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Dreams and nightmares - the tales of a home in the sun are as many as there are expats. Author Tom Barry fictionalises and entertains with suspense and romance stories set amongst expats.

Conservative Coronado goes 50 Shades Crazy
02 March 2015

Quintessentially conservative Coronado, the sleepy hollow Island across the bay from San Diego and the setting for the sensual romantic thriller When the Siren Cries, has just seen unprecedented scenes outside its only movie theatre, currently showing the film adaptation of the blockbuster erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Idyllic Coronado, home to the illustrious Navy Seals but otherwise average age 93, witnessed long lines outside the theatre, with excited and excitable silver haired and cane carrying movie fans in line. So unprecedented was the scene that local TV, radio and press rushed along to Orange Avenue to capture the moment. Speculation was rife from visiting tourists and passing motorists, seeing the lines and the banner billboard for Fifty Shades, that the genteel City of Coronado is indeed the Peyton Place many long suspected. Has Coronado really gone Fifty Shades crazy?

The reality is a little less headline grabbing, but equally intriguing. Coronado residents were indeed in line to celebrate a moment of movie history, a film of romance and heartbreak. But that moment was not for a steamy movie with the most unlikely plot in the history of romantic fiction. The Coronadoans had gathered to celebrate and honour one of their own, Lisa Bruce, producer of the Oscar nominated movie The Theory of Everything. This film is one of the most enthralling and moving movies you’re likely to see this year. Based on the life of ALS (“The Lou Gehrig disease”) sufferer and Einstein of our time, Stephen Hawking, and an adaptation of the memoir of Hawking’s first wife, the movie is more about love and heartbreak than science and history. It tracks the ups and downs of Hawking and his wife, from when she met him in 1963 – shortly before he was diagnosed with ALS – through their marriage with three children, until their eventual breakup . Despite the ultimate failure of their union, this is an inspiring story, largely of a love that conquers all and of triumph over adversity. (Hawking, now aged 72, and given two years to live when diagnosed, is one of the longest recorded survivors of ALS.)

The Theory of Everything is unlikely to match Fifty Shades in box office receipts, but it will live in the memory long after a silly tale of a ridiculous billionaire and his besotted doormat has been forgotten. And I for one, was rooting for the enormously talented Lisa Bruce and her team at this year's Oscar ceremony. Special congratulations to Britain's Eddie Redmayne on his best actor awards at the Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe events.

(The ALS Association and its Greater San Diego Chapter – 858 271 5547 -has a mission to improve the lives of ALS suffers and work towards a cure. The ALS is a non-profit organisation that carries tax benefits for donors.)

Thanks for listening. For similar posts and for giveaway copies of When the Siren Cries visit my website

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Making sense of Syria: Cui bono /”to whose benefit?”
07 September 2013



a Bashar_al-Assad_(cropped)Cui bono is a Latin phrase that is used either to suggest a hidden motive or to indicate that the party responsible for something may not be who it appears at first to be. It can be a useful adage in a modern world where governments and their compliant corporate media seek to control how we think, by spinning the news we read and hear.

International politics, we know, is awash with hypocrisy and double standards; politicians choose which atrocities to condemn and which to ignore, which dictators to demonise, and which to quietly support. Take Tony Blair and Hilary Clinton as a case in point; both condemned Saddam Hussein as a ‘monster’, yet count as a personal friend Hosni Mubarak, who tortured and killed fellow Egyptians over a 30 year despotic dictatorship, while plundering an impoverished country to line his own pockets to an estimated $74 billion. Dwell on that number for a second. How can a man born into poverty, whose only work has been as a government employee, amass a fortune  that King Midas himself could only dream about? And how could that question never occur to Blair or to Clinton as they frolicked with Mubarak on private holidays as his guest at one of his many palaces?

