A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

Guest Post by Louise Voss

author-picture

I’m delighted to welcome Louise Voss to my blog today.  Louise has written a very interesting guest post which I’m sure you’ll enjoy as much as I did.

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of a Writer

Although a writer’s life can be wonderful, most of us experience a whole raft of emotional side-effects to this perilous way of earning a crust. I suspect we all have a pretty full house of the Seven Deadly Sins bubbling away under the surface. But put a different slant to them, and you can, I reckon, turn each one into something positive… I hope this doesn’t sound too Pollyanna-ish – what do you think?

SLOTH – Whenever I say I’ve finished another book, people often respond with admiration and comments like, ‘wow, you’re so prolific!’ I confess that, without fail, this makes me feel like a fraud. Yes, I have written six novels and co-authored six more – but this is over a period of seventeen years. Compared to many of my crime-writing peers, my output is meagre, verging on embarrassingly so. I mean, some people routinely write two novels a year! But it’s all relative, and we all work at different paces, so I remind myself that it takes as long as it takes.

PRIDE – those rare but wonderful occasions when you get a great review, a sniff of film interest, or perhaps hit the higher echelons of the Amazon charts. My feeling is that pride, if kept in check, is actually the reward for all the other disappointments that a writer’s life inevitably brings – but obviously no-one likes a braggard. So if you do find you have something to boast about, best be aware of the fine line between self-promotion and arrogance…

ENVY – that’s a very obvious one, one which I challenge any living writer not to have experienced at some point or another. One of the things I most love about the writing community is how supportive we all are of each other, and we are all genuinely delighted when one of our number gets a fabulous new book deal or a No.1 chart position. It doesn’t mean we don’t secretly feel envy too on occasion. But it’s completely natural, and I reckon envy can be a good incentive to work a bit harder. A bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone.

GREED – the constant ‘could do better’ness about the business – have I got into the top 500? Great, but I need to be in the Top 100! Top 100? Not good enough. Need to be in the Top 20….Top 10…how great would it be to get into the Top 5?…etc. etc. But again, is this greed or ambition?

GLUTTONY – yup. And many of us have a writer’s bottom to show for it. Come on, give me a break, it can be pretty tedious sitting at the kitchen table on a laptop all day long, with the fridge just yards away, calling to us. And yet, I know that I reward myself when I’ve worked hard, with a few chocs or a decent bottle of wine. That’s not gluttony, is it? My mum’s voice comes to me: ‘Everything, but in moderation…’

LUST… well, that’s one of the least of them, unless you bracket it with envy when lusting after someone else’s advance, book jacket, sales figures, TV appearances, killer twists, and so on.

WRATH is an interesting one. We’ve all read about these spats between authors, or authors and their publishers, or – often – authors and people who leave them horrible reviews. I guess that mostly comes down to personality though.

It’s all about the perspective, really, isn’t it, like most things in life.

Which would be the worst of your seven deadly sins?

 

About Louise Voss

Louise Voss is a no.1 best-selling author with twelve novels under her belt, encompassing both contemporary and crime fiction.   Six of the latter are co-written thrillers with Mark Edwards, the most recent being two DI Lennon titles, From The Cradle and The Blissfully Dead.   She has just completed her latest solo psychological suspense novel, The Old You , which will be out in 2017.

 

Links

Books on today’s Kindle Daily Deal:-

To Be Someone – http://amzn.to/2gBGH8aQ 

Games People Play – http://amzn.to/2fxGITm

Social Media:-

Twitter – @LouiseVoss1

 

Cover Reveal – ‘The Escape’ by C.L. Taylor

book-cover

I am thrilled to be taking part in the cover reveal for C.L. Taylor’s fourth novel, ‘The Escape’, which is being published both as an eBook and in paperback by Avon on the 23rd March 2017.  Don’t you just love this cover?  It’s shouting out “Read Me!”  Here’s what the book is all about.

 

Book Blurb

The Sunday Times bestseller and No.1 Kindle bestseller returns…

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

 

‘The Escape’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Escape-C-L-Taylor/dp/0008118078/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1480360077&sr=1-1

 

Blog Tour – ‘Frozen Minds’ by Cheryl Rees-Price

blog-tour-banner

I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour celebrating Cheryl Rees-Price’s new book, ‘Frozen Minds’, the second in the Winter Meadows series.  It was published on the 14th October 2016 both as an eBook and in paperback by Accent Press.   Cheryl has written a guest post for my blog which I hope you enjoy reading.  First though, here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

When a man is found murdered at Bethesda House, a home for adults with learning difficulties, local people start to accuse the home’s residents of being behind the killing. The victim was a manager at the home, and seemingly a respectable and well-liked family man. DI Winter Meadows knows there’s more to the case than meets the eye. As he and his team investigate, Meadows discovers a culture of fear at the home – and some unscrupulous dealings going on between the staff. Does the answer to the case lie in the relationships between the staff and the residents – or is there something even more sinister afoot?

