Review: “Written In Water (Exits And Entrances)” by Lesley Hayes

Lesley Hayes is one of my favourite authors whom I admire for her wide literary range and her gift for sharp psychological observation.

“Written in Water” is the first in a new series of books written by her about three young women and their choices and opportunities in the 1960s.

This combines two of my favourite genres: coming-of-age novels and – to some extent one has to call it – historical fiction.
Some famous themes of the 1960ies infiltrate the lives of our protagonists in very different ways, teaching me a lot about how both, dominant and fragile these themes were:

Free love – which doesn’t always bring freedom, spiritual awakening – which often is just a cover up for something else  and
legalisation of homosexuality – which didn’t guarantee a care free life, to name a few.

As always with Hayes, this is a rich read with heavy undertones of sexual identity, domestic abuse and love triangles. It reads like an addictive saga of friendship and of the turbulent times.

Hayes has chosen three excellent character types coming from very different backgrounds and having very different themes running through their lives; the women have the kind of friendship that exists against the odds and therefor has a much higher chance of surviving as if it were based on the obvious or specific.
For the reader these great differences mean a feast of fresh perspectives on each of the plot threads: parallels, juxtaposition and contradictions in the respective lives, plus the company of three very likeable and relatable characters.
I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Official blurb:

The swinging sixties – a time of peace, love, violence and revolution. In 1962, as the Cold War erupts in sudden crisis over Cuba, Cordelia, Beatrice and Rosalind are fourteen. Dubbed by their English teacher the three witches from Macbeth, they have already recognised one another as outsiders, with no idea that their alliance will turn out to be a lifelong friendship.

Their personalities and choices lead them along very different paths, but they never lose the strong thread of their connection. Through the passions, disappointments, losses and triumphs of their lives the trilogy of novels follows them through the years, reflecting the many changes that have taken place for women over six decades. Exits and Entrances chronicles the eventful era between 1962 and 1972 as they grow from girls into women.

Lesley Hayes lives in Oxford, where she gains much of the inspiration for her writing. She had numerous short stories and one novel published prior to training as a psychotherapist, and for two years had a weekly slot on BBC Radio Oxford reading her short stories. Having surrendered to the compelling urge to write fiction again, she has now published seven novels: The Drowned Phoenician Sailor, A Field Beyond Time, Round Robin, Dangerous People, The Other Twin, The Girl He Left Behind, and most recently, Exits and Entrances, which is the first book in a trilogy entitled Written in Water. All are available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. She has also published six collections of short stories on Kindle: Staying Alive, Oxford Marmalade, The Oscar Dossier, Without a Safety Net, and Not Like Other People – the last two collections are available both on Kindle and in paperback in a collated version titled Through a Glass Darkly. You can find out more about her on her website: and also catch up with her random musings on her blog:


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas #Mysteries and #Satire – Anita Dawes, Christoph Fischer, Sue Hampton, Allan Hudson and Ian Hutson

Thanks Sally for including my latest in this selection of books for Christmas.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to another of the Christmas book promotions and the next book is for those in your close circle who enjoy paranormal thrillers. Anita Dawes and Secrets.

About Secrets

and some are about someone who is already dead.
A mother must find the truth before the secrets destroy her family…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Aug 29, 2018Lizzie Chantree rated it 5 stars

I have had this book on my kindle for a while, but just found some spare time to pick it up. I read it over a day and it’s a really thought provoking book. The relationships between the child, Danny, and his invisible ‘friend’, kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. The characters are really well written and although I have read other books by this author, they’ve all been completely different…

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Reblog: DG Kaye’s review of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” 

Today I’m reblogging DG Kaye’s review of a book that’s been on my list for some time. Thanks to my dear friend DG Kaye for the original post.

Here is the original blogpost: Sunday Book Review – The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Holocaust

“This week’s Sunday Book Review, I’m sharing my review of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a gripping telling of a true survivor story written by Heather Morris, told by Lale Sokalov of his imprisonment in Auschwitz and what he did to survive. This is a compelling story of the human spirit with a determination to survive despite all odds of doing so.”





The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.”—Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.



My 5 Star Review:


Love Among the Horrors.

A gripping horror story of the atrocities of the holocaust where death was impending for every victim imprisoned in Auschwitz, and only the tiniest of miracles kept them alive.