We are, it seems, about to attack Syria, to deliver death and destruction on people in a far off country who have done us no harm. A country which, to all intents and purposes, is defenceless against Western airpower. Whoever it is doing the killing, and certainly those ordering it, will be doing it while at no risk to their own life and limb. What can possibly justify this naked aggression? Oh yes, I forgot, the use of chemical weapons. Syria has crossed a ‘red line’ and the West ‘has a responsibility’ to act.


Napalm attack on Trang Pang village, 1972

Putting aside that the USA is the only country in the history of the world to have used both nuclear and chemical weapons against civilian populations, what is really going on here?  Cui Bono can perhaps help us understand.

The Syrian government is winning, or certainly not losing, a war against an enemy financed, trained, armed and directed by the USA and its allies. The “Free Syrian Army’ is nothing less than a US proxy, part of a long term US strategic goal of ‘regime change’ in Syria. Obama had made it clear that he would intervene militarily if the Syrian government crosses the chemical ‘red line’. And hey presto, just when Assad has the enemy on the run, what does he do? He drops chemical bombs. But not on the rebels, on unarmed civilians that are no threat to him. Well, I ask you, who in their right mind would believe that Assad, formerly an  eye-surgeon in St Mary’s hospital London, would do something so irrational, something that served not his own interests, but those of his enemies?  And therein is our surest guide to who was responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria – Cui Bono !

if you liked this post check out more at, and help yourself to a free romantic suspense novel:)

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Best selling romantic suspense, signed by author, free today
04 September 2013


Free Today

Free Today

As a huge thank you to all my blog post fans, I’m delighted to make my sensual romantic suspense novel, When the Siren Calls, all 360 pages, absolutely free today. Just click HERE to grab your free copy now. With over 100 customer reviews on Amazon and nearly 300 on Goodreads, it’s an offer that is too good to miss out on. And every free copy will be signed, and will come with a personalised  dedication from me, to you :)

Here’s a reminder about the story:

When wealthy but neglected Isobel is invited to a luxury Tuscan retreat owned by the enigmatic Jay, she imagines a life of excitement outside her stagnant marriage. She abandons herself in a passionate affair, but is soon trapped in a web of deception and betrayal as her desperate lover fights for survival. Hopelessly bound under Jay’s spell, Isobel must discover if her lover is her saviour, or her nemesis. 

If you wish to have your copy signed and dedicated with your name, simply request it HERE.

There really is no catch, no competition to enter, no request to leave a review. Simply grab your copy today, and enjoy a sensual and moving read :) :) :)

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The great Goldcar rental ripoff
27 August 2013


a goldcarAre you thinking of using the Goldcar rental company? Have you seen a great deal with them on the web? I’m wondering if the phrases ‘you get what you pay for’ or ‘let the buyer beware’ were ever more apt?

Goldcar is a disgrace. Their modus operandi is to advertise below the market price to attract business, then to intimidate customers into paying more when they collect the car. I was at Palma, Mallorca, airport several times over the week-end, saw the huge Goldcar queues when Hertz and all the other desks were queue-free, and I experienced the bullying tactics of the Goldcar sales staff first hand, as well as listening to the complaints of others.

What specifically prompted this post was three distressed young girls who paid €75 for to hire a Fiesta for three days. After paying the rip-off €80 for €40of  fuel ('bring the car back empty!'), they were bullied with misinformation into paying a further €160 for 'bodywork damage insurance'. (Paint and bodywork is covered in the basic insurance, but they were told it wasn't.) So, ignoring the fuel ripoff, they had to find €160 at the desk that wasn't in their budget. No wonder they were upset.

 It doesn’t matter how long the Goldcard customer line is (a wait of over one hour at Palma airport this weekend), the sales staff still insisted on going through their full script of fear inducing spiel. They just don’t care about you as a customer.

In thirty years as an international businessman, hiring cars from all sorts of companies all over the world, I’ve been subject to a whole raft of sales tricks to sell on additional services. That’s life, these companies have a job to do, and the sales desk staff have a commission to earn. But Goldcar simply goes beyond the pale with outright dishonesty and bullying tactics.

My advice, avoid Goldcar like you would a snake oil salesman.