 

Guest Post

THE DETECTIVE

There are so many good detective series books available now that it is a challenge to create a new character. One that is appealing and not the stereo typical drunk troubled detective. There is no magic formula to creating the perfect character (I wish there was). When I started writing The Winter Meadows series I wanted to create a different sort of detective while also making him memorable and appealing. To research I looked at some of my favourite detectives and tried to analyse their characteristics. See if they would make suitable dinner guests, and look for similarities to find out what makes them interesting, and so appealing that the reader starts hunting down the next book. The following is just a sample from my list.

D Wingfield’s Inspector Frost is one of my favourite detectives. I’ve read all nine books, more than once and thoroughly enjoyed the television adaptation where Sir David Jason superbly portrays Frost. Jack Frost is disordered, shabby, and hopeless at paperwork. A widower with a wicked sense of humour, sometimes crude, especially in the books. Yet he is perceptive, sometimes sensitive, and excels at crime solving. Jack Frost is modest and treats everyone, rich or homeless, equally. He’s certainly no action man yet will put himself in danger to catch his quarry. There is something endearing about Frost, he is a character you could have around for dinner and know you would have an entertaining evening.

frost-picture

Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse is another well-loved character. Featured in 13 novels and played by the late John Thaw in the television series. Morse is snobbish, bad-tempered and has a dislike of grammatical errors. He has a love of classic cars, opera music, real ale, and cryptic crossword puzzles. He can be sensitive, hard-working and is highly intelligent and logical.

Morse’s interesting first name, Endeavour, was not revealed until later in the series and was chosen by his Quaker mother and his father, an admirer of Captain James Cook. Information of Morse’s past is cleverly drip fed throughout the series. Again Morse is not a young fit action hero but uses intellect to fight crime.

A memorable character and despite his haughty exterior Morse is well loved and admired. I imagine he would make a difficult dinner guest, quite possibly unintentionally making the other guests feel inferior.

morse-picture

The list wouldn’t be complete without Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. The unforgettable Belgian detective is the star of 33 novels and is admirably portrayed by David Suchet among others in the television series. Poirot is known for his impeccable dress code, stiff moustache and walking stick. He could almost be described as having O.C.D with his fussiness over food, and ordered life.

One of Poirot’s most famous phases is “The little grey cells,” and it is doubtless that he has more than his fair share. Highly intelligent and methodical, he uses logical clue based detection to catch the guilty party. Poirot appears to be a solitary figure with few friends and no love interest. He is not known for being emotional. He would make an unassuming, but interesting dinner guest.

poirot-picture

These above detectives are all very different characters yet do have some similarities. Unusual names which makes them instantly memorable. Each has a particular dress code with Poirot and Frost being at opposite ends. All are intellectually gifted and don’t always stick to the rules. More importantly they are all betrayed with imperfections and traits that could make them difficult companions, yet are among the best loved and most memorable characters.

When naming my character I wanted to give him a name that would suit his personality and background. ‘Winter Meadows’ seemed appropriate. Born to hippy parents and raised in a commune, he is intelligent, modest, and compassionate. He likes to see the best in people which is sometimes his downfall. He has difficulty fitting in with the team and is oblivious to the attention he draws from the opposite sex. I hope that readers will grow to love him despite his flaws.

 

About Cheryl Rees-Price

Cheryl Rees-Price was born in Cardiff and moved as a Young child to a small ex-mining village on the edge of the Black Mountains, South Wales, where she still lives with her husband, daughters and two cats.  After leaving school she worked as a legal clerk for several years before leaving to raise her two daughters.

Cheryl returned to education, studying philosophy, sociology and accountancy whilst working as a part time book keeper. She now works as a finance director for a company that delivers project management and accounting services.

In her spare time Cheryl indulges in her passion for writing, the success of writing plays for local performances gave her the confidence to write her first novel. Her other hobbies include walking, and gardening which free her mind to develop plots and create colourful characters.

 

Links

Frozen Minds Amazon

Website

Facebook

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime’ by Lynsey James

blog-tour-banner

‘The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime’ was published on the 10th November 2016 by HQ Digital UK. Having previously read one of Lynsey James’ books I was delighted to get involved in this blog tour. Read on for my review.

The story is set in Luna Bay, a small village in Yorkshire. It’s getting close to Christmas and the annual pantomime is about to be the talk of the town. It could really do with some help. Unfortunate then that Alice Woods who used to be on Broadway isn’t feeling Christmassy.

