This Spring a children’s book was published by author Rachel Lawston, called Finns Garden Friends. The book combines a great children story with some fantastic themes set around nature and animals and the joy they can bring in life. It's a hugely inspiring book that not only tells a story but shows children that nature is everywhere you look.
Nature loving Finn's life has been turned upside down by a move to the city.
But Grandpa has a surprise for him! By taking Finn to his allotment, he learns that nature is right there in the city, as he begins to take care of a hedgehog and befriends a fox.
Rich in detailed wildlife illustration, hedgehog and fox facts have their own dedicated pages.
I loved it!
This is a truly wonderful book for children. The story, which is beautifully told, really resonates with current themes such as protecting and looking after wildlife, as well as exploring and learning more about the outdoors. It’s centred around Finn and the time he spends with his grandad on an allotment where Finn discovers many things about nature and wildlife, including hedgehogs and foxes!
Not only is this a lovely story but the illustrations by Lia Visirin are beautiful. Rachel and Lia's talented work complement each other perfectly! The book is so bright, colourful and intricate, making it completely appealing for younger children.
I loved this book. The story is so engaging, as well as incredibly important. It shows that even if you don’t live in the countryside, there’s still so much nature around us just waiting to be discovered. Finns Garden Friends is definitely a children's book I’d book recommend, be it for home, primary school or a library. Children everywhere will love the story and learn so much from it.
For some it may even become their favourite read!
Learn more about the author and Finns world at https://rachellawston.com/
The Zakynthian Family Series
Since Among the Olive Groves was published I have been asked by many readers, "What happened to the character Athena from Among the Olive Groves? I want to know more about her life."
The last readers saw of Athena was her leaving the island in a boat. Many readers wanted to know more about her life and why she gave Kate up for adoption.
After a lot of thought I agreed to write a follow up, to explain more about her life, which is now being written and called A Night of Thunder. I planned the whole book out and hoped to write approximately 80,000 words. The almost finished first draft is now at 75,000 words.
Unfortunately, I've not only been unwell, which has slowed progress, but the story has turned out to be much larger than I ever intended! So, because of this, there will now be a third and final book in what will now be known as The Zakynthian Family Series.
Book 1 of the Zakynthian Family Series ~ Among the Olive Groves
Book 2 of the Zakynthian Family Series ~ A Night of Thunder
Book 3 of the Zakynthian Family Series ~ Hope Under Blue Skies
We hope that Book 2, A Night of Thunder will be out sometime between October 2021 and Spring 2022, and Book 3, Hope Under Blue Skies sometime between Spring and Autumn 2022.
To follow the progress of the books, you can follow me on my Facebook page or join the Among the Olive Groves group dedicated to the book.
Thanks for your continued support, it means so much.
A Night of Thunder
A Night of Thunder Book Description
After escaping the clutches of the Germans on the Greek island of Zakynthos during World War Two, Richard Edwards finds himself adrift at sea looking after the daughter of a resistance fighter who saved his life. Unexpectedly landing in enemy territory Richard has to deal with threats at every turn as he tries to flee the enemy, protect a child that isn’t his own, and return home to England.
In the dusty bombed ruins of the city of Bristol, in England, Alice Morgan tries her best to carry on with her life as World War Two continues to ravage the country. Not knowing if her fiancé is alive or dead, Alice does what she can to get through each day and survive living a life that she did not choose, nor want and that she isn’t proud of.
The loss of Elena Petrakis, the mother of his missing daughter Athena, haunts Angelos Sarkis daily. His will to survive diminishes as the months pass. Only the love for his remaining daughter Sophia keeps him alive, when all else has been lost.
From the chaos of war torn Bristol and Zakynthos, to the horrors of the Greek mainland plunged into Civil War, A Night of Thunder is a haunting story of finding faith, having trust and living with the fragility of humanity.
Genre: Historical Fiction/triple timeline
Locations: Bristol UK, Mainland Greece, Zakynthos
Follow-up to Among the Olive Groves, book 2 in a 3 book series
Hope Under Blue Skies
Hope Under Blue Skies Book Description
The book description hasn't been confirmed for this book yet, but I can tell you that it follows Athena's life and the story takes readers through lots of great destination in Europe, including Athens, Crete and Zakynthos. We will also meet some old characters from Among the Old Groves as well as some new ones!