If you like this blog, then check out my website, and grab a free book.

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Ferguson to Barcelona: World Exclusive
21 July 2013


Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier LeagueSir Alex Ferguson is to return to football management with FC Barcelona, in a development that is set to shock world football. The supposedly dramatic stepping down of cancer sufferer Tito Vilanova was in fact discussed with the FC Barcelona board in June. In talks which included major sponsor the Qatar Foundation, Sir Alex agreed to a director of football role at the Nou Camp, on the proviso that his son, Darren Ferguson, currently manager of newly relegated Peterboro FC, was given day to day responsibility for team affairs.

Despite the relegation of Peterboro FC, Darren Ferguson remains well regarded in european football circles, in particular for his ability to secure loan deals for rising stars at Old Trafford. Suggestions that family connections influenced management decisions at the world’s most famous club were hotly denied by CEO Ed Woodward, currently involved in confidential discussions with FC Barcelona for the transfer of ex-Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas. But today, bookmaker Paddy Power suspended betting on Fabregas joining Man Utd, citing irregular betting patterns in the Catalan capital, and in Cheshire, UK, home to the Fergusons and many insiders at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex, currently on a family holiday with Darren in Mallorca, Spain, was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for Peterboro FC confirmed that compensation of £2m had been agreed with UK law firm Clifford Chance, acting for an unknown client.

David Beckham, former star at Man Utd and at FC Barcelona arch rivals Real Madrid, is at present believed to be involved in discussions on a new worldwide sponsorship deal involving “brand Beckham". Asked if Beckham’s latest venture involved the Qatar Foundation, a spokesperson for Beckham dismissed the story. “This is the silly season in the world of football. Any hack desperate for a headline can claim anything, and some fool will print it. Just because it’s made a headline, doesn’t make it true.”

Roll on the start of the footy season!


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Is 99c (70p) the sweet spot for eBooks?
12 July 2013

 What can you get for 99c? Or about 70p at todays’s exchange rate? Not much, is the answer. It won’t buy you a soda or a coffee or a small Mac, and it won’t buy you a copy of the Big Issue (surely the worst magazine ever published) from a homeless street vendor.

When the Siren Calls 99c in July

When the Siren Calls 99c in July

But 99c is enough to grab top quality fiction that will entertain us for 12 hours or so, and that we can enjoy time and again for the rest of our life. How good a deal is that?  For about the price of a trashy tabloid newspaper, we can enjoy the magic  of story, we can be transported off  to times, places and events where we can lose ourselves in tales about heroes we can identify with, who triumph against the odds and who change and grow in the process.  It’s why one of our earliest needs and fondest memories is captured in the question, “please Dad/Mum, tell me a story.”

Think for a second what goes into a good book. In my case, if you will allow me to include my books in that category, is often years of creative effort: an idea is nurtured, a plot is developed, a manuscript is crafted, a draft is painstakingly edited and reviewed, until finally, after perhaps two years of focused work, it is considered ready for release, ready for the court of public opinion, where some will love it, some will hate it but, hopefully, every reader will appreciate the passion and dedication of the author.

Or at least that is what should happen ! Unfortunately, it’s not always the case, and well intended authors, tempted by the new possibilities of the digital world, by the facility to crash out 70,000 words on a laptop in a race to the finish line, and then to upload those words to the ethernet in minutes, can damage the whole brand of the ebook.

A sensual thriller for 99c

A sensual thriller for 99c

Okay, I agree it’s not the end of the world if we invest 99c in a book that we then find we don’t like. But it is irritating if spelling, grammatical and stylistic failings – the errors that can only exist because of a lack of professional editing – get in the way of our enjoyment of the story. But the good news is we need never have that bad experience,   we just need to source our ebooks via reputable channels where people who are passionate about books ensure every book they feature is reviewed and evaluated by a professional that they trust. And here I’m going to mention two particularly super sources, BookBub and Awesome Indies.