When the pantomime comes under threat Alice is forced to push her personal pain aside and step in. With some help from her recently new found friends and a very gorgeous Hollywood A-list celebrity the play starts to come together. Will the pantomime be a success and will Alice finally start believing that Christmas can be a time for miracles?

I really enjoyed reading ‘The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime’. I thought it to be such a delightful, relaxing and fun story. I like the way Lynsey James writes and makes her characters come to life. It didn’t take long to meet them all and I soon felt as if I had known them for a while.

Luna Bay was definitely a magical village and one I would have liked to visit. Most of the people there seemed to be really warm and loving. The Moonlight Café sounded amazing and the cakes to die for.

Alice had been grieving for quite a while and she really needed something to get her out of herself and to help her to move on. Luckily she had some very supportive friends, plus Ethan coming into her life was a godsend. The change in Alice was absolutely astounding and she did an amazing job with the pantomime.

I think readers will get a lot out of this story. It’s sure to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

About Lynsey James

Lynsey James was born in Fife in 1991 and has been telling people how to spell her name ever since. She’s an incurable bookworm who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good story with memorable characters. She started writing when she was really young and credits her lovely Grandad- and possibly a bump on the head from a Mr Frosty machine- with her love of telling stories. She used to write her own episodes of Friends and act them out in front of her family (in fact she’s sure she put Ross and Rachel together first!)

A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn’t a “good option” and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left my job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven’t looked back since.

When Lynsey’s not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she’s daydreaming about the day Dylan O’Brien FINALLY realises they’re meant to be together. It’ll happen one day…

 

Links

Amazon: –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silver-Bells-Christmas-Pantomime-Luna-ebook/dp/B01D4WRFCG/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1474730052&sr=8-5&keywords=lynsey+james

Goodreads:-

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30376050-the-silver-bells-christmas-pantomime

 

Blog Tour – ‘A Brush With Death’ by Malcolm Parnell

blog-tour-banner

‘A Brush With Death’ was published as an eBook on the 9th July 2016 by 3P Publishing.  All week a number of bloggers have been taking part in a blog tour for this book and today it is my turn.  I have an extract to give you all a little taster, but first let’s get to know Malcolm Parnell.

 

What is the first book you remember reading or having read to you?

The Island of Adventure – Enid Blyton

Who is your favourite literary character?

Matthew Shardlake Created by CJ Sansom

Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

1984

If you could only take one book with you on a desert island, which would it be?

The False Inspector Dew – Peter Lovesey

What are you currently reading?

The Various Haunts of Men – Susan Hill

Who would be at your dream dinner party (alive, dead or fictional)?

Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Anyone who ever accomplished anything, did not know how they were going to do it. They only knew they were going to do it. Bob Proctor

What’s the worst advice you have ever received?

Know your place, expect nothing else. My Mother

Who is your hero or heroine (real or fictional)?

Bob Proctor. Motivational speaker

Where are you happiest?

In a restaurant surrounded by family and friends.

Who would you like to star in the film of your life?

Bill Nighy

Describe your best ever holiday.

Mediterranean cruise

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do? (easy, tiger!)

Behind the scenes at a TV or film production

If I joined you on your perfect day, what would we be doing?

Sitting in a street café in the south of France eating scones and fresh cream

What do you think is the best thing about social media?

People sharing good ideas and offering support.

And the worst…?!

People sharing drivel

What is the most important item you require for a quiet night in?

A good book

Is it best to always tell the truth or is it sometimes better to tell a little white lie?

Sometimes tell a little white lie

What’s your signature dish?

A Sunday roast

Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook, why?

No idea

Which book character do you wish you had written?

Matthew Shardlake

Why did you write a book?

To fulfil an ambition and to entertain

Why did you choose your genre?

I love mysteries and I love humour so I tried to combine the two

If you had to write in a different genre, which would you choose?

Children’s adventure

What’s the worst thing about writing a book?

Staring at a blank page

What’s the best thing about writing a book?

Seeing the finished published product

If you could be anyone for the day, who would you be?