Genre: Historical Fiction/dual timeline
Locations: Bristol UK, Europe, Zakynthos
Follow-up to Among the Olive Groves/A Night of Thunder, book 3 in a 3 book series
The last year has been a difficult one for many, due to worldwide events. The reason I've been so quiet is that I've been unwell with long Covid, I won’t go into all the details, as I don’t want to bring up things that are now in the past. I'm now thankfully slowly starting to turn a corner, but I'm not 100% yet. We all need support in life, especially when serious illness hits. That support can come from many places. Family and friends are incredibly important, so are doctors and hospitals. There are also people out there who run small businesses specialising in helping others and I've been lucky to have help from such a business whilst unwell.
Zante Zest is a family owned and run business, based in Greece, specialising in health, well-being, nutrition and physical wellness. Their exercise and health professionals are experienced in real life, fun to work with and dedicated in their fields, and believe that taking care of yourself and your health doesn’t mean you have to live like a monk, you can still have fun in life too.
I owe a big debt of gratitude to Zante Zest. They've been hugely instrumental in getting me back on my feet when I was so unwell. Julie kindly spent time talking with me to understand everything I was going through. I didn’t need a quick fix, I needed something that would help me get well, in a way that I could continue looking after my health for the future. I needed a heath overhaul!
In August 2020 Julie listened patiently, talked though my situation with me and suggested a few things, one of which was juicing. I've tried it before, and even though I enjoyed it, I always found it a bit of a faff, trying to organise and prepare everything, and eventually I’d stop and go back to old habits.
Now, in April 2021, I juice every day. I've done this every day for eight months and I’m really feeling the benefit of it. My system gets a good mix of eight fruit and veg, with a little greek strained yogurt, every day. The mix of fruit and veg I use all help specific things and it’s become my favourite lunch ever! I buy all the contents fresh, and cut them up, put them into sealable plastic containers and freeze straightaway. This means I just have to take it out of the freezer on the day I need it. This also helps with my energy levels which can still be low sometimes.
Zante Zest also helped me understand more about the body, how it works and things to avoid that do more harm to us physically and mentally. I cut out sugar, which has helped so much. I also changed certain foods I was eating, mainly processed foods (not that I ate a lot of them, but they were making me feel very sluggish).
I also realised that I wasn’t drinking enough liquids. Did you know that tea, coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks etc., DON’T count as the 2,000L of water a day that we’re supposed to drink? Julie explained in great detail how the body works and how it survives on water intake and how beneficial it is to the body and certain organs. Looking back I realised that as well as being horrendously dehydrated at the start of my illness, due to the symptoms, I was still drinking at least four large MUGS of tea a day and only about 500ml of water! I cut out tea (I don’t drink coffee or alcohol so they weren’t an issue). I bought myself a 500ml water bottle and a Brita water filter and started drinking water and monitoring how much I was drinking each day on my Fitbit. It’s amazing how much this change has helped me too.
I found that Zante Zest's meditation really helped me with my low moods and the problems I was having with insomnia, gradually the mood settled and the insomnia lessened until it disappeared altogether. Exercise however, was a big issue as I was floor bound for a few months other than being able to get up for the bathroom, food and bed. I felt as though every ounce of energy had been sucked from me. I desperately wanted to join Zante Zest's online Qidong classes but was unable to. I have now got some physical and cognitive rehab which is helping to rebuild my stamina, so hopefully I may be able to finally join in the future!
Life can be really cruel sometimes, we can be thrown situations or periods of time, where we get low, become seriously ill or have life changing things happen to us. Learning how to deal with them and finding support really is the key. I will never be able to thank Julie and Zante Zest enough for all the support they have given me this last year. You have helped me get my life back, and that deserves the biggest thank you possible.
As many of you know I've already published eight books, and I'm working on a few more. As promised here's a breakdown of all published books, and those I will be publishing in the future.
The Zakynthian Family Series
Among the Olive Groves, published in 2014, is the first book of this series, set in wartime Zakynthos, Greece.
I'm currently writing book two, A Night of Thunder and book three An Island called Home, of the series, both of which should be published in 2021/2022.
The Ionian Dreams series
This is a spin off series to Among the Olive Groves. It's NOT a sequel, it picks up the lives of some of the characters, and introduces readers to new characters, creating spin off stories set on Zakynthos.
A Ionian Dream Wedding, a short story, published in 2019, is the first book in this series, set in modern day Zakynthos, Greece. I'm currently planning the other books but don't have a publication date yet.
Historical Fiction stand alone (non-series) books
Wind across the Nile is set in Egypt and was published in 2018
Nabataea is set in Petra, Jordan and was published in 2008, my first book to be published! It's now out of print and no longer available to buy.
