Friday, 16 February 2018

Theatre Review: Blood Brothers (Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Wednesday 14 February)

It's been almost five years since my previous review of Blood Brothers. This show is the one I have seen the most times and it never disappoints. This this time I introduced my three children & boyfriend to it as well, so it was interesting to hear their feedback too.

I was so excited when I looked at the cast list before we set off and discovered we were seeing Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson as Mickey and Eddie, and once again they were fantastic. The way Sean Jones transforms himself from a sparkly-eyed, enthusiastic, excited 7 year old up through the teenage years until he's under pressure later on (no spoilers here!) is incredible.

In our show, Mrs Johnstone was played by Sarah Jane Buckley, Mrs Lyons was played by Amy-Jane Ollies and Linda by Alison Crawford. Unless I am mistaken the latter 2 were in these roles on top of their usual roles, which is always one of the things that amazes me about actors in shows like this - they are so versatile! And these 3 ladies were fantastic - if I hadn't seen the sign and heard the announcement I would have thought they were all in their "usual" roles. Sarah Jane Buckley was outstanding as Mrs J and I would happily pay to see her play that role again.

I also have to mention Daniel Taylor who pays Sammy so perfectly! He is fantastic in this role.

I was slightly worried about my youngest son (aged 10) being too young to see Blood Brothers but he was captivated by the show as were all five of us. My middle son asked, "Is the guy who played Eddie the same as on our CD?" which of course he is... as I have the 1995 London cast recording. I'm not sure anyone else could compare with Mark Hutchinson singing 'I'm Not Saying A Word'.

Another wonderful viewing of Blood Brothers. Catch this show on tour if you can, via this link.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Gingersnap Books 2017 Book Giveaway

 Hi there

It's (almost) the season of goodwill, and I have decided to do a giveaway, partly as I am grateful to have worked on so many amazing books in recent years, and partly to simply share the joy of reading.

The prize will be the choice of a book (paperback or Kindle format) from a selection of books that I've worked on during 2017.

I have included books from a range of genres in this list so there should be something to suit everyone.

Please click the links in the book titles to see full details on Amazon.

Foxden Hotel by Madalyn Morgan
Historical fiction.

The Million Pound Drop by Martin Davies

The Woman Who Knew Everything by Debbie Viggiano
Contemporary fiction / humour.

Threads of Awen by Awen Thornber
Short stories & Poetry

The Cabal by Catriona King
Crime / Police procedural

A Secret Visitor to Saltmarsh Quay by Ian Wilfred 
Contemporary fiction

Edited 8 December: This giveaway is now closed to new entries.

If you'd like to follow my work account on Twitter, here is a link: Gingersnap Books on Twitter.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Theatre Review: School of Rock at the New London Theatre 2 September 2017 matinee

It was an impromptu decision to see School of Rock yesterday afternoon, and having secured seats in row D of the stalls I really didn't know what I was expecting to think of it. I've always loved musicals and am willing to try most of them once so with a very open mind we joined a very mixed audience of all ages.

During the opening number I was thinking, 'this is going to be a good show ...but what will the kids be like?' As the build up to the story progressed it was still going strong with awkward relationships, a stuffy school principal and a very annoying girlfriend... but I was still thinking, 'what will the kids be like??'.

Finally we made it to the classroom and Stephen Leask as lead Dewey Finn introduced himself to the students and in doing so introduced the students to the audience and by the time we'd heard 'You're in the Band' it was pretty definite that these kids were something else. To have so much talent and be able to act, sing and play instruments alongside experienced professional adult actors ... they are a sight to see. I didn't expect for one minute how much I would be willing these characters on... so convincing they were in the roles. I especially didn't imagine that I would feel so damn emotional while listening to 'If Only You Would Listen' that I welled up. Both times.

After the show I noticed Stephen Leask had tweeted about how it was the team's first show. I couldn't believe it. These amazing actors looked like they had been on stage since they were born. I sent a tweet in reply to effectively say that too. What happened next was a surprise and has sent some of the performers in this show right up there to the top of my favourites list. Firstly Stephen Leask replied to my tweet with 'The kids in this show are incredible! I am constantly surprised and astounded by them". Several other cast members also liked my tweet. It was ALL about the kids. As a parent myself, I loved that reaction. But, I have to say, the adults in this show are also incredible, and Stephen Leask himself deserves a medal for being on stage nearly the entire time the show was on and acting /singing / doing all sorts of acrobatics and basically owning the stage. If that energy could be bottled, you could make a fortune!

All in all I would recommend this show to anyone who likes musicals, or rock music, or comedy, or seeing an incredibly talented cast (of all ages) perform a show that includes some very catchy music indeed. I definitely want to see it again.

I was happy to see School of Rock is now booking until 2019, so you have plenty of time to go and see it.

On a side note - one to watch: Cameron Sharp who took the stage over when No Vacancy were performing. Definitely a star in the making. (Someone needs to put on The Fix and cast him as Cal Chandler. Just thinking aloud...)

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Author Interview: John Ault

I am pleased to welcome John Ault to my blog today, to celebrate the launch of his new book Thirty Days in February. I have bought my own copy of this book and haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I think you will agree it has a fantastic cover! Anyway, enough from me, let's get on with the interview.

Hello, John, and welcome to my blog.
Please tell us about your new book. 

Well the book involves a young MI6 agent who becomes embroiled in an international crisis which takes him initially to Singapore and British Hong Kong. The book is set in the post-Cold War period in the mid-1990s when international tensions are no longer concerned with the Soviet Union but still involve nuclear proliferation and Britain’s response to it.

I am intrigued to know whether you found the process of writing your first fiction book different to your previous non-fiction works.

Yes, very different. When you are writing academically your arguments are based in evidence and the research you have conducted. When writing fiction I found it a much more personal process. Actually writing about emotions, people and events is much more intense really.

