Viva Espana

Today I host fellow Crooked Cat author Isabella May, whose romantic comedy Costa del Churros has just been published.

Welcome Isabella, tell us about your new book!

Muchas gracias for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my brand new novel with Crooked Cat Books! COSTA DEL CHURROS was launched on September 19th and is another romantic comedy which fuses all things foodie, travel and spirituality. I’m keeping my fingers (and paws!) crossed that it’ll have as good a reception as its predecessors…

Why write about Spain?

My first two books, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar centred much of their activity around the quirky and mystical town of Glastonbury, UK. But in actual fact I live in Spain nowadays and much as I relished the opportunity to write about the place where I spent my childhood through to late twenties, it was high time for a change of scene – as well as to prove to myself that I am not a One Trick Pony. Or should that be Cat?

Is Costa del Churros based on a fictional or real part of Spain?

Yes, Costa del Churros refers to the Costa del Sol, here in the gigantic province of Andalusia, where I live. I have traveled all over the country, but nowhere seems to make, eat or embrace churros (friend donut strips, often eaten dipped in a thick, velvety chocolate sauce and/or sprinkled liberally with sugar) with the aplomb of the people in this region. The churros play a central role throughout the book, used as a code word that brings four – very different – women together for flamenco lessons with their highly exuberant teacher, Carmen.

Here’s the blurb:

The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly fall on the plain…

Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.

Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town’s flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?

One thing’s for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.

costa del churros.png

Are these four women based on people you know?

Not per se!
But Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina are definitely a beautiful fusion of some of the kaleidoscopically colourful characters I have met here over the past seven years. I wanted to paint a truthful picture of expat life in Spain (and quite possibly this will extend to other areas of The Mediterranean too). It’s all too easy to assume that a life in the sun is all soaking up its rays, sand, sea and sangria, but in actual fact, we take ourselves wherever we go! There’s absolutely no running away from your problems when you are home from home, be they romantic, financial, self-esteem based, or all of the above. Often, as soon as the novelty of the new lifestyle wears off, those issues are only exacerbated…
I thought it would make for an interesting (and comical) read to throw four women from four completely different backgrounds together, to add a little magic (a la Carmen) and to watch the fireworks – from a very safe distance.

Tell us a bit about Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera…

Well, she was a joy to write.
And I think all of us could do with a Carmen in our lives. Not only is she a talented flamenco teacher, but she has watched the way Franco’s repression of the female has gnawed away at her mother, and at the lives of countless women around her. So Carmen’s mission is one of empowerment. And she’s particularly passionate about encouraging women to have their cake and eat it. Truly, I’d love for nothing more than to click my fingers and magic her up every time I witness a female friend or family member declare in a café/restaurant/gelateria ‘Oh! I really shouldn’t indulge… I’ll start the diet again next week!’
For Carmen is the antidote to any and all of that prescribed female behaviour, an advocate for positive body image on beaches and sun-loungers the length of the coast. She’s a breath of fresh air injecting a much-needed confidence boost to all four of the main characters in the story.
If your tummy has started to rumble… here’s that all important Universal Amazon buying link:

Thanks for coming along, Isabella, and hope your book is a big success! 

Isabella May

You can find out about Isabella May’s other books, and follow her quirky cake and cocktail posts at these places:

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks
Facebook –
Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.
Cake, cocktail, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s ‘rules’.
Costa del Churros is her third novel.

Filling in the gaps …

Today I’m delighted to welcome back fellow Crooked Cat author Sue Barnard, who last visited this blog in 2016.  Sue has an exciting new book out ….

Welcome, Sue.  Tell us about your new novel, Heathcliff.  Hmmm, I’m sure I’ve heard that name before …

Hi Tim, and thanks for inviting me back. I think most people have heard of Heathcliff, even if they haven’t read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights or seen one or more of the many TV or film adaptations. Heathcliff has featured in a Kate Bush song, a Monty Python comedy sketch, and goodness knows what else besides. And he’s inspired no end of spin-off stories – including my own latest offering. One of literature’s greatest mysteries is what happened to Heathcliff during the three years when he disappeared from the original story, and my new novel suggests a possible answer to that question. In addition, there is another mystery about Heathcliff himself, which I have also attempted to solve.

Is there any significance in the release date?

Yes. The book was released on 30th July 2018, which was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Brontë. I also found out on the day itself that by a remarkable coincidence, it was also the 60th birthday of Kate Bush, whose haunting 1978 song introduced Heathcliff to a whole new generation, and who more recently contributed to a new art installation to mark the Emily Brontë bicentenary.

Heathcliff front cover

What’s next?  Do you have any further plans to fill gaps in the fictional world of famous books?

Not exactly “famous”, but my current writing project is a spin-off from one of my own books. In my second novel, Nice Girls Don’t, a loose end was unintentionally left dangling. It didn’t make any significant difference to the outcome, but I realised afterwards that it left open the possibility of a follow-up. This new book is part-prequel, part-sequel to Nice Girls Don’t, and focuses particularly on one of the characters who barely steps out of the shadows in the original story.

Meanwhile, I keep chipping away at my ongoing Shakespeare-themed poetry project. Don’t stay in specially waiting for that to be finished, though.

