Boro Books 3: The Disappeared by Amy Lord

We’re back with another Boro books post and we’re super excited about this one! We know, we know, we’re super excited about them all, but what can we say? We love books, we love Boro, it’s a win-win all round! And this one is pretty special – not only do we know Amy from Ten Penny Dreams from when she joined us on our Instameet, but there’s a way for you to be part of this Boro book, yep, YOU! Intrigued much? Read on to find out more! 

The first thing we’re going to do is let Amy introduce herself to you all and tell you about her book, The Disappeared. When we can’t contain our excitement levels, we’ll pop some comments in which will probably be accompanied by lots of exclamation marks, because that’s just how we roll. Over to you, Amy. 

Amy Lord

My story is a little different to some authors: my debut novel will hopefully be released next year, by the crowdfunding publisher Unbound. But first I’ve got to raise enough money to make that happen, by encouraging potential readers to back my campaign [that would be you, dear blog readers…]

Most people have been surprised to learn that you can publish a book via crowdfunding, but it’s becoming more and more common. Unbound was one of the first publishers to crowdfund all their books.

It means that they can release books on a wider range of subjects, or from new and unknown authors [Boro books for the win!], or books on very niche subjects that might not otherwise be published. Crowdfunding also makes the reader a part of the journey – by supporting an author’s campaign, they help bring the book to life [we are DEFINITELY on board with this].

Some very popular books have been released this way and one of Unbound’s novels even made the long-list for the Man Booker Prize!

My novel, The Disappeared, imagines a future version of the UK run by a military dictatorship. After terrorism destroyed the government, the First General took over, slowly stripping away the rights of his citizens.

It’s in this crumbling world that Clara struggles to get over the disappearance of her father when she was just 11-years-old, after he was arrested by the Authorisation Bureau for teaching banned books to his students. She too becomes a teacher and decides to fight back against the regime, but the only weapons she has are the banned books her father left behind. And when one of her students disappears, she is plunged into a nightmare, afraid that she might be next.

[Cue levels of high excitement as we get to show you an exclusive extract from The Disappeared below!!!]

“That last night with my father was like every other. He returned late from his job at the university, where he lectured in English Literature. Public transport was unreliable in those days, when the regime was still taking hold. He would walk the five miles home each day, carrying his bag, heavy with papers. I would watch from our sixth floor window as he made his way across the car park, past the burned out shells of old hatchbacks, where the braver children would sometimes play army, machine gunning each other with sticks or old bits of piping. His ragged hair would take on a life of its own in the breeze, his thin shoulders tensed beneath the weight of his students’ words, twitching uneasily at every fake bullet that came his way.”

I first had the idea for The Disappeared over a decade ago, starting to write it properly in 2013. Since then it’s been through more than half a dozen drafts and picked up a Northern Writers’ Award along the way.

One of the biggest changes I made was to beef up the character of Clara’s stepfather, a Major in the Authorisation Bureau and the man who arrested her father. Clara and the Major take turns to narrate the story, but it’s his voice that turned out to be my favourite. Writing from the perspective of the villain really allowed me to get under his skin and show him as a real person, with his own desires and fears, not simply the bad guy who the reader can hate.

Crowdfunding the book has been an experience so far. It’s been exciting and nerve-wracking all at once, but it’s such a thrill every time someone pledges to the campaign. It’s especially exciting to see a name I don’t recognise and know that someone has chosen to buy a copy of my book based on the description alone.

[We don’t normally make a habit of stating the obvious, but for any of you needing to buy a special, unique Christmas present for that book lover in your life, what could be better than supporting an author?! Think of all those brownie points…]

Find out more about The Disappeared, by Amy Lord and all the details/options for how to pledge your support via Unbound

To get to know Amy better and stay up to date with all her exciting news we recommend checking out her blog, Ten Penny Dreams. She blogs about books, writing, travel and life in the North East. We love it so obviously we’re going to tell you to go and have a read. And you guessed it, of course we’re desperate to read The Disappeared! Come on you pledgers, go go go! 