Me with a million pounds

~~~~~

Extract

PROLOGUE

25 years ago

The boy pulled back the curtains and peered through his bedroom window. The view was to most eyes nothing spectacular, but for him it was magical. Straight ahead he could see across open farmland. Over to his left, separated from the farm by a meandering brook lay an area of marsh land. Mundane and of no practical value to some, to him it was a very special place, a place where all things were possible, a place where you might encounter lizards, snakes and all manner of creeping things. Rats and voles lived there and further on where the earth sloped upwards onto drier ground, foxes, rabbits and who knows what else roamed free. The boy watched his world unfold as light from the sun transformed the grass from a colourless mass to every shade of green. Each blade dancing as the lightest of breezes touched the tips bringing movement like the rolling sea.

Inside, the house was quiet. The only other occupant was his father and he had yet to awake, still clinging to the last vestiges of sleep. His day had not yet begun, but when it did the boy doubted it would involve snakes and lizards.

…………………………….

Water droplets fell like diamonds shimmering in the morning sun as the small net swung round in an arc and then hovered expectantly over the waiting glass jar. Peering into the net, the boy held his breath as he examined his prize. Scooped from its watery lair the great crested newt clambered up the sides of the net before falling back exposing its fiery belly. With a shout of triumph the boy plucked the newt from the net and dropped it into the jar. Holding it up to his face both boy and newt scrutinized each other, the captor and the captured caught in a moment of time, both bathed in the glow of the rising sun, one relishing it, the other, desperate to hide.

The stream gleamed and sparkled, bent and fragmented by stones and tree roots, it seemed to go forever twisting like a coil of rope through the meadows.  Where he was standing was the widest point and the water was calmer here among the shallows, providing the perfect home for frogs and fish. The reed fringed banks giving way to a vast bed of water lilies that constantly nudged and swayed against his wellington boots. Further on, the banks grew more steeply and behind the blackthorn bush the lichen covered bricks of the old bridge could just be seen. How long the bridge had spanned the stream no-one knew. Neither could anyone fathom the reason for it being there. No road ran across it and either side was overgrown with wild blackthorn and holly. Those of a fanciful nature suggested it was a bridge to another world, but there seemed nothing other worldly about its overgrown walls and wild flower covered floor, although it is true that if one wandered into the darkness beneath the arch a gap in the bricks could be found. The boy had once explored this further, but after negotiating the almost un-penetrable array of spikey leaves and thorns, he eventually came disappointedly into the open air of the meadow which could have been accessed by the easier route of skirting the bridge further downstream.

The boy gave the newt one final look and lowered the jar into the water. He watched as the newt eager to be free, swam down into the depths and disappeared amongst the vegetation.

A sudden splash caught his attention and without turning his head he said, “You came then?”

From behind, a cheerful voice said, “’Course. I said I would, didn’t I?”

“I thought you were going to be dragged off shopping.”

“Nah, made a bit of a fuss. Mum chucked me out. So, Peter me lad, it’s you and me.”

The boy turned to greet his friend. John lived a few doors down from him and they had grown up together.  People in the street saw it as a strange alliance as the boys were like chalk and cheese, both physically and in temperament. His friend was short and dark with a mercurial nature, subject to whims and flights of fancy. His attention span was short and he got bored easily which often led him into trouble as his need for thrills caused conflict with the elders. Peter, on the other hand was tall and willowy, prone to deep thought and consideration. He was a shy boy and considered by some to be easily led, but he had a sharp mind and inquisitive nature.

“Not caught anything then?” his friend asked surveying the now empty jam jar.

“I had a crested, just let it go.”

“Have you had a go for Billy?”

“No not yet.”

Billy was a fish, a bullhead, commonly known as a millers thumb. He inhabited a half-submerged rusty oil drum that lay on its side further downstream, here the brook flowed through a small coppice. As bullheads go he was big, at least the size of the boy’s hand and though often seen, was elusive, as the water was deeper there and once the bottom was disturbed, clouds of silt would obscure the view.

“Still, there’s plenty of time.”

The boys grinned. Today was the first day of the school holidays and the immediate future held six glorious weeks of climbing trees, hunting, fishing and exploring. New worlds would be discovered and the prospect was mouth-watering.

The next few hours were spent engrossed in the world of water. Taking turns, they pushed and prodded the fishing net through lily beds and rushes. Many fish were caught, including – to both boys delight – a small jack pike weighing around 1lb. By the middle of the afternoon they had wandered about half a mile upstream and had come to the spot where the blackthorn embraced the old bridge. Climbing out of the water, the boys scrambled through the thick thorns and holly roots before emerging, scratched and torn under the dark recesses of the bridge. Sitting on the moss covered stones they each produced packs of sandwiches and bottled water from their jacket pockets.

“This bridge is creepy.” His friend muttered, chewing on ham and tomato.

“Yeah it’s brill.” Peter answered also chewing on his lunch.

“It’s supposed to be haunted. Tommy Greenway says that a long time ago some kids disappeared from somewhere around here.”

Peter shrugged. He too had heard the story, but was unimpressed.

“Tommy Greenway’s a girlie. He’s scared of his own shadow.”

“Yeah, but, you’ve gotta admit it’s a funny place.  For one thing there’s no sound. I don’t like it, I’m going back.”

“What? Why?

“Don’t like it.” John got up to leave and turned his head. “You comin’?”

“No, not yet, I’ll catch you up.” Peter answered and watched his friend back track through the water until he reached the part where the brambles gave way to clear meadow. Soon John was out of sight.