Under a Scorching Sun is the new title name for Nabataea which is currently undergoing a re-write/edit. It's hoped that Under a Scorching Sun will be published in 2021/2022.
The Moon Series - Thrillers
Integrate and Temperance are books one and two of The Moon Series, a series of thriller novellas. These books were published in 2013 and 2015.
Book three of the series, Retribution, is currently being written and will hopefully be released in 2021/2022.
Short stories and poetry
I left my heart in Petra, Jordan is a short story written for the Sunlounger competition, that was published in 2019.
The Secrets is a collection of poetry and short stories that was published in 2016.
Zakynthos Flower of the East
And finally, I'm currently in the process of co-writing a comprehensive history book about Zakynthos, with the talented author Louise Inzk, called Zakynthos Flower of the East.
The book is in the last stages of being written before going for editing. It's due for publication in June 2021.
I'll keep you updated as soon as there's more news, but this should help explain what's been published so far and what's to come.
Hopefully everyone has caught up on the news that after hundreds of reader requests I’ve now agreed to write a follow up to Among the Olive Groves. The book will pick up where Athena left the island in the boat with Richard and we will learn all about her life. The book is called A Night of Thunder and will feature some old characters from Among the Olive Groves as well as new ones!
When and where is the book set?
The book starts in WW2 where Among the Olive Groves left off and spans a number of decades right up to the 1980’s. The book is set in a number of different locations including Zakynthos, mainland Greece, a few other Greek islands and Bristol, UK.
Meet the Characters!
Daughter of Elena and Angelos, rescued by Richard.
Zakynthos resident who lived through WW2. Father of Athena.
British airman, crash landed on Zakynthos in WW2. Is given baby Athena to look after.
Fiancée of Richard. Lives in Bristol UK. Works for the war effort in a factory.
Police Constable. Lives in Bristol UK. Friend of Alice’s.
Lives in mainland Greece. Is in the resistance. Becomes an ally of Richard and Athena.
More about the book
The first draft of the book is just over halfway completed, there’s still some research to do so the rest can be written, but so far I’ve visited a number of museums relating to WW2, as well as an old UK airbase that operated during the war. I’ve also been doing lots of reading of history books and watched quite a lot of old war/propaganda videos to get an insight into how things worked, and happened. It’s going really well, I’m enjoying writing about new characters and it’s great discovering what Athena got up to and how life treated her. I’ve been greatly surprised so far! The book description explains a little more and gives readers an idea of the story thats to come!
A Night of Thunder book description
War still rages on the Greek island of Zakynthos and a young, heroic mother is dead. Stranded British airman Richard Hobbs is forced to try and find his way home to Bristol with help from the Greek resistance, but lans go awry and Richard ends up all but abandoned on the Greek mainland, his only companion is three year old Athena Petrakis who he pledged to protect. In Bristol bombs rain down on the city changing its landscape making life difficult and chaotic. Alice Cook anxiously waits for news of her fiancé who’s missing in action. Forced to put her life on hold she occupies her time working for the war effort as air raids continuously disrupt daily life causing chaos to everyone around her. When World War Two finally ends life slowly returns to normal but the conflict has altered everything. Relationships have become strained and fragile and promises that were made at the height of war cannot be broken. From the beautiful landscape of Greece to the damaged homes and streets of Bristol, A Night of Thunder is a story of devotion, hardship and compromise.
There will be more news on a publication date very soon, until then I’m heading back to the keyboard to add a few thousand more words. Thanks for the continued support and wish me luck!
I’m lucky to have so much support as a writer. My readers are amazing and I appreciate every single one of them. My family and friends are wonderful too and always have my back, they understand how much I love writing, and I’m so grateful for their support. One regret I do have, is that the one person I wish could see and support me in all I do, is now no longer here.
My Aunt Gerry was an incredible woman. She had a heart of gold, was funny and worked as a model. I was in complete awe of her as a child. Gerry taught me to cook pasta with tomato sauce (and helped me cover up stains on a plush white carpet, after I spilt it, so that her boyfriend Pete didn’t see them). She snuck me into the cinema to watch films that weren’t of my age limit, meaning that she and Pete would have to sit with their hands over my ears or eyes dependant on what was happening on screen. She even bought me tortoise for my birthday once! She was so much fun, and I loved spending time with her, she was glamorous and lead an incredible life.
But then suddenly one day, she was gone.
