A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “March, 2020”

Interview with Dan Brotzel ~ @sandstonepress @brotzel_fiction

Today on my blog I have an interview with Dan Brotzel.  His book, ‘Hotel du Jack’, a debut collection of short stories, was published in paperback and as an eBook by Sandstone Press on the 23rd January 2020.

 

I have been sent a copy of your book and am really looking forward to reading it. For the benefit of my readers can you please tell me a bit about ‘Hotel du Jack’?

Thank you so much for reading, Sonya! Hotel du Jack is a collection of short stories that I mostly wrote over the last 4-5 years. They tend to be funny-sad in tone, and look at things like parental guilt, dodgy gurus, the nightmare of office life, failed relationships, grief, ageing, wondering where your life went wrong etc – often quite domestic themes, but with a bit of a dark edge to them.

I’m interested in playing with different voices and unusual structures too. So in here you get stories in the form of a product recall notification, a dishwasher glossary, a grammar lesson, a shopping list – not to mention a strange ghost story in the form of a neighbourhood forum chat!

 

Have you been writing short stories for long?

I’ve been trying to write fiction for about 30 years, but I always thought I had to start with a novel. Then, about five years ago, I suddenly had the brainwave of writing shorter things. I’ve not been able to stop since…

 

Where have you had your short stories published?

My stories have appeared in lots of literary mags, such as Pithead Chapel, Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, Bending Genres, The Esthetic Apostle, Spelk, Ginger Collect and Fiction Pool. I won the 2019 Riptide Journal short story competition, was runner-up in the 2019 Leicester Writes contest, and was highly commended in the Manchester Writing School competition 2018 too. A couple of my stories have recently been nominated for the Pushcart anthology in the US too.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

Often they come from something that I’ve seen or experienced that I can then use as a sort of prompt to make up from there. The title story for Hotel du Jack, for example, came from a man spotted on a beach who looked like a body-builder and seemed more interested in his quads than his kids. At the same time I was reading an Anita Brookner novel, and I thought it would be funny to see what would happen if I put these two things together. Another story, ‘Ella G in a Country Churchyard’ is based on me trying to explain death to my young daughter.

But as I write more stories, I find they are often less based on direct experience. ‘Now and For Ever’, for example, is based on an idea I had about a dubious guru who preaches that everyone can become immortal but finds himself terrified on his own deathbed, while ‘Nothing So Blue’ simply came from my son telling me to ‘write a story about being invisible’. I suddenly thought: What if being invisible turned out to be rubbish, and it just went from there…

 

Are there plans for anymore of your stories to be published as a collection?

I really hope so! I’m about halfway through getting enough stories together for another collection (working title: The Grace Period), so we shall see…

 

Have you got any other writing projects on the go?

Yes! I’ve got a comic novel coming out with Unbound in early 2021. It’s called Kitten on a Fatberg and it’s about a group of very eccentric wannabe writers… I’m also putting the finishing touches to another comic novel just now, a solo effort this time, called The Wolf in the Woods.

 

What do you hope readers will get from your stories?

Well, I’ve had some lovely reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. For example: ‘Life affirming, heartbreaking, quietly hilarious. A joy.’ And: ‘Hotel du Jack offers the chance to see life through many lenses; the joyful, the sad, the heartwarming and the hilarious are all treated with the same sharp wit and keen insight into the beauty of the mundane.’   I’m so thrilled with comments like these because they say better than me what I’d hoped for these stories – that they make people smile, maybe nod their heads in recognition, and feel they are not alone in being less than perfect! I love finding beauty and poignancy in every day things – or as Updike put it, ‘to give the mundane its beautiful due’.

 

What advice would you give to someone wishing to submit short stories to magazines?

Go for it. Just do it and keep doing it! Write a story and submit it to 20 places! Then write another while you are waiting! The most important thing is just to keep plugging away and not to waste time on doubting yourself – all writers do, I think, but over time you can learn to focus your thoughts elsewhere. There are so many wonderful litmags out there – all the ones I mention above, for example – that are really supportive of new writers, often giving feedback when they turn a piece down. And on Twitter there’s a lively community of writers who are are really supportive and generous with each other too. It’s an inspiring thing to find, especially when there’s so much bad news around. Also – enter short story competitions. Again, there are loads, and each one comes of course with a deadline (and sometimes a prompt), which focuses the mind wonderfully…

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I write! Also, I have three young children, so that takes care of most of my time. I play tennis badly too. But mostly, I write.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

They change all the time. But at the mo, off the top of my head, maybe Malcolm Lowry, Joyce Carole Oates, Jonathan Coe, Siri Hustvedt, Paul Theroux, Gary Shteyngart…  I could go on!