Lale Sokolav was taken to Auschwitz and by the grace of God because he could speak several languages, he was afforded the heinous job of tattooing the incoming truck loads of new prisoners. This job afforded Lale a few luxuries such as, extra rations of food – an extra helping of insidious looking broth and an extra slice of stale bread, and the chance to move freely within the camp.

Lale’s unfettered resolve to survive the horrors he endured and witnessed was remarkable. But the love he held for Gita, one of the women he freshly tattooed upon her arrival, became the driving force which gave him reason to continue living.

Lale takes us with him into the horror with his stories about how he managed to keep many alive by a plan he hatched with father and son coworkers he met while building a new crematorium. These coworkers were not prisoners but people who lived nearby the camp who worked there during early construction of the camp where more manpower was needed. Gita was assigned to work in a building where the belongings of new prisoners were taken and searched for hidden valuables. Lale made a deal with the two Polish workers and a group of Gita’s friends. The girls would smuggle out money and jewels for Lale to collect, which he used in trade with the Poles who would bring to work food and medicine. Lale distributed these items to prisoners he knew and were most desperately in need of and used some of the jewels to blackmail Kapos for favors. Kapos were not SS, but usually Jews themselves who were lucky to have been granted those positions, mainly for roll call of prisoners of barracks they were assigned to.

The author, Morris, evokes our compassion and empathy by bringing the love story of Gita and Lale in the horrific tale of merely trying to survive another day of hunger, disease and beatings, and the mere threat of wondering if they could survive another tomorrow.

No spoilers here, but I’m sure if you’re reading this review, you are wondering if Lale was ever caught by the SS for smuggling. But you will have to read this book to find out. Through reading this book, it’s no secret that Lale survives, but how he survived, escaped and found Gita again will keep you reading till the very last word and beyond. I say beyond because at the end of the book, Morris discusses her own personal interview with Lale and his son, which prompted her to write this book. For me, this book was unputdownable! A moving testament for the human spirit and for the determination to remain alive.


“Jehan de Brie: The Good Shepherd” – Guest post by Jean Gill

The wonderful writer Jean Gill has a new story / book out.

Nici’s Christmas Tale:1157 Aquitaine

A standalone short story in The Troubadours Quartet

and as a huge fan of her Troubadour Series I asked her to write a blog post on the occasion.

Here is the post:

Jehan de Brie: The Good Shepherd

I meet many fascinating people while travelling in the medieval world through books, songs and poetry but nobody has entertained me more than Jehan de Brie, a 14th century French shepherd. His guide to a shepherd’s work, ‘Le Bon Berger,’ tells us the story of his life and misadventures, as well as offering vocational advice.

Jehan’s early career did not go smoothly. At eight, ‘when children still have nits, start losing their baby teeth and have not developed any sense’, Jehan looked after the geese, protecting them against magpies, cats, crows and kites. He did this for a year and then was promoted to piglets. Each day, he took them to pasture but they were ‘ill-disciplined’ and ran away from him on the way home. While the unfortunate pig-owner was still looking for his stock, Jehan thought it best that he change job (or so his version goes).

Next, he looked after cart-horses, for drovers and waggoners, encouraging them to run faster. He kept this up for three months until one trod on his right foot. Once more, he decided he was mistaken in his choice of animal. So, when his foot had recovered, he switched to cows.

He spent two years looking after ten milking cows for until one of his charges, ‘inebriated from bad grass or desperate for a bull’, knocked him over with her horns. No more cows.

Jehan’s tally of years is as approximate as the methods shepherds used for counting sheep, and he tells us that (after five years looking after different animals) he was eleven when he was given twenty-four ‘blessed lambs’ who didn’t hurt him or knock him over. He had found his metier.

From then on, he learned the ‘state, science and practice of the art of shepherding, keeping sheep and woolly beasts.’ He fed, sheared, powdered, anointed and bled them according to custom. He protected them against wolves and other predators, with the help of his dog.

The Annunciation to the Shepherds; Boucicaut Master and Workshop (French, active about 1390 – 1430); Paris, France; about 1415 – 1420; Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment; Leaf: 20.5 x 14.8 cm (8 1/16 x 5 13/16 in.); Ms. 22, fol. 67

A shepherd had one mastiff to protect the flocks and the training methods used on Nici were those recommended by Jehan, unlikely to achieve very much with a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, in my judgement. However, the instinct of these dogs to protect those (sheep or people) they’ve bonded with, is so strong that they will usually do their work regardless of training.