BookBub is a commercial operation. BookBub likes books at 99c because at that price thousands of readers, often tens of thousands of readers, will buy them. (And some authors have sold over a million ebooks at 99c.) Authors pay to have their book featured on the BookBub site, but I know more authors that have had their book submission turned down by BookBub than I know who have had their book accepted. There are many reasons for this, including quality reasons. A submission needs, amongst other things, to have a track record of positive reviews. So if you want to browse a great selection of books, get yourself over to BookBub now and grab a bargain at 99c.

Despite their best efforts, the folks at BookBub cannot read every book that is submitted to them. If they did that, they wouldn’t be able to offer the service to authors at the price they do (the service is free to readers). So, like the rest of us, BookBub sometimes fall victim to schill reviews on Amazon (it is estimated that around 30% of all reviews on Amazon are “fake”). Which brings me to the not-for-profit Awesome Indies, my absolute top recommendation for books where the quality is guaranteed, where you won’t find any rogue books that have slipped through the net. And this is because Awesome Indies has a professional reviewer read every book before they feature it. So, while Awesome Indies cannot offer the  depth and breadth of selection that BookBub does, every book they feature ticks the quality box, guaranteed.

So, is 99c the sweet spot for ebooks? If you’re an aspiring author, I believe so. It’s the price at which you have a realistic possibility of selling tens of thousands of books. If you’re an avid reader, 99c is also a smart price to buy. 99c offers quality and choice without the drawbacks you often find with ‘free’ books;  you can of course pay more for your ebooks, but unless it’s from an author you follow or for some other specific reason, why would you do that?

Awesome Indies Approved

Awesome Indies Approved

If you like to browse the web for eBooks, keep your eye out for the Awesome Indies AIA logo, it’s your guarantee of  ”quality independent fiction for the discerning reader.” So click onto Awesome Indies now and replenish your library with the best fiction that is out there.


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Best selling books for free – discover the top 50 sources here
06 July 2013


This post first appeared on my personal website,

a stealAre you an avid reader who’d love to grab best selling books for free?  Are you an up and coming author that would like to promote your book, either free or discounted? Then you’ve landed in the right place. This week I’m running a series of posts that highlight the sites to go to and, by default, the sites to avoid. I’ll be covering over 5o of the best sites, the ones where you can trust the content, as well as the price. And it’s wise to be selective, because there’s a great selection of reputable sites offering super book deals.  But as with everywhere else on the web, there’s a flood of dross and, frankly, charlatans who are more interested in capturing your personal data and plundering your wallet than they are in connecting readers with authors.

When the Siren Calls

When the Siren Calls

I’m going to start today with Net Galley, because my post earlier this year reviewing that site caused a bit of a stir, and not just from readers and authors but from the wider eco-system that lives off the back of aspiring authors. If you know about Net Galley already and would like an in depth review, warts and all, then go to my earlier post. For our purposes here all you need to know if you are a reader is that Net Galley is a great source to grab early review copies of books in every genre, from fiction and non-fiction, from independent publishers to the biggest gorillas on the block like Macmillan and Random House, including from their best selling authors. If you are an author all you need to know is that Net Galley is a great place to solicit genuinely independent reviews. It helped When the Siren Calls get over 100 reviews on Amazon and over 200 ratings onGoodreads in six months. (But authors, as Net Galley will be dipping into your wallet, do read my full review before you decide whether the site is for you.)

Tomorrow, god willing, I’m going to share another 5 sites, including my #1 site for top quality books from the independent sector, where you’ll find some of the freshest and most original writing out there today (and I’m going to let you into the secret of why the independent sector is the best source of quality fiction in the market-place.) And I will be looking at one of the sites that offers readers and writers an alternative to Net Galley, but without some of the drawbacks I discussed in my Net Galley review. So be sure to check back here to discover more of the top sources for free and discounted books. And in the meantime, now’s the time to grab a copy ofWhen the Siren Calls at just 99 cents (70p).  But be quick, because like the steamy love affair in the book, something this good can’t last for long :)