Peter stopped chewing and tilted his head. It was true, it was quiet, the silence only punctuated by the occasional bickering of squabbling coots further upstream. But then, a sound could be heard, difficult to make out at first, a sort of scraping noise. The sound a knife makes when being honed to a sharp point across a sharpening stone. Peter quickly looked around, his eyes wide trying to penetrate the gloom. Then, terror struck as a shadow emerged from the walls of the bridge and moved towards him.

 

‘A Brush With Death’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brush-Death-Malcolm-Parnell-ebook/dp/B01I88X0YI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478029262&sr=8-1&keywords=a+brush+with+death

Cover Reveal – ‘Britain’s Wartime Evacuees’ by Gillian Mawson

Layout 1

I am delighted to be revealing the cover of Gillian Mawson’s new book, which is out on the 30th November published by Frontline Books.  Isn’t it wonderful?

Gillian’s book contains the testimony of children, mothers and teachers who were evacuated during the Second World War in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are also stories from those who sought safety on the UK mainland from Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Gibraltar. Chapters focus on the difficult decisions made by parents to send their children away, the journeys by train and ship, adjustment to life in a new area and the kindness shown to evacuees by British communities.

The darker side of evacuation is also revealed – some households refused to care for evacuees, others were cruel to the children and some died. Evacuees were killed within days of arriving in supposedly ‘safe’ areas. They drowned, perished in air raids or were killed by military vehicles driving too quickly around narrow streets. An MP in the House of Commons voiced his fears that, if these incidents were revealed to the public, mothers might demand that their children be sent back home!

The book also reveals emotional letters written between evacuees, their parents and their wartime ‘foster parents’ which are still treasured today. Evacuees describe going home in 1945 after five years of separation from their parents. Some did not want to leave the ‘foster parents’ they had come to love – to them, this was ‘evacuation’ all over again and very traumatic. Many stayed in touch with their beloved foster parents for the rest of their lives.

‘Britain’s Wartime Evacuees: The People, Places and Stories of the Evacuations Told Through the Accounts of Those Who Were Thereis published on 30 November 2016 and can be pre ordered here: http://amzn.to/2cp8Wug

 

About Gillian Mawson

Gillian Mawson is a freelance historian with a huge interest in oral history. She has been interviewing evacuees since 2008 and this is her third book. She runs a community group for Guernsey evacuees who decided to remain in Manchester when the war ended. She lives in Derbyshire and her wartime blog can be found at: https://evacueesofworldwartwo.wordpress.com/

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange’ by James Calum Campbell

blog-tour-poster

‘The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange’ was published on the 1st November by Impress Books.  I took part in the cover reveal for this book and as I liked the sound of it I was sent a copy to review.

Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange hasn’t had an easy time of it.  After a recent bereavement he decides to go to the other side of the world and is only just rediscovering his life when the British Authorities track him down.  After much persuasion, they manage to recruit him on a mission which will see Cameron-Strange travel to the furthest reaches of New Zealand, to Xanadu where Phineas Fox, the American business tycoon is.  Mr Fox seems to be involved in just about every venture going and he also has his eye on the White House.  There’s something really quite dodgy about him and Cameron-Strange with a bit of help is determined to find out exactly what it is.

Dr Cameron-Strange doesn’t know it yet but he is facing seven different ordeals and some of them are going to be very tough.  Will he survive them?

I found this to be a very enjoyable and well written book.  I really liked how the story opened and I found the medical terms throughout the story interesting.  ‘The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange’ was fast-paced and at times very exciting, especially towards the end.

I liked Cameron-Strange and thought it unusual for the main character to be a doctor getting involved in rescue missions and tasks.  He was a hero in his own way.  Phineas Fox really was a nasty piece of work even though he did appear quite charming at times.  He was rich beyond belief and had a number of house staff.  I loved the names of the staff and thought a couple of them were really funny.  Phineas wanted to run for presidency at the White House.  Imagine what a nightmare that would have been.

A good read, though I couldn’t help thinking that a glossary would have been useful as I did find myself having to look up some of the words.  It would also have been great if there had been a map of the volcanoes in Auckland rather than trying to picture them all in my mind.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

‘The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seven-Trials-Cameron-Strange-Cameronstrange-Book/dp/1907605835/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1478460652&sr=1-1

Blog Tour – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ by Julia Williams

blog-tour-banner

Fans of Julia Williams will be thrilled to know that she has a brand new book out.  ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was published as an eBook and in paperback on the 3rd November by Avon.  I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour for which Julia has written a guest post.  First though, here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Christmas with the family. Cosy, relaxing…and a total nightmare?

Driving home for Christmas, Beth has everything she wants. The kids and the house, the career and the husband. So why is it that when the New Year comes, she can’t stop thinking about her old college boyfriend?

Her husband Daniel is tasked with bringing a struggling school up to scratch, but when family life catches up to him, can he be a good father and a good teacher at the same time?

Beth’s sister Lou has just been dumped…again. Single and childless, she can’t help but be jealous of her sibling’s success. But is the grass really always greener?

It’s a Wonderful Life is a heart-warming novel about the lives that could have been, and what happens when you start to question the choices you made…