In Song Hereafter: 1154 in Hispania and the Isles of Albion, I mention Pembroke herding-dogs, better known today as Pembrokeshire corgis. The breed did indeed exist in the 12th century and they are a herding breed, so my theory is that some farmers discovered and made use of the skills of such dogs, when herding cattle or sheep. Maybe this began in Pembroke, a small county in Wales – who knows! So far, I haven’t found any corroboration and collies don’t appear as a breed until several centuries later. Instead of dogs herding sheep, there were children. Wannabe shepherds and shepherdesses would run beside the flock, even stay out in the fields.

A shepherd also had to count his flock. At the start of the book, Jehan tells us that ‘Anyone frightened of losing his place can put a stone or other mark on the table of contents’. This instruction shows two of the ways that shepherds kept ‘score’ (with its early meaning of ‘twenty’). Some put tiny stones in their pockets and others kept a tally by notching (scoring) a stick, often in fives. English shepherds had local rhyming number systems from one to twenty. ‘Yan tan tethera’ is the start of one such sheep-counting system in the north of England.

Another aspect of Jehan’s treatise is the sacred nature of shepherding and he quotes Bible scripture again and again, proud of being a shepherd. The status of shepherding in medieval Christendom was that of an honourable vocation. It is no coincidence that pastor (shepherd) came to mean a Christian minister, in charge of his metaphorical flock.

The notion of ‘a good shepherd’ had spiritual and metaphorical resonance, recognized by peasant and lord alike. Equally, a ‘bad shepherd’ was worse than any shoddy worker. Sheep-stealing was a heinous crime, not just because it was theft but because it was an attack on a shepherd.

Christ and a Monk and Two Shepherds; Unknown; Thérouanne ?, France (formerly Flanders); about 1270; Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment; Leaf: 19.1 × 14.3 cm (7 1/2 × 5 5/8 in.); Ms. Ludwig XV 3, fol. 46v

Were shepherds all men? No indeed. Jehan de Brie’s treatise is written for bergers et bergères, ‘shepherds and shepherdesses’ so he acknowledges his female counterparts, who would learn the work in the same way. Wannabe shepherds and shepherdesses would run beside the flock, even stay out in the fields. There was no shortage of people for the most menial of jobs and the smallest reward.

However practical a real shepherdess might have been, the idealization of such a life is exemplified by Queen Marie-Anoinette’s game of dress-up at Le Petit Trianon. There is a tradition of pastoral literature in classical times, revived from Shakespeare’s era onwards and reaching a frenzy of rural idylls in the 18th and 19th century. Dressing up as a shepherdess, goatherd or milkmaid, frolicking with rustic men while Pan plays his pipes, is portrayed in art and literature as nostalgic and sensual, ‘back to nature’, with little understanding of what these jobs entail.

For my story I needed to know what a medieval shepherd really does each day, and Jehan de Brie made me feel I was right there beside him, as he noted the seasons and the maladies they brought. I now know not to muck out stables in May as that’s when ‘the earth opens its entrails, bringing up superfluous humours that induce fever.’ I also learned that sheep poo makes a (human) health drink though I have no intention of testing my juicer with such a concoction. From time-honoured ways of predicting the weather to the proper ways to purge yourself before castrating lambs, Jehan gives a detailed guide.

Throughout his work, he stresses that shepherding is an honourable vocation. In nativity plays all over modern Christendom, the shepherds are much-loved characters and yet few of us know what the job entailed. Thanks to Jehan de Brie I am a little wiser. As he says at the start of his work, quoting St John, ‘You must enter a sheepfold by the door and he who enters otherwise is a thief. So let us go in by the door.’ Which is where my story starts, in a sheepfold on Christmas Eve, with a blizzard blowing.


Nici’s Christmas Tale:1157 Aquitaine

A standalone short story in The Troubadours Quartet

Reference: ‘Jehan de Brie – le Bon Berger : le gouvernement main en gardant les brebis (Traduit en français moderne par Michel Clévenot, éditions Stock)

Photo credits

Pastou among the sheep – Jean Gill

Master of the Dresden Prayer Book or workshop (Flemish, active about 1480 – 1515)
The Annunciation to the Shepherds, about 1480–1485 ?, Tempera colors and gold on parchment
Leaf: 20.5 × 14.8 cm (8 1/16 × 5 13/16 in.), Ms. 23, fol. 90v
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Christ and a Monk and Two Shepherds, about 1270, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 19.1 × 14.3 cm (7 1/2 × 5 5/8 in.), Ms. Ludwig XV 3, fol. 46v
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

About Me

Jean Gill is known for her award-winning historical fiction The Troubadours Quartet. She’s a Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France with two big scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750, a beehive named Endeavour and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Her twenty-one books are varied, including poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions




The Troubadours Page

Youtube channel






“The Legacy of the Sky Pendant” by Jonathan Crayford

The Legacy of the Sky PendantToday I’m delighted to present (my first post Llandeilo Festival of Senses) book review and what would be more appropriate than to indulge in the book of a Llandeilo born author.