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If not now, then when? How to keep your bucket list short
29 June 2013


a 51QFAA1W36L._SY445_“If not now, then when?” This question was posted to my website,, by Steve Lebel, as a response to my blog on “Our 5 biggest deathbed regrets.” Steve says that forcing himself to answer this question is a marvellous device to keep his bucket list short. And I can see his point. I’ve been a Spanish speaker of sorts for over 30 years, going back to the days when I had a Spanish girlfriend in-between marriages. I’ve always promised myself I’d invest the time to achieve fluency, and by Jove at times I’ve tried. I’ve got more Spanish language CD’s than you can shake a paella at. So I’ve decided it is now or never, and this winter I’m taking myself off, alone, on one of those total immersion courses where you eat, drink and sleep Spanish, living in a homestay with a family that, hopefully, can’t speak a word of English other than “fiesta”.

Steve’s question reminds me that there is a difference between intention and desire, and as we know the road to hell is paved with both. There is no point, like Billy Liar in the classic novel by Keith Waterhouse, of dreaming about what we are going to do, when x,y and z falls into place. Billy spends his life in fantasies and dreams about being a comic writer in the big city.  When opportunity to live out the dream finally comes,  when a beautiful girl is inviting Billy to live out his dream and join her on the train to London, he bottles out. All his good intentions were indeed a pipe dream. The protagonist we know is destined to live and die in the small industrial working class town somewhere in Yorkshire into which he was born (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

When the Siren Calls

When the Siren Calls

The Billy Liar novel ended with what could have been Billy’s life changing incident. Most novels begin with a life changing incident. The protagonist does something or something happens to them, after which we and they know their life can never be the same again. In romance it’s typically the event that first brings the boy and the girl together. In my romantic suspense novel, When the Siren Calls, it’s when wealthy but neglected Isobel is saved from a fate worse than death at the hands of a Marrakech mob by a handsome but enigmatic stranger. Isobel duly flees to Tuscany in pursuit of passion, risking everything to follow her heart.

In When the Siren Calls the life changing incident happens to Isobel, rather than she causes it to happen. But in reality she was a willing victim, she was waiting for the right person to come into her life, the person that would give her the courage to live a life true to herself, not the one her workaholic husband and fickle friends expect.

The problem with real life is that we can’t rely on life changing incidents to come along at the right time and propel us to pursue some quest, to follow our dream. If it’s ever going to happen, we need to make it happen, and as Steve asks, ‘if not now, then when?”  The problem, of course, is fear. It is fear that holds us back. But as Christina Carson posted to this site, also in response to the blog on deathbed regrets: “It is always worth noting that life is unbelievably short, and to let fear stop you in any way is to die in that moment, even if you’re still standing upright for another 40 years.”

I’m thinking I’ve taken this stream of consciousness as far as I can. I’d like to thank Steve and Christina, and everyone else who takes the time to post comments to the site. As you see, I not only read them, but dwell on them. If you have a technique, like Steve’s, to keep your bucket list short, I’d love for you to share it here in the comments section.

(To grab your copy of When the Siren Calls at a special discounted price of 99c (you save 90% on the regular price), go to 

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Can love conquer all?
17 May 2013


When the Siren Calls

When the Siren Calls

In my romantic suspense novel When the Siren Calls, a woman with high ideals falls in love with a man with low morals. Wealthy but neglected Isobel, feeling trapped in a stagnant marriage, believes that suave and sophisticated Jay can bring the excitement and passion that she yearns for. She pursues him to Tuscany and abandons herself in a passionate affair, as the controlling Jay encourages conservative Isobel to continually push beyond her sexual boundaries.

Isobel does not try to change Jay; she recognises that he has been a lothario in the past, but seems to rely on the idea that by giving herself completely to Jay, he will respond in kind. And isn’t it generally true that we get back in life what we give out, that what we radiate we attract?