STRIKE! Lane 7 comes to Boro!

You know how super excited we get about all the newey-newness coming to Middlesbrough, so I’m sure you can only imagine our delight when we were invited along to try out Lane 7! I mean it’s bowling, of course we were there, ready to don our super funky velcro shoes to go with our festive Christmas socks – tis the season you know!

Described as boutique bowling for adults with a side of retro chic, right from the moment you walk in the door and down the stairs you know it’s going to be a pretty special trip out, and definitely not your average bowling experience. First up, let’s talk interiors. Oh my! Industrial meets exposed brick meets all the pretty lights, and you know how much we LOVE the pretty lights! Sleek polished floors and dreamy wood everywhere, it’s bowling heaven!

Lane 7 Middlesbrough

Seems like a good time to talk bowling. Bowling balls to be precise. A whole neat stack of them, waiting patiently by the side of each lane ready to be picked up and thrown down at those skittles. I’d like to say with style and grace and absolute precision but sadly that would be a small white lie. As Love Mbro Lass Emma pointed out afterwards, turns out she cannot bowl, and I didn’t really do much better. But it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part…maybe! I did win though – mini gloat – ha! The best thing is they have this whizzy speed counter thingy that tells you how fast you bowled that ball! I’m not even going to pretend that I wasn’t super impressed with myself when it said the ball had flown down at 12 miles per hour! Is that even fast? Who knows! Sounds fast though! Let us know how fast you send those balls down there, we can start a contest. Nope, we’re not competitive at all…

Bowling Balls Lane 7

Once the bowling was over and we’d taken another million a few more photos of all the pretty lights, we headed to the retro arcade area to see what was up. Can we just say Space Invaders and Donkey Kong to name just a few?! Whaaaaaaat?! LOVE. IT. We didn’t get chance this time to give the arcade games a try but just you wait until next time. I think I’ll start off there first – love me a bit of Donkey Kong!

We’re here to bring you that full experience so of course we took a turn in the retro photo booth (£3 for 4 funky black and white photos, and it takes cards!) and we would have taken the obligatory ‘shoe selfie’ but we’d already changed out of our comfy bowling shoes and back into normal mode so that’s one to do next time we’re there! Which there 100% will be a next time! Love Mbro Lass Emma absolutely loved it and can’t wait to go back for the drinks/bowls/games and I need to return as soon as possible, so that I can work on throwing that ball faster than 12mph. #bowlgoals anyone?

Lane 7 Wall

The final thing that we both absolutely loved before we give you all the important info you need? The toilets. Yep. Toilets for all! Yassss! Go Lane 7!

Planning to try it out for yourself (which of course we HIGHLY recommend)? Here’s what you need to know.

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday: 11am until late
Friday – Saturday: 11am – 2am
Please note they will be closed on Christmas Day.

Peak times (Thurs/Fri/Sat, 6pm onwards): £7.50 per person
Off peak: £6.50 per person
Children: £5 per child
Arcade game tokens: £1 (2 tokens), £5 (12 tokens), £10 (30 tokens)

Booking info:
Call to book in advance on 01642 232600. If you just turn up you’re not guaranteed that you’ll get to bowl straightaway, but we can reassure you that you’ll definitely find something to keep you entertained while you wait – retro arcade, enjoy a beer or two, watch the games in action from the sidelines, lots of choice!

Follow along on the socials:

Magical Middlesbrough Christmas roundup!

Wow! Blink and suddenly three weeks have flown past, and not only have the Christmas Lights been switched on, but the Magical Middlesbrough Parade has happened too! We’re still trying to figure out where those three weeks got to, but while we ponder, we thought we’d keep you entertained with a massive round up of all things Magical Middlesbrough Christmas to get you in the festive spirit – 26 days and counting til the big day… *eek*

First up: pretty liiiiiiiiights! How good was the Christmas Lights Switch On?! Police Interceptors!
Gorgeous Boro players!
Tom Campbell from Heart FM!
The Police Interceptors’ dogs!
Serinette and their flipping fantastic, festive frolics (try saying that really quickly three times!)
Flame! Oz!
Oh my! By the end of the evening we were hoarse from all the singing, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and general, eyes wide in total awe magic. Brilliant night! 