~~~~~

Getting in the festive mood

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not one of those people who starts posting the number of sleeps till Christmas in August. Call me old fashioned, but I can’t think about Winter until…well, Winter. I love the Autumn, with its falling leaves, and golden colours, and I’m just not prepared to think about Christmas till Autumn is done.

Having said that, there are lots of things that get me in the mood for festive season. Firstly, though I hate shopping the rest of the year, I do love Christmas shopping. There is something really satisfying about chasing down the perfect gift for someone you love. And thanks to the internet, these days you can do it without enduring the hurly-burly that is Christmas shopping…

…Having said that, I do like last minute scouring round the shops, when people are mainly cheerful with the thought of the holidays round the corner, and the air is filled with the sound of cheesy Christmas songs. No matter how many times I hear it, Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas time brings a smile to myself.

My second means of starting to feel festive is entertaining. I do really enjoy pre Christmas drinks with friends, complete with mulled wine and mince pies. And since I bought my husband a fire pit last Christmas, we can also get that really cosy feeling of sitting out by the fire and not freezing to death. Perfect!

But really, it’s not till closer to the day that I really start getting in the mood.

Christmas probably starts in our house when we put the decorations up. Usually around the second week of December (which is way too early for me, but I’ve been long overruled on that one!)  When the children were small they put the decs wonkily on the tree, and we sneakily straightened them when they went to bed.  Nowadays we leave them in charge, and with two now at university decorating is not allowed to begin till they’re both home (suits me). They usually spend half the time decorating themselves with tinsel, while listening to a Christmas album, before the tree gets covered in baubles.

picture-1

picture-2

Every year I like to add a new decoration or two if I can so they’re an eclectic mix of: cheesy and naff (cheap and cheerful baubles); cute (things the kids made when they were little ); off the wall (A tooth-shaped  dentist called Dave in honour of my husband); or charming (this year’s addition is a tiny little wooden bell from a German rellie). And once they’re on the tree, I really start to feel ready for the festive onslaught…

… a feeling which increases as we start the food shopping. Back in the day when the children were small, my husband paid scant attention to this, but now he gets very enthusiastic. Some might say overenthusiastic. His children perhaps, when he brings back huge bags of goodies from Sainsbury’s which would probably last us through a nuclear winter. But hey, ho, his heart is in the right place, and one things for sure, we’ll never starve…

And finally my favourite thing of all is decorating the table, and putting presents under the tree. I love wrapping the presents slightly less, but over the years have developed a strategy of wrapping in advance. This does mean long complicated lists and sudden dashes to get extra small things to make sure everyone has the same number of presents under the tree, but it’s worth it to see the fun everyone has trying to work out what Santa’s bought them this year…

It’s still a way off before I am going to get in the mood, but writing this actually has got me started early this year.  So I’m off to light the fire pit, and heat up the mulled wine…  You?

 

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-Wonderful-Life-Christmas-romance/dp/1847563600/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1478290926&sr=1-1

 

‘Dancers in the Wind’ by Anne Coates

dancers-in-the-wind

‘Dancers in the Wind’ was published on the 13th October by Urbane Publications.  I was very kindly sent a proof copy to read and review.

This story is set in 1993.  Hannah Weybridge is a freelance journalist and single mother.  Commissioned by a national newspaper to write an article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross, Hannah interviews a prostitute called Princess and a police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan.

When Princess turns up at her house badly beaten up and barely recognisable, Hannah finds herself in a very difficult position and has to decide quickly what to do for the best.  She soon finds herself drawn ever deeper into a world of deceit and violence and knows that she must do her utmost best to expose the truth whilst staying alive.  Will she succeed in her quest?

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Dancers in the Wind’.  I loved the writing style and the element of suspense throughout.  The majority of the chapters were very short but I felt that this just added to the excitement.  I also absolutely loathe being unable to finish a chapter in one sitting or being interrupted halfway through it so the shorter chapters were better in that sense too.