What else is new in your life since your last visit here two years ago?

Quite a lot. My fourth book was published last year. Never on Saturday is a time-slip romance novella with a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal. It’s set partly in medieval France and partly in present-day North Wales/Anglesey, and is based on an old French legend. Unfortunately I can’t say here which legend it is, as that would give too much away!

One of my highlights of 2018 was being invited to take part in a Heathcliff-themed event at the prestigious Bradford Literature Festival, sharing a platform with the Brontë scholar Emma Butcher and the acclaimed novelists Louise Doughty and Michael Stewart. Tremendous fun.

I’ve also become involved in an exciting new publishing venture, Ocelot Press. My debut novel The Ghostly Father (originally published by Crooked Cat Books in 2014) should be re-released through Ocelot during the next couple of months.

You’re also a poet and fiendish quiz question-setter.  Are there any examples you’d like to share with the readers?

Here’s one which covers both – a poem which is also a puzzle. It shouldn’t be too difficult to solve:

My first is in sheep but not in goat;

my second’s in ship but never in boat.

My third is in pudding and also in pie;

my fourth is in earth but never in sky.

My whole is a word, oft used as a curse,

which sums up for ever my efforts at verse.

Hmm, if that’s what I think it is, I feel you’re being unduly modest! 

Finally, what question would you have liked me to ask that I didn’t?

Which book would you say has had the biggest impact on your life?

And what is the answer?

Facebook.  I keep in touch with relatives overseas, I’ve reconnected with old friends, I’ve made dozens of new ones, and I even found my publisher on there. Not to mention connecting with my readers. It’s now very hard to imagine life without it.

Many thanks for those answers, Sue – full of interest, as ever.  Best wishes for the success of Heathcliff!


About Sue

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014. Since then she has produced four more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015), Never on Saturday (2017) and Heathcliff (a Wuthering Heights spin-off story about Heathcliff’s missing years, published on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë).

Sue now lives in Cheshire with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (@AuthorSusanB), Amazon, or follow her blog here.

Other Links:

G+   Twitter   Instagram   Goodreads  RNA

Space Rage

I’m thrilled to bits to announce that I’ve won one of the National Association of Writers’ Groups 2018 competitions.  It was for a short sci-fi or fantasy story, aimed at teenagers.  In all honesty, I didn’t consciously write it for teenagers (I’m not sure how to do that) but it seems to have done the trick!  Anyway, here’s the story – it’s pretty much what it says on the tin.


Space Rage

Captain Pelant opened an airtight door and ushered Ambassador Spole into the room beyond.

“This is the bridge, Ambassador. It is rather compact, as you see – the vessel is designed to be operated by one person; there is barely space for two. This is a freighter: not an ideal vehicle for a diplomatic mission, but the only one that was available, I’m afraid. Perhaps it would have been better to postpone the meeting with Governor Akhan until our own ship is serviceable again.”

The Ambassador shook her head. Her long robe swished around her as she did so.

“With all due respect, Captain, technical issues are your area of responsibility; diplomacy is mine. Akhan is famous for his short temper. He has travelled a long way for this meeting. Were we to abandon it, he would take offence, causing serious damage to our chances of securing a trade agreement with Kalin. You have done well to charter a replacement vessel at short notice. It is fully serviceable, I take it?”

“Oh, yes, Ambassador. The ship is only three years old, and in excellent condition.”

“And is it equipped with communications equipment, including a Protocol Machine? My Kalinese is not what it used to be.”

“Indeed. Here is the microphone into which you will speak, when the time comes. The audio feed from the Governor’s ship will come through these speakers. There is no video, I’m afraid. However, the Protocol Machine will project a simultaneous translation of the incoming speech onto this screen. Any words of uncertain translation will be flagged with question marks. Alternatively, the audio feed itself can be translated.”

“Let’s stick with the text translation,” said the Ambassador. “I’ll get an idea of the tone of the Governor’s voice from the untranslated feed – and I should understand the odd word here or there.”

“As you wish, Ambassador.”

The journey to the meeting point was uneventful. The Ambassador had just risen from her bunk when Pelant informed her that they had entered orbit around the planet chosen for the rendezvous. Sure enough, as they rounded the gas giant’s great bulk, a large ship came into view.

“The sensors identify it as the Kalinese cruiser A-Mahart, Ambassador, as expected. We are a couple of hours early, but so are they. They will be expecting a diplomatic yacht, not a chartered freighter. We need to declare ourselves. Shall I hail them?”

“I’ll do that myself, if you don’t mind.”

Spole leaned towards the microphone.

“To the cruiser A-Mahart. I am Ambassador Zeman Spole of the Tirezian Federation, on board the chartered merchant vessel Emporium. On behalf of the systems of the Federation, I offer sincere greetings to the esteemed Governor Akhan and the people of the Kalin Republic. I humbly ask permission to come on board, in anticipation of an amicable and productive meeting.”

She sat back and waited. Nothing happened. Puzzled, she leaned forward again and repeated the message. Again, nothing. Only after another minute had passed did a voice come through the bridge speakers and text begin to appear on the screen.

