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Archive for the day “March 17, 2016”

‘The Sleeping Warrior’ by Sara Bain

The Sleeping Warrior - Book Cover

‘The Sleeping Warrior’ is Sara Bain’s debut novel.  Published in paperback last year, I was very kindly sent a copy by Matthew Smith.  I love crime fiction and the paranormal so really wanted to read this book, plus I was also hearing good things about it.

Libby Butler’s life is in a bit of a mess.  Working as a solicitor in a prestigious London law firm her career appears to be at a standstill.  Her rather ill-advised affair with her boss isn’t really doing her any good either.  To top it all off Libby has a terrifying encounter in a park late at night with what is presumed to be the Vampire Killer, an evil knife-wielding maniac.  She is lucky to escape but this incident obviously knocks her for six and does nothing for her confidence.

Desperate to pick up the pieces of her life, duty calls Libby to the cells of a Metropolitan police station in the darkest hours of the night.  There Libby meets mysterious and enigmatic stranger Gabriel Radley, a man who is on intimate terms with danger and who somehow manages to escape police custody.  Gabriel is searching for a Stone which he has lost, its value apparently beyond human imagining.

Libby sensing a chance at redemption agrees to help Gabriel find it, but unwittingly plunges headfirst into a series of events that threaten to tear her world apart.  A cult called the Awakened, a gangland thug, a deadly female assassin, a dedicated detective and even the Vampire Killer, all somehow become embroiled in the chase for the Stone and influenced by the elemental force that is Gabriel.  As the death toll rises will the killer be found?

I thought ‘The Sleeping Warrior’ was an absolutely brilliant read.  In fact it was even better than I expected it to be.  Sara Bain definitely tells a good story, so much so that I found myself instantly drawn to it.  I’m not actually a big fan of fantasy but it really worked in this book.

In the first chapter the reader is introduced to Gabriel Radley.  There was certainly a mystery surrounding him and I very was eager to find out what it was.  I think he was really good for Libby and helped her quite a bit.

Some of where the story was set and other areas mentioned in this book aren’t actually far from where I live at all and being that I was already totally engrossed, I found it all a little bit surreal.  It was as if the murders and other events that took place had actually happened.  That wasn’t the case though luckily.  There were a number of unsavoury characters who I really wouldn’t have wanted to meet.

This was an exciting, fast-paced and thrilling story which kept me on tenterhooks.  I’m so glad that I have Sara Bain’s next novel, ‘The Ghost Tree’ to read.

I give this book 5 out of 5.


‘The Sleeping Warrior’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-sleeping-warrior/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Warrior-Sara-Bain/dp/1910692360/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1458252319&sr=1-1


Countdown to ‘Doorways’ Cover Reveal




Interview with Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint’s debut novel, ‘As If I Were A River’ is out soon.  I asked Amanda a few questions about it.


Could you tell me a bit about your debut novel, ‘As If I Were A River’ please?

As If I Were A River tells the story of three generations of women in one family and how the decisions the older women make reverberate through the lives of the family for years to come. It starts with Kate, the youngest of the women, and when her husband vanishes without a trace she is forced to face up to things from her past that have been long buried.


How long did it take you to write?

A very long time! As it’s my first novel I just started writing with this idea of a woman whose husband went missing and no plan beyond that. So as well as trying to find the story by going off in lots of different directions, I was also learning to write novels. When the book comes out in April it will have been 6 years from writing the very first scene in a creative writing class to it being published. It’s a very different process the second time around and I spent nine months plotting and planning before I started writing properly and the whole process from idea to polished draft should be just 2 years this time around.


What made you want to write a book?

Novels have always been a very important part of my life. I have been an avid reader from the moment I could read and also started writing at a young age too. Plays mainly when I was young. But novels are the thing I love to read and there have been so many that have had such a big impact on me and my view of the world; and I really wanted to be able to do the same thing. Also, when I wasn’t writing for a time from my late teens to late 20s, I had a constant stream of characters in my head and would be writing whole scenes for them but never putting them to paper. I thought I better start or I might go mad!


Do you have a favourite writing place?

For the past 6 years I have been going regularly to Retreats for You in Devon, which sadly has closed down now. But that has been my favourite place up until now to write. As I move around a lot, I tend to just write in the house where I’m currently staying but I also really like writing on long train journeys, if it’s quiet enough.


It must have felt amazing to see a copy of your book in paperback.  Have you come down to earth yet?

There has been a lot of stroking going on! It has been emotional, surreal, overwhelming but mostly really exciting! I still can’t quite believe that I really did it. After years of saying that I would write a book, I did. And not only that, I got it signed by a really exciting publishing house that I am very proud to be a part of.