I was only eleven years old when Gerry died. She was only twenty-seven years old. The loss was a huge shock, and completely unexepected and quite honestly I didn’t believe she was actually gone. Being so young I was unable to go to the funeral, so for many years I didn’t really understand what had happened. I thought she’d just gone away on one of her trips and hadn’t been able to contact us. I truly thought that she'd walk back though the door one day and everything would be the same as it always was, but it never happened. Gerry never came home.
The loss of my Aunt was the most traumatic event of my life and it affected me deeply. It took decades for me to finally come to terms with what had happened, but even today, it’s a loss that’s still hard to bear, and one that I’ll never quite get over.
I wish Gerry was still here. I miss her greatly., sometimes so much that it hurts and I still can't believe she's no longer here.
I wish she was here though so that I could show her what I’ve achieved, to show her that I did believe in myself, and to show her that I’ve stayed true to myself and done what I wanted to do; write my stories. But sadly, Gerry isn’t here, she’s a mere memory, and I’ll never be able to make her proud, or show her how hard I worked to make it happen. For me, this is the hardest thing about writing. To know that I can’t ever share my joy, hard work and success with her, and I wish I could. I know she would have loved every minute of my writing journey, and would have been so very proud of me and all that I’ve achieved.
I’m also grateful that I do have wonderful memories of my time with Gerry, and I treasure them. Despite her no longer being here with us, I’d like to think that she’s somehow looking down on me from wherever she may now be, giving me a big thumbs up, and pushing me to carry on, and because of that I keep writing and will always continue to do so.
In memory of Geraldine Betts, Aug 1957 to February 1985.
Gone but never forgotten.
January is now fully upon us, the Christmas tree, decorations and tinsel have been packed away for another year, a new year has been welcomed in and ahead of us is another twelve months full of exciting possibilities. We have another spring and summer to look forward to, when the world brightens with flowers, green grass and blue skies. When the sun shines and life starts anew and days lengthen. I do love winter and all it brings, there's still so much to see and do, but I’m also every excited about the year ahead.
I’m excited about all the work I have before me, and the projects I’m currently involved in. If all goes according to plan, I hope to release at least one more short story and another full length novel, A Night of Thunder which is the follow up to Among the Olive Groves, in 2020. I'm really enjoying writing the book and looking forward to releasing it.
I'm also working hard with my co-author Louise on our history book Zakynthos Flower of the East. The book is all about the Greek island of Zakynthos and it's been a lot of fun to write and we've really enjoyed the research process too. If you want to know more about the book then you can find more information on our Facebook Group.
I hope you enjoy January, it can be a hard month to get through after all the fun and festivities of December, but spring isn't far away. Have a great year, I hope that 2020 makes all your wishes and dreams come true!
Yesterday I joined Bobby Gee on Zakynthos' English speaking radio station, Island FM to talk about an exciting announcement relating to my books. For this who missed it, click the link below where you can hear more about Among the Olive Groves, my follow-up book A Night of Thunder which I'm currently writing, and the exciting announcement itself!
To hear the interview, click 'Listen now!' below, which will take you to my soundcloud account and press play!
***Spoilers ahead for those who may not have read Among the Olive Groves yet!***
Late last year, after many requests from readers, I made the decision to write a follow-up to Among the Olive Groves.
When I originally wrote Among the Olive Groves it was never meant to be part of a series, but so many readers desperately want to know what happened to the character Athena that I made the decision to write her story and show readers what actually happened to her after she left Zakynthos as a young child.
So, I’m now researching and writing the highly anticipated follow-up to Among the Olive Groves which will be called A Night of Thunder. The book is already planned and I've written about 20,000 so far, but there’s still a lot of research and writing to do.
A Night of Thunder will be set in a number of different locations including Bristol (UK), the island of Zakynthos and mainland Greece. Readers will not only learn more about Athena, but also the brave British Airman Richard, as well as some exciting new characters. Angelos Sarkis will also feature as his story isn’t yet finished and there's lots more that he has to say.
Readers will join the story of A Night of Thunder from the moment that the British Airman Richard leaves Zakynthos with Athena, escaping from the Germans. Readers will travel through Athena’s life, learning where she went, who she met and what she did. This will include the remainder of World War two, the Greek Civil war and then life post wars.
I’m really enjoying writing this book and the research it involves, and it’s nice to revisit some of my favourite characters. The publication date has not yet been set, but more news will be added to my Facebook group Among the Olive Groves - Book one of the Zakynthian Family Series when I have it.
Welcome to my blog, My occasional ramblings will take you on a journey through many subjects, from my books, to history, as well as what it's like to be a writer and my love of travelling! Enjoy the updates!