“The Legacy of the Sky Pendant” by Jonathan Crayford is the intriguing offering by a promising new voice in fantasy writing.
The book is the first in a series and consists of two parts. In the first Marcus defends his home town and country against malignant invaders with the help of the Sky Pendant’s energy. As an inexperienced yet resourceful young man he brings new ideas to wit to the struggle and soon earns the respect of king and country.

In the second episode the pendant is passed down to a generation 98 years later. In this story another young man also meets a challenge, although a fairly different one: winning a race against a tough competitor during a festival.

The story lines and characters are classic fantasy and adventure fare with great suspense, battle scenes and the marvellous fighting spirit of those determined to win and prove themselves.

The book benefits from the change from one protagonist in the first part to the second in the next – making the mysterious pendant the quiet but never forgotten focal point.
The stories are united by plenty of parallels and common themes: pride, ambition and striving to be the best we can.

Marcus and Cruise as youthful fighters show how inexperience can be overcome by audacity and focus while innovation and fresh ideas can build on what has been achieved in the past. Much thought has gone into portraying the manifold and powerful themes within this novel, making it a very enjoyable and rewarding, rich and refreshing read.

I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more of Jonathan Crayford in the future and I look forward to see the story and his writing developing. Well done to a marvellous debut.

You can get the book on Amazon:

Connect with Jonathan:

Offical Blurb:
As Marcus stands patiently at his post at the castle wall, ready to defend his home village of Soulwind, he fumbles a strange pendant fastened securely around his neck and is completely oblivious to its enhancing effects, and also of its origin.

Who are these strangers who have suddenly turned up in the peaceful kingdom of Termelanor? And what do they want?

The Author

Jonathan Crayford is an exciting new author based in the heart of Wales.
Jonathan has been interested in writing from a very young age.
As a first language Welsh speaker, writing stories in English proved challenging at first however Jonathan’s passion for storytelling continued through
to secondary school, where his favourite subject was English literature.
Upon entering the working world Jonathan lost touch with his passion for writing as he experienced many different Jobs, from Butchery to Architecture, and he even took some time out to travel in Europe and Asia.
Jonathan’s love of writing re kindled some time in his mid twenties.
Jonathan now lives in a small peaceful village tucked away in picturesque South West Wales. He writes during his spare time between his day job working for the local emergency services.
Jonathan Crayford is currently working on a sequel to ‘The Legacy of the Sky Pendant’.

2018 Tribute to Veterans

Honoring veterans of all wars

This year you have the rare opportunity to obtain three historic war novels FREE.  Just click the links below and enjoy reading and learning about the  our veterans and the sacrifices that helped to maintain our freedoms.

Kicker (The Forgotten Front)   A WWII thriller about a family’s hardships on the home front and the Army airmen who flew unarmed missions over Japanese territory in China, Burma and India.  This ebook is available free November 9, 10 and 11 of 2018.

The Dandelion Clock  A wish to end all wishes. The war to end all wars. This WWI novel is available free November 10, 11 and 12 of 2018.

Touching the Wire  Auschwitz:1944 A Jewish nurse steps from a cattle wagon into the heart of a young doctor, but can he save her? 70yrs later, his granddaughter tries to keep the promise he made.  This WWII novel is available free…

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The Dying Minutes of World War One

A very poignant post about the last minutes of World War One


The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 brought peace, at last, to the war-ravaged fields of Flanders and other blood-soaked theatres of carnage. To
those three elevens would be added another – 11,000 men were killed or wounded on
that last day before the guns finally stopped firing.

It is a cruel irony that men who had fervently prayed they would make it home to
their loved ones would fall as the final hours and minutes ticked down to the

In frontline aid stations, in hospitals and in convalescence facilities far beyond the
sound of gunfire, soldiers would die as the minutes ticked down to peace. Historian
Tom Burnell estimates that 29 Irishmen lost their lives on that final day… most of
them to pneumonia, disease or by succumbing to wounds received days earlier.