It’s really hard for me to pick my absolute fave because I loved it all, but if you’re going to make me, I would have to say Flame Oz. Truly spectacular! As if anyone could climb up onto someone’s shoulders with two flaming hula hoops and then hula them all the way down to the floor. Whaaaaat?! So. Much. Love. Then! The AWESOME finale that just had so much going on I didn’t even know where to look – all accompanied to heart thumping music that just made it even more exciting. Wow. Just wow. I absolutely LOVED it! 

Fast forward a few days to the Magical Middlesbrough Parade and once again there were so many cool things to see. The change to the route meant that the structures could be bigger and better than ever before and we weren’t let down. Did you see that absolutely adorable sleeping mouse in the big tartan slipper? So much cuteness! Singing, dancing, drums, kiddos in costumes and community spirit galore, it was another magical event and it was so cool to see everyone cheering and waving all along the route. 

We’ve already established that being a Love Middlesbrough Lass is one of the best things ever, but I’m about to top it once again. Yep, I totally got to go and meet the reindeers. Wahhhhhhhhh! There were two baby ones (6 months old) who were completely adorbs and it was so special watching them all munch away on their pre-parade snacks while I chatted to their handler about all things reindeers. It was even better when we got to see them at the end of the parade and they were having a little nap resting on each other – cannot even deal! 

So what’s next? Well, I’ve not had chance yet to sample much from the Christmas Markets but I’m definitely looking forward to a trip to the Bavarian Bar for some seasonal mulled wine – yummo! And then there’s the Big Sing to look forward too as well on the 17th December! Yayyyyy, Christmas is officially ON! 

Boro Books 2: The Lost Sons of the West by A.L. Buxton

You’ve probably guessed by now that we’re not shy in telling you how much we love all things Boro, and this year particularly, how much we’re loving Boro Books. We’ve been so lucky to be in contact with some real-life local authors who have shared their books with us and we’ll let you in on a little secret – Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma is currently reading Boro Book number 3 (review coming soon)! 

I’ve always thought that being an author must be a pretty cool beans kind of job, and it’s even more fascinating when there’s a story behind how someone became an author too. Step up ‘The Secret Author’ also known as A.L. Buxton – don’t worry, we didn’t let the cat out of the bag – the Gazette revealed all way before we did  😂 but it’s such a brilliant story, we couldn’t resist sharing! Writing 90% of the book on his loo breaks at work before heading home to write it up properly – Anthony Luke Buxton, Secret Author, we salute you! #respect

The Lost Sons of the West tells the tale of young swordsman Gideon Destain and his brothers as they face loss, heartbreak, pain and treachery in war torn lands. The book has been described as epic and I would totally agree with that. There’s battles and blood and flying swords and ripped armour galore, all topped off with descriptions of long-haired, strapping heroes heading off into, well, even more battles! From where I stand, that’s pretty flippin’ epic indeed! 

I should probably have started out at the beginning by saying this genre/type of book is definitely not one that I’ve read before. It took me a while to get into the flow of all the epic fighting and heroic rescues, but once I did, I was definitely intrigued to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next to the brothers and if they survive everything that was being thrown at them (trust me when I say, that is a WHOLE lot of stuff)!

By the time I reached the last page and a half (especially the last paragraph) I actually shouted out Nooooooo cos it ends on such a massive cliffhanger and clearly I’m going to have to read the next one to find out what happens! As I said earlier, this is not my usual genre of book so forgive my amateur comparisons but I would describe it as part The Three Musketeers, part Hunger Games (the selection battle definitely!), part Lord of the Rings (the long journeys and wanderings of the brothers) and the rest medieval battles (and gore!) galore! Oof! If that brilliant description is not enough to make you rush out and buy it right now, then my job here is over! *chuckles*

Secret Author AL Buxton

Obviously you all want to follow the Secret Author on his socials, which you can do via Facebook or Twitter, cos you’re going to need to know when the second book is published! And of course the most important information: you can buy the book via fab, local publishers Sixth Element, or Amazon. Happy reading! 

