters with a story to tell, narratives that highlight difference, adversity and survival; and charming, gentle love stories based on romance and connection (source: www.ahbracken.com).

    All books by AH Bracken are available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3GJVzoG