How would you describe your writing journey?

I read a lot, I write a lot and I learn a lot!


Will you be doing any book signings?

I have an event at Waterstone’s King Street branch in Lancaster, as much of the book takes place there. I lived in Lancaster for a couple of years and it is a great little city that made a big impression on me. I’ll be there from midday on Saturday 30th April signing books.


Will there be any more books?

Yes, I’m just writing my next one now and Matthew has signed it for Urbane with a planned publication date of Autumn 2017. The working title is All Be Forgotten and it tells the story of Evie, an environmental and social activist who faces persecution as a witch when the England we know today is no more and people are reverting back to believing in medieval superstitions. It moves backward and forwards in time to tell Evie’s story in the past and in the future.


Has social media been of benefit to you?

Yes and no. Yes, because it has been a place where I’ve met and befriended many other writers and readers. No, because it’s a big distraction and I can lose hours that should be spent doing other things chatting to people and reading blogs and articles.


You have your own business.  What exactly do you do?

At Retreat West I run creative writing retreats a few times a year and work with other authors whose work I admire to provide masterclasses on different aspects of writing at them. I also run a series of competitions to help emerging writers get published and this year I just launched the annual RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize in partnership with Urbane. This means that the winners and shortlisted entrants will get published professionally in an anthology as well as getting decent cash prizes. On the editorial side of things, I provide feedback reports for writers on their novels, run a mentoring programme and an online course to take a novel from idea to first draft in 8 months.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to go to yoga classes, to the theatre and exhibitions, to the cinema, out with friends. But I’m currently living in the middle of nowhere house sitting so don’t get to do any of these things very often.


Who are your favourite authors?

How long have you got?! There are many and they do change as I discover new authors all the time but I love Margaret Atwood’s work and also the South African writer, Damon Galgut. Other favourites that I always get excited when I hear they have new novels coming out are Maggie O’Farrell, Jane Rusbridge, Tim Winton, Isabel Ashdown and now that I’ve been reading lots of Urbane authors I’m very excited to read Dean Lilleyman’s next novel, The Gospel According to Johnny Bender, when it comes out later this year. Billy and the Devil is an amazing book.


About Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint’s short stories have appeared in Number Eleven Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and the best-selling charity anthology, Stories for Homes. Playing Nurses and Progress were both longlisted for the 2012 Fish Flash Fiction Prize; Fish in Tomato Sauce was longlisted in the Ink Tears Short Story Competition; and her micro story, Stained Red, won the 101 Words Editor’s Choice competition. Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, will be published in April 2016 by Urbane Publications.



‘As If I Were A River is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/as-if-i-were-a-river/

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/As-If-I-Were-River-ebook/dp/B01C5PQHP4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458153472&sr=1-1&keywords=amanda+saint


Amanda Saint’s Website – http://amandasaint.net

Retreat West Website –  http://retreatwest.co.uk



Book Cover


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘As If I Were A River’.  To enter just leave a comment telling me just how much you want to read this book.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!

Guest Post by Jared A. Carnie

I would like to welcome Jared A. Carnie back to my blog.  Jared wrote a guest post which I hosted on here earlier this year.  Here’s another one from him.



I used to think cynicism was important. I thought being cynical made me seem smart.

When you’re a kid in a room full of adults, the person who loudly and confidently declares how bad something is seems to be the one who has the most power.

But cynicism doesn’t save you. Being negative doesn’t help. On your deathbed there’s no redemption in getting to say ‘I told you this would all end badly’.

It took me a while to realise that the person who dismisses everything is usually the most bitter – and often the most afraid.

A lot of my novel, Waves, was written at a kitchen table on the Isle of Lewis. My girlfriend, Faye, was in the room next door. She was stuck in bed. She couldn’t sit up without getting dizzy. Her legs couldn’t hold her when she stood up and even reading or watching TV was too difficult. On some days she couldn’t hold a knife and fork or even chew food.

This was a challenge for my cynicism. Drinking a beer and pretending I was Bukowski wasn’t going to get me through this.

Faye, somehow, remained positive. If she had ten minutes a day where she was conscious and capable, she wanted to do something positive with it. She wanted to squeeze every drop of life out of days that she could. And slowly, through the internet, she found others. She found Meg and Sophia and Jenny and Charlotte and Pippa and Ali and Hayley and Sian and a thousand others who had illnesses determined to stop them and personalities too strong to let it.

These people became my inspiration. There was no point huffing or dismissing things as uncool. What did that prove? What did it achieve?

That’s why I was determined to have a character in my novel who reaches a positive conclusion – who leaves the novel feeling more excited about life than when they came in.