 

Book Blurb

A woman granted a superpower discovers it’s more trouble than it’s worth. A neighbourhood forum becomes the setting for a bizarre ghost story. A children’s entertainer wrestles with problems that are nothing to joke about. A harassed dad attempts to meet the challenge of the primary school cake competition.

By turns tender and satirical, witty and bizarre, the stories in this debut collection cast a fresh eye on first-world problems. Funny and humane, they zoom in on the absurdities and poignancies in work, family, love and loss in our frenetic modern lives.

 

About Dan Brotzel

Dan Brotzel’s stories have appeared in Pithead Chapel, Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, Lucent Dreaming, Bending Genres, The Esthetic Apostle, Spelk, The Ginger Collect and Fiction Pool. He won the 2018 Riptide Journal short story competition, was runner-up in the 2019 Leicester Writes competition, and was highly commended in the Manchester Writing School competition 2018. He is also coauthor of a comic novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers’ group, Kitten on a Fatberg (Unbound).

He lives in London with his partner Eve and their three children.

 

Links

‘Hotel du Jack’ is available from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hotel-du-Jack-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B07YF61DMZ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1585032597&sr=8-1

Twitter – https://twitter.com/brotzel_fiction

Blog Tour – ‘The Waxwork Corpse’ by Simon Michael ~ @SapereBooks @simonmichaeluk

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour along with Steph’s Book Blog and Linda’s Book Bag.  ‘The Waxwork Corpse’ by Simon Michael is the fifth book in the Charles Holborne series.  It was published on the 23rd December last year in paperback and as an eBook by Sapere Books.

I would like to thank Caoimhe O’Brien of Sapere Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and for my review copy of ‘The Waxwork Corpse’.  I literally cannot wait to tell you what I thought about this book.  First though here’s the blurb.

 

Book Blurb

Charles Holborne is back – with his strangest case to date! Perfect for fans of John Grisham, Robert Bailey, Michael Connelly and Robert Dugoni.

A deadly crime has been dragged to the surface…

London, 1965

Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.

But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press. By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake.

It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.

The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.

The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…

THE WAXWORK CORPSE, based on a real Old Bailey case, is the fifth crime novel in an exciting historical series, the Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers — gritty, hard-boiled mysteries set in 1960s London.

 

My Review

What a superb read this was. I absolutely loved ‘The Waxwork Corpse’. I haven’t actually read the full series yet but that didn’t spoil things for me in the least and I would say this book can definitely be read as a standalone novel.

I found myself engrossed in the story from the very start. It was really quite easy to get into. By the time I read the prologue I was intrigued. I kept trying to work out where exactly it fitted in with the story. I really do like Simon Michael’s style of writing. He was very descriptive throughout and I was actually able to picture things. I loved reading about the Temple and Chambers and wished I could have been there exploring.

This is such an intelligent and thought-provoking legal thriller. I thought the case itself was really quite unusual and was surprised to find that it was actually based on a real one. I was totally gripped during the trial and I almost felt as if I was there sitting in Court with everyone else. I didn’t want to have to put down the book until the verdict was read.

I really like Charles Holborne as a character. He comes across as a really good barrister and I would say nothing much gets past him. He knew when things were amiss. I enjoyed reading about Charles and his family and it was nice to see how things developed there. I could actually see both sides. His father, Harry, is such a lovely man and I’m glad that Charles got to spend some quality time with him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Charles Holborne series, but I think the author has surpassed himself with this one and has come a very long way with his writing since then. I am overjoyed that there is going to be another book.

If you are a fan of legal thrillers, historical and crime fiction, I highly recommend that you read ‘The Waxwork Corpse’.

This book gets all the stars from me and is definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far.

 

‘The Waxwork Corpse’ can be purchased from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Waxwork-Corpse-thriller-chilling-Thrillers/dp/1913335836/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1583694598&sr=8-1

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Waxwork-Corpse-thriller-chilling-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B07ZTHJVG3/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+waxwork+corpse&qid=1583696157&sr=8-1

 

About Simon Michael

Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne. Simon writes from personal experience: a barrister for 37 years, he worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. The 1960s was the Wild West of British justice, a time when the Krays, the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted evidence and took a share of the criminal proceeds. Simon weaves into his thrillers real events of the time, the cases on which he worked and his unusual family history in the East End.

Simon was published here and in America in the 1980s and returned to writing when he retired from the law in 2016. The Charles Holborne series, The Brief, An Honest Man, The Lighterman, Corrupted and the latest, The Waxwork Corpse, have all garnered strong reviews for their authenticity and excitement.