I really liked Hannah Weybridge and thought she was a gutsy lady.  I don’t think she realised just what she was getting herself into in helping Princess and I feared for her and her adorable daughter.  I also liked Tom Jordan but like Hannah wasn’t too sure about him for quite a while.  I felt so sorry for Princess who hadn’t exactly had a great life and for others like her.

Anne Coates has written several non-fiction books and a number of short stories.  ‘Dancers in the Wind’ is actually her first novel but you would never guess it.  Anne writes with such confidence, it’s as if she’s been writing crime fiction for ages.  I also liked the fact that real events are used to base her stories on.

I bought a copy of ‘Dancers in the Wind’ at Anne’s wonderful book launch and it’s one I will certainly treasure.  At the end of the book you can read the first chapter of Anne’s next novel, ‘Death’s Silent Judgement’ which is the sequel to ‘Dancers in the Wind’, due out next Spring  I loved the opening to it and am already intrigued.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

‘Dancers in the Wind’ is available to buy from Urbane Publications:-

http://urbanepublications.com/books/dancers-in-the-wind/

 

Interview with Lesley Allen

author-picture

Congratulations to Lesley Allen whose book, ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ is out today in paperback, published by Twenty7.  I asked Lesley some questions.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ please?

Biddy Weir is a shy little girl who lives a lonely, solitary existence with her old-fashioned, emotionally crippled father. But she exists quite happily in her own little world, sketching seagulls and examining bird poo – until one day she is branded a ‘Bloody Weirdo’ by the most popular girl in her class. What follows is a heart-breaking tale of bullying and redemption, which spans from the late 1970s to 2000. Biddy’s story is set in Northern Ireland, but it has universal appeal, as ultimately it affirms the value of being different.

book-cover

What made you want to write this book and where did you get your ideas from?

Biddy made me write it. I know that sounds a tad trite, but it’s true. She first appeared in a short story I wrote, but she wouldn’t leave me alone. She nattered away in my head and peck-peck-pecked at me until I agreed to explore her story some more. And bit by bit (or Bird by Bird if you’ve read Anne Lamont’s inspirational book) her story turned into a book.

 

How long has it taken you to write?

This book has a long history. It started life over ten years ago as a short story, then very gradually, over three or four years, evolved into a novel. It was almost published back in 2008, but the deal fell through, which was awful at the time. I couldn’t let it go though, and neither could my agents, Susan and Paul Feldstein, who were determined to get me another deal. So after a long break, I dug it back out, did a radical re-write – and they sold it to Bonnier. And this time it actually happened!

 

Can you relate to any of your characters?

I’ve been living with these characters for many years now, so I know them all very well. I really like some of them, and utterly detest others, and there are definitely a couple I can relate to, or at least understand what makes them tick. None of the characters are me, but some are hybrids of people I’ve encountered throughout my life.

 

What would you say to Biddy Weir if you met her for real?

If I met young Biddy, the first thing I’d do is give her a huge big hug. And then another one. Then I’d look her in the eye and tell her that she isn’t a bloody weirdo, that she needs to confide in someone about the bullying, and that, ultimately, everything will be okay. Oh, and that that Alison Flemming one is going to get her comeuppance big time! Then I’d invite her round to my house for tea and Kimberley biscuits. (If you’ve read the book, you’ll know!)

 

What do you want people to get from your book?

The reaction to the book has already surprised me. It seems to be really touching a chord with many readers, and that was so unexpected. I’ve been contacted by people who have been bullied saying that reading the book was cathartic for them and thanking me for ‘telling their story’. Others have told me it helped them to understand what friends or loved ones suffering from anxiety or social disorders are going through and some have said it’s given them the confidence to intervene in a situation they know isn’t right. It’s incredibly humbling.

 

How easy has the publishing process been for you?

It hasn’t been easy at all. A bit of a rollercoaster-come-dodgems white-knuckle ride! But after years of setbacks, rejections, re-writes and confidence crises, I’m one of the lucky ones whose book has finally been published. And I promise you, it has been worth every second of the wait!

 

Are there more books to come?

Definitely. Book two is well under way. It’s not a sequel, but as with Biddy, it does deal with some fairly dark topics.

 

What’s the best bit of advice you have been given about writing?

I’ve had so much advice over the years, from so many people, and it’s all been gratefully received – even if I haven’t particularly agreed with it at the time. But the one thing that has stuck with me above everything else is that in fiction, there are no hard and fast rules. So play with your story, and your characters and your voice. Try out different structures, and if you can’t find one that fits, create your own. There is no right way, and no wrong way, no best way, and no worst way – just your way.

 

Who are you favourite authors?