Isobel cannot help her feelings for Jay. Although the reader is privy to his dark side in his relationship with his mistress Lucy, when Jay is with Isobel he is warm, attentive, and generous. And, also, he is an accomplished lover in the bedroom. A heady cocktail for a woman starved of emotional fulfilment.

a divorceIt is easy to dismiss Isobel as naive. Yet something like 50% of us, those of us who have been divorced, presumably stood at the altar (or whatever) very much in love and at the time believed that love could conquer all. I say this because in all likelihood we tied the knot, made a commitment to be bound until death, despite plenty of evidence that ours was not a match made in heaven. Maybe we believed our parents, that marriages were relationships like any other that needed to be nourished and worked on if they were to endure. But despite all the work and all the nourishing, many more marriages fail than succeed, because the divorce rate only measures those broken partnerships that have been legally dissolved.

Does this prove that love cannot conquer all?  I’m afraid so.  But we must not despair; this is why god and authors have given us romance stories with dashing heroes and determined damsels,  where a beauty can come to love a beast, and a handsome millionaire can fall for a street hooker.  So we can all live in hope that one day we too will fall in love with someone who truly deserves us :)

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Why we want luxury goods and Grey Goose vodka
08 May 2013


a diorCars and handbags are both much of a muchness. Anyone who spends more than $10,000 on a car is interested in something other than mobility and comfort. Anyone who spends more than $100 on a handbag wants something other than quality and functionality.

Yet many of us clamour to spend over ten times, in some cases over one hundred times, what we need to for essentially the same product. Is a badge or a designer label really worth that premium?

The answer is yes, otherwise we wouldn’t spend the extra. We are, after all, rationale human beings. And luxury brands are as recession proof as canned pet food;  Bentley and Dior have been around over 100 years; come famine or flood we still want what we don’t need.

a greyI’ve given up fighting the corner for the dependable Smirnoff when arguing  with my daughter that all Vodkas are the same. When I’m paying, she still insists on premium Grey Goose, right before she drowns it in slimline tonic and throws in a slice of lime. “For pity’s sake,” I used to say, “the damn thing is colourless, odourless and tasteless, it’s simply impossible to tell the difference.”  That’s just before I ask the waiter to run through what draft lagers he has, because as any guy will tell you, no two beers are the same. And she says, “listen schmuck, Grey Goose comes from France (not Russia) and is made from wheat (not potatoes), and apart from that I’ll drink what I frigging want, so make it a double.” In the words of the man in black, the great Johnny Cash, you gotta know when to hold, when to fold, and when to walk away.

When the Siren Calls

When the Siren Calls

In When the Siren Calls, a satire of the lifestyle of the jet-set, a tale in which infidelity is ubiquitous, suave marketer Jay crosses swords with his hard nosed business partner Andy on why we want luxury:

“Andy, that is a very fancy watch you are wearing. A Hublex, I believe. The Timemaster model if I’m not mistaken. How much did you pay for that?”

“It was an anniversary present from Kate,” said Andy, narrowing his gaze.

“Well, just so you know, last time I looked that particular model cost the same as a small family car. That is for a few ounces of pressed steel, weighing no more than one of the wheel nuts on your Skoda.  And, by the way, the car comes with a clock too.”

Andy did not welcome the digression, but felt obliged to defend his wife’s generosity. “This watch has one of the finest Swiss movements. It is a masterpiece of craftsmanship.”

“You read that on the box I suppose?” said Jay. “The fact is you are wearing that watch because it makes you feel good, not because it keeps good time. That is intangible value. That is why we have freshly squeezed orange juice, why we have Egyptian cotton sheets, and why we have brochures made with parchment paper, not toilet paper. Because we are selling a luxury product, just like your Hublex. Surely you can see that?”

And Jay, amoral alley cat that he is, has it about right. Despite what the glitzy advertising would have us believe, we want luxury products  because of how they make us feel, not how they look or what they do.

If you’d like more of Jay’s pithy insights while you’re being entertained  by his bedroom and boardroom antics, then now’s the time to sample When the Siren Calls, it’s one click away on Amazon  :)


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