 

Links

Website – http://www.simonmichael.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/simonmichaeluk

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/simonmichael.uk/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15798010.Simon_Michael

 

Guest Post by Angelena Boden ~ @matadorbooks

It is a real privilege to have Angelena Boden visiting my blog today and brightening it up as always.  Angelena’s new novel, ‘Love Bytes Back’, the second book in the Edna Reid Investigates series, was published as an eBook on the 14th February 2020 by Troubador Publishing and it sounds like a cracker of a read.  This lady really deserves to do well.

Angelena has written a very personal and truly beautiful post for my blog which I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did.

 

FINDING LOVE AT SIXTY

In the years following a protracted and intensely painful divorce in the late 90s, I lost all sense of self-worth and vowed to give men a wide-berth. Still smarting from being robbed of trust and money, I wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship, and couldn’t imagine that changing.

As my two daughters grew and became independent, finally leaving the nest for university and high-powered jobs, I felt an increasing sense of isolation and loneliness. The house echoed with silence and I slid into a depression, preferring to soothe myself with junk food and sleep rather than make an effort to get out there and meet people.

As the months crawled towards my sixtieth birthday, I ended up at the doctor’s surgery, shaking and in flood of tears. She suggested various local groups as a way of breaking the deadlock of my empty weekends. A friend, who was a member of an online dating site regaled me with her experiences, some of which made me laugh while others filled me with horror.

I couldn’t imagine being so bold but with nothing to lose, I scrolled through some dating sites and liked the look of one that was for the over sixties. There were no calls to download an App or “swipe right” so I registered my details and paid for a trial month with no obligation. From there, I was hurled into a world of loonies, losers, fantasists and desperados. Some had clearly faked their profiles, others got down to business and asked me for money. So much for a troll-free site.

When I received a “nudge” from Ken, whose interests matched mine I felt hopeful. We chatted for hours and seemed to share similar interests- rambling in the countryside, art, and books. That was until I met him in a sixteenth century pub, complete with oak beams and a roaring fire.

I looked cautiously round to see if I could identify him and was about to approach a smartly dressed man with a signet ring on his little finger, when a man with a beer belly hanging over his trousers bellowed out my name and grinned when I turned round. He reeked of smoke. To be polite I ordered a coffee, exchanged pleasantries with him and wished him well before hot-footing it to the exit.

My daughter was worried about my online safety because of the increase in scammers, but also my physical safety. When I did venture out on another date, I had to inform her of my whereabouts (talk about tables turning), take my own car, park in a well- lit place and have my phone fully charged. In the end it was all too much effort so I gave it up and accepted the reality that relationships held none of the promise of those at thirty or younger. The men who strayed across my path were on the prowl for younger women or wanted a clone of their deceased wife. This was my experience and maybe not typical.

They say when you stop looking, love will find you and I can vouch for that. I was working away when I received a text from an old family friend. I’d known him for thirty years but we’d lost touch. He was letting me know that his long term partner had died. We agreed to meet up and walked miles through the Shropshire countryside, catching up on the lost years. Our friendship was filled with lots of laughter, surprises, and conversation. It was easy, fun and safe.

We married five years ago but agreed to live independently during the week and meet up at weekends. Semi-detached living isn’t for everyone but for it’s a good option when you’re older and set in your ways. It also keeps the stars twinkling!

 

Book Blurb

When lonely widow Kitty Merriweather moves to Derbyshire’s Hope Valley, she joins the Silver Rose online dating site because it offers a safe place for the over sixties to find romance.

There, she meets the enigmatic Harvey, a scientist working on a conservation project in Bali who promises her “hot days and stormy nights.”

Love blooms quickly but Kitty breaks all the rules laid down by the agency, putting herself at risk. When little things don’t add up she dismisses them as being unimportant. Nothing matters more than her plans for them to live happily ever after.

When she confides in her new friend, Edna Reid, octogenarian and former café owner, Kitty gets angry at Edna’s implication she is likely the victim of a scam.

The more Edna hears about Harvey, the more she is convinced he’s only interested in Kitty for her money.

Using her knowledge of computers Edna finally uncovers the truth, but where does black magic and murder fit into this intriguing cosy mystery?

 

About Angelena Boden

Angelena has spent thirty- five years as an international training consultant and counsellor, specialising in behavioural management, communication skills and conflict resolution. She has a Masters in Social Science from Birmingham University, and diplomas in Transactional Analysis, teaching, training, coaching and mentoring. Now retired, when Angelina is not dog walking, babysitting, landscape painting or reading astrology charts for clients, she writes the “Edna Reid Investigates” series of cosy crime novels, which are set in the Peak District. She is also a champion for Autumn Voices, a website dedicated to promoting creative pursuits of authors over 60.

 

Links

‘Love Bytes Back’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2VZZPt0

Website – https://www.angelenaboden.com/

 

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