However, four of them were killed in action that last…

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November 9th – another memorable day in German history

There are always particularly memorable days in each nation’s history. In Germany one of those days that is engraved in my mind is November 9th. No other day had so many hugely significant events linked to the date. It always make me feel serious and overly conscious of the fragility of life and politics:

In 1918 the day brought the end of the monarchies in 1918:

Kaiser Wilhelm II was dethroned in the November Revolution by his chancellor Max von Baden, who published the news before the emperor had actually abdicated.
The same day Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the German republic from a window of the Reichstag, keen to proclaim the republic before the communists did.
He just beat Karl Liebknecht, who proclaimed a “Free Socialist Republic” from a balcony of the Berliner Stadtschloss. 

In 1922 Albert Einstein was named the winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”

In 1923, the failed Beer Hall Putsch, from 8 to 9 November, marks an early emergence and provisional downfall of the Nazi Party as an important player on Germany’s political landscape. Without sufficient preparation Hitler simply declared himself leader in Munich, Bavaria. Hitler’s march through Munich was stopped by Bavarian police who opened fire. Sixteen nationalists and four policemen were killed. During the Nazi rule 9 November was a national holiday in Germany in memory of the Nazis who died in the beer hall Putsch.

In 1938, in what is today known in German as Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”), from 9 to 10 November, synagogues and Jewish property were burned and destroyed on a large scale, and more than four hundred Jews were killed or driven to suicide. The event demonstrated that the antisemitic stance of the Nazi regime was not so ‘moderate’ as it had appeared partially in earlier years. After 10 November, about 30,000 Jews were arrested; many of them later died in concentration camps.

In 1989 the fall of the Berlin wall ended German separation and started a series of events that ultimately led to German reunification and the Fall of Communism in eastern Europe. November 9 was considered for the date for German Unity Day, but as it was also the anniversary of Kristallnacht, this date was considered inappropriate as a national holiday. The date of the formal reunification of Germany, 3 October 1990, therefore, was chosen as the date for this German national holiday instead, to replace 17 June, the celebration of the uprising of 1953 in East Germany.

Llandovery writers group launches “Turnings of the Years” Anthology

An eclectic collection of short stories and tales from Wales exploring the human condition, humorous tales, short stories with a twist and stories in time. All profits from sales of ‘The Turnings of the Years’ are going to Llandovery Youth and Community Centre. ‘The Turnings of the Years’ is a compendium of thirty-three classic tales from more than twenty different authors, some established names, others just starting their literary adventures.
How to obtain copies
and the Amazon e-book:
BUT:  if people buy off the web then less money comes back to the Centre as these guys take their cut. All the profit does if you sell direct.
The book retails for £9 and just over half of this will go to the centre in Llandovery. So if we sell 200 copies then they get £1000. Jill, the manager, is very happy.
Price: For resale, copies can be bought at £7.
To purchase these you can EITHER:
a) come to Llandovery and get them from the Community Centre on Broad Street in working hours (M-F, 10-5), paying the manager Jill Tatman
b) order by post but you have to add £2 per copy p+p.
How to order if you order by post:
either use PayPal or BACS bank transfer:
1. PayPal: to  Paypal account Then send an email with details of what you’ve ordered and paid, and your address.
2. Bank transfer:
Account holder A J Gray
Sort Code 40-36-05
Account no.51010085
Then, again, send an email to me with details of what you’ve ordered and paid, and your address.
Celebrate! Wednesday, December 5, 7pm: a celebratory meal with a seasonal spirit in The Bear, Market Square, Llandovery.

Who Shot Tony Blair? The Novel

A very entertaining story, previously serialised on the author’s blog, highly recommended if you like satire and witty humour.

Who Shot Tony Blair?

Now available on Kindle and coming soon on paperback!


Not the political thriller we wanted, but the political thriller we deserve



In a post-Brexit, pre-dystopian Britain, the traditional political system has collapsed and Tony Blair is back in Number 10. Only this time, he is tied to a chair in the kitchen under the watchful eye of the accidental Prime Minister’s mother.

Following several years of instability, Britain is more divided than ever. The country has devolved into a ragtag assembly of self-governing provinces, each with their own unique and particular arrangements. 

Elected to the position of Prime Minister of East Anglia by lottery (considered the only true method of democracy by some drunk Cambridge scholars), Lucy Wastell comes to power with the intention of reuniting her beloved country, establishing Cambridge as the new capital city and giving her chums all the top jobs. Which…

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