Unidentified freighter. This is the cruiser A-Mahart of the Kalin Republic. Please identify yourself and leave this orbit immediately. We are expecting an important rendezvous with another vessel.

Even more puzzled, Spole leaned forward again.

A-Mahart. We are the vessel you are expecting. It has been necessary to charter a ship owing to a fault with our diplomatic yacht. But I am Ambassador Spole, here to meet Governor Akhan.”

I repeat. Identify yourself and leave orbit.

“I don’t understand. This is Ambassador Spole. Why are you not acknowledging my messages?”

A different, louder and more agitated voice now came through the speakers. The screen of the Protocol Machine was suddenly filled with text.

This is Governor Akhan of Kalin. I am expecting an extremely important meeting with the Ambassador of the Tirezian Federation. I have no business with you. I do not require supplies, nor do I wish to buy or sell anything. Is that clear? Now ?copulate? off.

“I am Ambassador Spole. Why do you not acknowledge?”

What part of ‘go away’ do you ?anuses? not understand? Get out out of this ?copulating? orbit, you ?excrement-for-brains? ?copulators-with-mothers? or I’ll turn my guns on you and fill you so full of ?copulating? holes they’ll be able to sell you as ?copulating? cheese.

Aghast, Spole turned to the Captain. “What can we do?”

“It seems the communication equipment is malfunctioning, Ambassador. The A-Mahart is not receiving our messages, and strange words are appearing on the translation screen. They are about to fire on us. We must comply with their demand and leave orbit, immediately.”

“Then all is lost! My mission has failed before it has even begun. The chances of securing an agreement have slipped through our fingers, all because of a malfunctioning machine!”

Pelant thought for a moment. “I have an idea. These ships have a button that transmits an emergency message, if they are damaged or have casualties who need to be transferred to another ship. Perhaps that will work even if the main comms don’t. Shall I give it a try?” The Ambassador nodded.

After a few seconds of silence, the first, quieter voice spoke again.

Unidentified freighter. I have received a distress message from you. You do not appear damaged. Do you have injured personnel on board? Spole sighed with relief.

Now the louder voice took over. This had better not be ?cattle excrement? If there are no injured people on that vessel right now, there ?copulating? will be by the time I’ve finished with you. Is that ?copulating? clear?

The quieter voice resumed. Freighter: you have permission to dock, for the purposes of transferring injured personnel only. Approach slowly. Any suspicious actions will be met with force.

Captain Pelant slowed the Emporium’s speed down to a crawl as the cruiser loomed larger and larger in front of them.    

“I don’t know how to engage the automatic docking mechanism, said Pelant. I’ll have to do it manually. Left a little, right a little. Forward a little. This is really hard. I’m not used to the controls. Left a little… Oh no! ….


The Emporium drifted away from the larger ship. The speakers sprang into life, as did the Protocol Machine screen.

?Untranslatable? You useless ?sexually attracted to farm animals? ?self-molesters? How dare you dent my ship. Try that again and I’ll blow your ?excremental? ?buttocks? into the next ?copulating? universe.

The quieter voice took over. Freighter, do not, repeat do not attempt docking again. We are assessing damage – suggest you do the same. Then we will engage automatic docking from this ship.

“Oh dear. This isn’t going well.” said Spole. “I’ll try and speak to them one more time. Perhaps the comms will finally work now we’re closer.”

“Governor Akhan, I am Ambassador Spole of the Tirezian …”

“Umm, Ambassador. I’ve just noticed. There is a switch here you need to press to turn the microphone on. Didn’t you realise? That’s why they haven’t been receiving our messages.”

Spole pressed the switch and cleared her throat.

“I am Ambassador Zeman Spole of the Tirezian Federation, on board the chartered merchant vessel Emporium. On behalf of the Federation, I offer sincere greetings to the esteemed Governor Akhan and the people of the Kalin Republic. I humbly ask permission to come on board, in anticipation of an amicable and productive meeting.”


Suddenly, the speakers went completely silent. Spole thought for a moment. She was angry now. Akhan was even worse than she had been warned. An aggressive brute of a man. She wanted to take him down a peg or two. But her whole career, and the prosperity of the Tirezian Federation itself, was riding on this meeting. She realised what she had to do. She took a deep breath and pressed the microphone button.

“Governor Akhan. I apologise for the computer fault which, until it was rectified a few seconds ago, has prevented us from sending or receiving messages. This same fault, regrettably, affected our manoeuvring systems, resulting in the unfortunate collision – for which, again, I apologise profusely.

The speakers remained silent. What kind of man are you, Akhan, wondered Spole. How are you going to deal with this situation? At last, the loud voice spoke again, but in a markedly calmer tone than before. Text once more rolled down the screen of the Protocol Machine.

Esteemed Ambassador Spole. I too wish to convey my heartfelt fraternal greetings to you and the people of the Tirezian Federation. I am sorry to hear of your problems, and sorry too that you were unable to receive our messages of welcome. I am delighted to welcome you once again, and to extend to you a warm invitation to visit my humble ship. Like you, I look forward to an amicable and productive meeting. Now, if you are ready, my crew will engage automatic docking so that we may begin without further delay.