This is so tricky, as the authors and books that make an impression on your life are constantly evolving. My bookcase is a forever changing landscape. But in recent years, Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Winman, Zoe Heller, Alice Sebold, David Nicholls and Lucy Caldwell are the writers who have inspired me the most. My very soul absorbs their stories.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Read. I read as much as I can, particularly debuts as I’m always interested in new writers. I also like a wee glass of red wine, and if I can combine the two, even better! And I have to admit to a bit of binging on Netflix, most recently Stranger Things. (By the way, when Hollywood comes calling, I want Millie Bobbie Brown to play Biddy in the film!)

 

If you were only allowed to keep five items what would they be?

Assuming my daughter is not classified as an item, then I’d say my laptop, a notebook, a red pen, a bottle of red wine, and my cat, Herbie. All the components I need to finish my next book! (Herbie is glaring at me as I write this with an “I’m not a flippin’ item either” expression!)

 

About Lesley Allen

Lesley Allen lives in Bangor, County Down, with her teenage daughter. She is a freelance copywriter and the press officer and programme developer for Open House Festival. Lesley was named as one of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s 2016 Artist Career Enhancement recipients for literature. She will be using the award to complete her second novel.

 

‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lonely-Life-Biddy-Weir/dp/1785770381/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1478112650&sr=1-1

Blog Tour – ‘Beneath the Ashes’ by Jane Isaac

blog-tour-banner

Jane Isaac’s new book, ‘Beneath the Ashes’ was published yesterday the 1st November 2016 by Legend Press.  I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour to celebrate it.  I have a guest post for all of you which Jane has very kindly written but first, here’s what the book is all about.

 

Book Blurb

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

~~~~~

Writing Through the Eyes of a Different Gender

When I started writing fiction, I kicked off with a female lead and my first two novels featured Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery. Writing through the eyes of another woman was almost like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that. I got to know her really well during the time we spent together and look forward to working with her again in future books.

With my third novel, I started a new series set in Stratford upon Avon featuring Detective Inspector Will Jackman and my latest release, Beneath the Ashes, is the second in this series. So, why the change?

It initially came about as a result of a conversation with my husband. As I was sitting at my PC, putting the finishing touches to my second book he came and leant over my shoulder one morning and said, ‘Do you think you can write a novel with a male lead?’ My reaction was immediate, ‘Of course, I can!’ He was teasing me really, the question tongue in cheek. But the challenge had been laid. I’d worked with peripheral male characters in the past, how hard could it be to work with a male lead?

It’s no secret that men and women think differently and act differently in certain circumstances. You don’t need to have read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus to be aware of those distinctions. Then there are those little character traits: At a shop counter, a woman might delve into a handbag full of items to retrieve her purse to pay; a man might rummage through his trouser pocket or retrieve a wallet from the inside of his jacket. Huge generalisations, but while the physical differences between men and women are fairly obvious to see, some of the cognitive and behavioural differences are less so.

I need to get underneath the skin of a character, to think like they do, breathe the same air, bring them to life on the page. This is especially important for a lead – if they are not real to me, how can I expect them to become real to my readers? I’d already laid some ground rules: Will Jackman was a strong character, a former marine. He was also a father, a husband. But the question was – how would I climb into his head?

First, I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brothers, my husband and my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got it somewhere near.

What was the result of my research? While Helen is a strong independent woman, she is no man in a skirt and is deeply passionate about the finding a result for victim’s family. Jackman is more single minded, less emotional, although you’d be wrong if you thought he saw the world as black and white. He’s a thinker and a feeler and there are definite elements of grey in his peripheral vision.

There is a lot of technology in modern day policing from CCTV cameras to mobile phones and tracking devices, to name but a few. Jackman embraces all of these, naturally, but he’s also a perceptive, seasoned detective: constantly reading body language, looking around him, picking up on those subtle little clues that many of the rest of us miss as daily life passes us by.

It took a while to become familiar with Will Jackman. In fact, it wasn’t until I was watching a film with my family one evening, not long after I’d completed the initial draft of the first novel in the series, Before It’s Too Late, when I found myself saying, ‘Jackman wouldn’t do that…’ My daughter immediately rounded on me, ‘You do know he’s not real, right mum?’ I allowed myself a wry smile. Because that’s where she was wrong. That’s the moment when I realised, he was finally real to me.

 

About Jane Isaac

author-picture

Jane Isaac lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. An Unfamiliar Murder, her first novel, marked the start of the DCI Helen Lavery series and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.

In June 2015, Jane released Before It’s Too Late, the first in the DI Will Jackman series set in Stratford upon Avon. Beneath the Ashes is the second in this series and May 2017 will see the release of the third, The Lies Within. Connect with Jane at www.janeisaac.co.uk.

 

‘Beneath the Ashes’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Ashes-Shocking-Page-Turning-Thriller/dp/1785079476/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1477942740&sr=1-1

Post Navigation