I always found a strength in Bukowski, in Hamsun and Celine. A sort of resilience and black humour that helped me through things. But it didn’t help me do things. It didn’t make me excited about life. It made me resigned to it.

I always assumed I’d try to write a novel basically ripping off those writers who meant the world to me then (and still do). But I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t write a novel wallowing in my own existential angst (not that that’s what those three writers did, but is certainly what I would have done if I’d attempted to copy them). I couldn’t do that when the person I loved had to put more effort into standing up than I’d ever had to put into anything. It would be self-indulgent, dishonest and frankly pathetic.

I’m very aware of how uncool eighteen year old me would find certain passages in Waves. And certainly, I would expect the enthusiasm for life Alex finds to not resonate with everyone (it was important to me that other characters, very validly, have different perspectives). But still, I can’t pretend anymore. I can’t pretend to be ungrateful and dismissive and as if my struggle is a great struggle that needs to be recorded in writing. It doesn’t.

I’ve met so many people who, despite being hampered by serious, debilitating illnesses, still only want to contribute positively to the world. I wanted to have a character who could learn the same lesson I had learned from these people – to be excited by life, and to take opportunities. And while it may not be very Chinaski. It is very Meg, it is very Pippa, it is very Sophia, it is very Faye.

And those are the people I want to be like.

Because, yes, this is all going to end one day. But that’s not a reason to despair. That’s the reason to be positive as much as you can, to be grateful as much as you can and to be excited as much as you can.

There are sparks of inspiration and joy in the tiniest of moments, and even if nobody else sees them, it’s important that you do.

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me—

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

~Shel Silverstein


‘Waves’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon:-


Jared A Carnie’s Website – http://www.jaredacarnie.com


Guest Post by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is having his novel, ‘The Speech’ published this Autumn.  He has written a guest post about Enoch Powell.


THE  SPEECH, a novel 

How I came to NOT hate Enoch Powell

As a student in the 1960s, I lived in the British Midlands town of Wolverhampton — in the riding for which Enoch Powell was Conservative member of parliament. Technicolor hadn’t long been invented, but my world, and that of most of my peers was black and white, cut and dried. An old person was anyone over 30, who was always wrong until proven otherwise. All police and most other authority figures were ‘pigs,’ and the only music worth listening to was that of the decade, with the exception of some earlier blues numbers and the occasional classical piece. Capitalism was a pariah, socialism was to be celebrated. So when Enoch Powell made a speech on April 20th, 1968 that was deemed rife with outrageous and unacceptable racism by people I and my peers respected — and known forever after as The Rivers of Blood speech — we fell over each other in the race to be the one to hate him most. But that was then.

Now, in the twenty-first century, the subject of immigration, the issue which sparked Powell’s 1968 speech, is a white-hot item once more. I decided to put Powell at the centre of a novel together with other characters from the period, fictional everyday people, as a way of looking at immigration in the hope that Powell’s and their stories might be pertinent to today’s events.

I started by reading the complete Rivers of Blood speech, uncertain if I’d actually read it back in 1968. (Only extracts can be heard, because only part was recorded.) There’s no doubt in my mind that Powell’s sentiments and statements ARE bigoted, intolerant, and misguided. But now that I’m mellower and, I hope, wiser (slightly ironic that this has come to pass in my sixth decade), I wondered how such an intellectually clever man had come to put forward such extreme and hate-mongering ideas — and orated them in such a bizarrely dramatic style.

I read every biography and book about Powell I could get my hands on, the writers being representative of the full spectrum of political ideology. I went to Churchill College, Cambridge, the repository of his papers, to pore over diaries, copies of other of his speeches, letters, etc. I talked to people who’d known Powell, and I made note of previously untold stories. I read copious newspaper cuttings of the time. I solicited reminiscences from friends and acquaintances of various skin colour, and I read accounts by an array of people — black and white — of their experiences before and after Powell delivered the speech. I revisited Wolverhampton to gaze at his old house, and I walked the pavements he would have walked.

I became as intimate as anybody can be with a person one has never met, which is considerable with Powell, given the voluminous records — public and personal. Slowly but surely, as I got to know this complicated, brilliant yet deeply flawed man, the hate and disdain I thought I felt as a young person morphed into simple understanding and even a degree of empathy. Not that I make any excuses for him. (He would certainly never have admitted his behaviour necessitated any excuse.) It’s clear he acted, to use one of his favourite words, in an ‘evil’ way. But I do hope the humanizing of Powell in a novel will lead readers to understand why he did what he did, and — just maybe — hold a less polarized, and polarizing, view of today’s world.


Visit Andrew Smith’s Website – http://andrewsmithwrites.com/

Twitter – @andrewaxiom


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