A big thank you to Anthony and local publishers, Sixth Element, for kindly providing us with our copy of the book. The surprising discovery of the year has been that  books about epic battles are actually kinda cool! 😂 Any suggestions for what I should read next…? 



Claire goes classical

Always up for trying something new, when I was invited along to Middlesbrough Theatre to celebrate their 60th anniversary with a very special concert, I signed up immediately. It’s not every day that the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra will be playing, after all! As it was going to be my very first experience of a classical concert, I decided that the first thing to do was ask someone in the know to join me – step up Love Middlesbrough Dad. 

Over the years I’ve seen loads of live music. Loud, indie-rock, guitars and drums accompanied by lots of jumping about in the mosh pit and woohoo-ing and hollering my appreciation of each and every song. Bear this in mind and be grateful that I took my dad when I tell you the next bit. Turns out that sort of behaviour is not at all acceptable at a classical concert. There’s all kinds of rules about not applauding in between movements, patiently waiting for the conductor to completely bring the orchestra to rest before you start the clapping and definitely no woohoos or the more polite, oh-so-British ‘Bravo’ allowed. Who knew?!  

The first thing that blew me away was that the stage was absolutely filled to the brim with seats! I couldn’t count them all – there were definitely some brass instruments tucked away in the wings – but it looked to me like there were well over 100! I’ve never seen the stage so full! The photograph below, even though it’s from a different theatre, gives you an idea of the sheer size and scale of the orchestra *wow*

st petersburg symphony orchestra

Right from the very start I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty special evening. The polite applause as the orchestra sat down and the conductor appeared, followed by the immediate hush before the first notes danced up to my ears. From that point on, it’s fair to say I was completely and utterly swept up by it all, delightedly chuckling each time the conductor leaped off his feet, my eyes darting around the stage to see if I could figure out which instrument was the one making all the beautiful sounds…it truly was a joy for the senses! 

If I had to pick my absolute favourite part of the programme, it would be Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 – forty six minutes of total magic! Four movements, each more animated and rousing than the last, cymbals crashing, drums rolling, the frenzied bows of the string instruments back and forth, back and forth, and the conductor jumping and leaping into the air like there was someone up above him pulling on puppet strings…I had to physically sit on my hands to stop them from rising high into the air to applaud, applaud, applaud. You could physically feel the energy from the stage and as they reached the end of the third movement, you can only imagine my total joy when some courageous rule breaker defied the stuffy rules and shouted BRAVO before breaking into loud applause. Which of course was immediately followed by everyone else in the audience joining in! The atmosphere was incredible.

As the rowdy applause died down and the orchestra began the final movement, I found myself leaning forward in my seat to soak it all up – I really didn’t want it to end! Luckily it wasn’t over too quickly as they did not one but two encores, each to more applause that got louder and louder – my hands are still sore from all the clapping! As they took their final bow, it was pretty obvious to me that the whole audience loved it as much as I did. And guess what? I let out a (slightly reserved) Wooooo! #rebel I just couldn’t help myself! If I’d have had my way I would have woohoo-ed every single time they stopped. I definitely think the polite applause only rule should be reconsidered…

St Petersburg Symphony at Middlesbrough Theatre

If you’ve never been to a classical concert before and are open to trying out new experiences I can highly recommend it. Even if your normal choice of music veers more towards loud and rock, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. The vibrant energy of the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra was up there with any band I’ve ever seen; more civilised for sure, but don’t let that put you off. The passion and joy for the music and their instruments was there for all to see. 

Love Middlesbrough Dad, man of few words, also loved it. Later that evening I got a text thanking me for a fantastic night and I would like to say the same to Middlesbrough Theatre. Thank you! You have a new fan of classical music concerts now and I’m already planning what I’ll try out next. And a very Happy Anniversary too – cheers to 60 more years!