Did you draw on personal experiences when you are creating your characters and plot lines?

John Ault
Yes, absolutely. I have visited all the countries that are visited by the lead character in the book. His travels are my travels so they should be realistic. Like most writers I have also based the characters on people I have met or know well. I suspect people who know me will see a lot of me in the main character – if a slightly younger version!

What next? Could you give us a little summary of any other books in progress?

I am pondering whether the lead character could appear in another book. Certainly I have ideas for another, probably a prequel, and am drafting ideas for how it might work in a similar travel diary format that this book is written in.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

Well one review, by popular author Iain King, said it better than I could: ‘The book is loaded with wonderful portraits of exotic locations, throughout the Eastern hemisphere and faraway oceans – as just a travelogue it would make for a compelling read. But the author has weaved in geopolitics and history, giving this book that little bit extra. Compelling.’ Sorry, that’s not one sentence!

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Write your book – write it the way you like. However, once you have written it ask close friends and family to read it before you publish it. Ask them to be honest, not kind, and really find out from them what they liked and didn’t like.

It’s much better to hear what people you trust think before you unleash your book on the world and can’t change it.

Thank you for your answers, John, and also for joining me here on Ramblings of a Rusty Writer.

John has kindly said he will do a giveaway of one paperback copy of his book. This is a worldwide giveaway! Please see the Rafflecopter below to enter.

Alternatively you can buy a copy of the book yourself from, or your local Amazon site.

You can find John online in the following places:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Theatre Review: The Showstoppers, Oxford Playhouse 23 January 2016

Image copyright The Showstoppers

On Friday 23 January 2016 I saw The Showstoppers at the Playhouse in Oxford with a good friend of mine.

The Showstopper musical works by having a group of improvisation experts on stage. The first character we meet is a "writer" who introduces the show and how it works, and gets involved throughout the show by stopping everything that is happening on stage and injecting new ideas and challenges for the actors. The whole show is based on audience ideas which are then voted on by the audience. In the first half this was done by the well-tested hands in the air method, and in the second half, ideas were gathered by Tweeting suggestions during the interval.

Image copyright The Showstoppers
I am a massive fan of musicals and although I have been to the theatre hundreds of times I have never seen anything like this before. I have also never grinned my way through an entire show before, at the sheer brilliance of the whole thing. Styles were taken from several different musicals and a couple of my all time favourites were chosen... during the songs done in the style of Blood Brothers and Les Mis, I was literally crying with laughter at some of the details the improvisers added... the performers and musicians were so talented and quick to develop the show as it went along. It was unbelievable to watch to be honest.

How they harmonise, how they bounce ideas off each other instantly and know when to take over singing, how the musicians can tell where the song is going to go, is a mystery. I can only imagine it takes a lot of skill and hours of practice to work like this so effectively, but this is a show I would recommend to anyone who loves musicals or improv, not that you will see the same show I saw, Stiff!!!, as the show is different every time, and the Showstopper Squad is huge so no doubt there would be different performers involved as well.

In case you're wondering, Stiff!!! was a musical comedy set in an undertakers! I wonder what they will do next time!

If you want to enjoy this incredible experience yourself, head over to the Showstoppers website and you can find out where they are appearing in the upcoming shows tab. I am 100% definitely going to try and get to another show by this amazingly talented team.

Follow The Showstoppers on Twitter.
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Find out more on YouTube

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Times They Are A-Changing

Hi there

I just wanted to write a post today, mostly in a fit of excitement as I have had some new covers for my novels designed by Design For Writers, and they have made my month! The new covers are already on the Kindle versions of my books, but the paperback versions will take me more time and I need to schedule that into my diary in the next month or so.

My life is quite different now to when I first started this blog. I am now a divorced single parent of three, and have sole responsibility for my mortgage. That seems to have led me to become quite focused on work. I have spent a lot of time in the past couple of years searching for jobs which are term time only and fit into school hours. Those jobs are not only few and far between, but also very much in demand, so I kept hitting a brick wall.

I then decided to ramp up my freelance work if I could, and now I am happy to say I am busier than I have ever been, and am doing the most varied work I have ever done which is right up my street. I manage my own workload, arrange my own diary, and am still at home for the children all the time they are in the house. I finally feel like I have found my niche!! It really does feel like that.

To date, I have done kindle formatting, layout for print on demand books, written copy for newsletters, press releases and websites, editing, proofreading and social media marketing. I have worked with lots of lovely people and am meeting more every day. It is wonderful to feel like I can look after my family and my bills at the same time.

And so, I thought it was about time I wrote a post, made up of me simply waffling on like I used to do! I enjoy writing my book reviews but sometimes it is nice to just "catch up"!

I hope you are well and I will leave you with an image of my new covers! Aren't they gorgeous!

Visit the Design for Writers webpage

Monday, 24 November 2014

Call for Book Bloggers

Over the past couple of years I have been slowly building my freelance business, mostly via word of mouth. I work for authors and small companies, helping them with an incredibly wide variety of tasks from editing to formatting, social media networking and marketing. Honestly, the list goes on and on. It has been a wonderful feeling being asked if I can help people, and most of the time being able to.

I have a number of author clients who have expressed an interest in help finding book reviews. I do have a list of book bloggers I have spoken to before *, but if any book bloggers read this and would like to be included on my list of people to contact, please do get in touch via my contact page, tell me your blog address, email address, and what genres you like reading and I'll add your details to my database.

I will also include people who would be willing to review on Amazon, Goodreads or Librarything if anyone is interested (or any other sites I have yet to discover).

I hope you're well and thanks, as always, for reading.

* If you're a blogger I have previously spoken to, do feel free to drop me a note to express an interest as well.