A Lover of Books

Archive for the category “Guest Blog Posts”

Guest Post by Imogen Matthews

I have the lovely Imogen Matthews on my blog today with a guest post.  Imogen recently had her novel, ‘The Hidden Village’ published by Amsterdam Publishers.

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I’ve been writing novels and stories for the past 15 years after trying my hand at a couple of creative writing courses. My first course was in memoir writing, because I didn’t believe I had it in me to write fiction. I soon learnt that writing is writing and that even when you put down your own experiences you embellish the facts. It’s not possible to remember events and conversations accurately from years ago. Reimagining brings history alive.

With this realisation, I tentatively moved onto short stories and was soon gripped by characters, plot, story arc etc. There was one particular story I’d written that I began to wonder, “what happens next?” So I continued writing and writing until I had a novel. After lots of edits and critiquing I published Run Away on Amazon. I was an author!

Once again, I was left with the feeling that there was another story to be told, so I wrote the sequel to Run Away, called The Perfume Muse.

However, simmering away in the recesses of my mind was the idea for a new book, one that would be quite different from the romantic fiction I’d published.

It started when I was on holiday with my family in the Veluwe woods in Holland. We were cycling down a favourite route when I noticed a memorial stone I hadn’t seen before. It described how in these very woods at this spot, a village had been built consisting of huts, many underground, to provide shelter for Jews in hiding from the Germans. It had only been possible because of the goodwill of certain individuals living in the local community who oversaw its construction and selflessly provided provisions, medicines etc to the many persecuted living there. Three huts had been reconstructed and were almost invisible to passers-by. They were dark, dank and pokey. I found it almost impossible to imagine how so many had remained undetected for so long -what could the conditions have been like for them living in such gloomy underground dwellings?

I didn’t want to write a history book, but ideas for characters and plotlines began to build in my head. I needed to undertake research to ensure the accuracy of my story, even though it is a work of fiction. I found invaluable material in a book written by a Dutchman, who had been fortunate enough to interview survivors and gather photos and diagrams of the village. Meanwhile, I spent time with my mother, writing down her wartime stories, which provided such rich context.

It took me several years writing and editing my story. I wanted to publish this book under my real name as it’s so personal to me. Finding someone to publish it was the hard part and I experienced the usual rejections from agents and publishers, until I came across a publishing house based in the Netherlands. They immediately “got” my story and were incredibly enthusiastic about representing me because they believed it was a story that very few people would have known about.

The Hidden Village has become so much more than a work of fiction. For me, it’s about bringing alive stories from the past and introducing them to new generations so that they will never be forgotten.

 

About Imogen Matthews

Imogen lives in Oxford and is the author of two romantic fiction novels which she wrote under the pen name of Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is her first historical novel set in WW2 Holland. Imogen’s interest in Holland’s past has come through the vivid stories her Dutch mother used to recount about her experiences in WW2, when her family were reduced to eating tulip bulbs because there was no food left.

Since 1990, Imogen has regularly visited Holland with her family for cycling holidays and it was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village. Together with her mother’s experiences, this was a story Imogen felt compelled to tell.

 

‘The Hidden Village’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Village-Imogen-Matthews-ebook/dp/B071HY4RMC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499793955&sr=1-1&keywords=imogen+matthews

Follow Imogen on Twitter – @ImogenMatthews3

 

Guest Post by Dianne Noble

Dianne Noble’s new book, ‘Oppression’ was published as an eBook on the 14th June 2017 by Tirgearr Publishing.  The lovely Dianne is back on my blog with another wonderful guest post which I hope you all enjoy reading.

 

Oppression

The first time I saw Egypt I was seven years old and sitting on the deck of the troopship Dunera with my head buried in Enid Blyton’s Ring-o-Bells Mystery. I looked up as we docked in Port Said to see the gully gully man coming aboard. He was an Egyptian magician who fascinated everyone, young and old alike, and he accentuated the other world atmosphere of this exotic country. As we sailed down the Suez Canal – much narrower than I expected – Lawrence of Arabia figures seated on camels appeared on the desert banks. I can truly say Egypt was the first place interesting enough to get my head out of a book.

Three years later, in December 1957, the Canal had been closed and we flew back from Singapore in an RAF Hermes plane. The journey took almost three days, stopping in several countries to re-fuel and de-ice the wings. This time there were no hot and vibrant sights and I didn’t see Egypt again until I reached my early forties, when I travelled by train from Cairo to Aswan, glued to the windows as we passed by villages which looked like they’d come straight from the pages of the Bible. The Pyramids fascinated me, the River Nile, the Temple of Karnak at Luxor, the people, everything. My lifelong love affair with Egypt had begun and I’ve been back many times. The last time, I visited the City of the Dead in Cairo, a vast necropolis which features in Oppression and houses many poor people who would otherwise be on the streets.

This novel is the story of Beth who prevents the abduction of a young girl in a North Yorkshire town, but is powerless to stop her subsequent forced marriage. In time to come Beth travels to Egypt to search for the girl, Layla, and finds her living in the City of the Dead. Oppression is the tale of two very different women, both of whom are oppressed in their lives, and how they triumph despite the odds.

 

About Dianne Noble

I was born into a service family and brought up in Singapore in the 1950s, before it gained its independence, then Cyprus when the Turkish Navy sailed to the island for the first time to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots and we had to travel everywhere in a military convoy. I went on to marry a Civil Engineer and moved to the Arabian Gulf in the 1970s at the time of the construction boom. A hedonistic lifestyle with too much alcohol and partying which saw the demise of my, and many others’, marriages.

Since then, with sons grown and flown, I have continued to wander all over the world, keeping extensive journals of my experiences. Fifteen different schools and an employment history which includes The British Embassy Bahrain, radio presenter, café proprietor on Penzance seafront, and a goods picker in an Argos warehouse (complete with steel toe-capped boots) have resulted in rich seams to mine for inspiration.

I’ve always written, from editing the school magazine to short stories and letters to magazines, but it was only on retirement that I had the time for a novel. My writing is atmospheric, steeped in the smells, sights and sounds of exotic locations. I live – when not travelling – in a small, Leicestershire village. My favourite destinations – so far – have been India, Egypt and Russia, with Guatemala a close third.

 

Links

You can purchase ‘Oppression’ from:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071KY8BJ8

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071KY8BJ8

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/721501

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/oppression/id1231926575?mt=1

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/oppression-4

 

Website: www.dianneanoble.com

Twitter: @dianneanoble1

Facebook: facebook.com/dianneanoble

 

Blog Tour – ‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ by Paul Mathews

‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ was published on the 28th June 2017 as an eBook.  I originally took part in the cover reveal post for this book and you can read what it’s all about here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/cover-reveal-we-have-lost-the-coffee-by-paul-mathews/

I am one of a number of bloggers taking part in the blog tour celebrating ‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ and today it’s my turn along with the blogs Jessica’s Reading Room and Books From Dusk Till Dawn.  I have a guest post about publication day which I hope you’ll all enjoy.

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So, your book is being published!

Woo hoo!!

The Day Before

For the first two novels, I secretly published them a day early. Then I purchased and read them, as a final check – so, the day before official publication, I was actually reading the books. On both occasions, I ended up making some last-minute edits, which was all very hectic. But this time round, it will be very different.

Firstly, I’m making We Have Lost the Coffee available for pre-order (at a discount price) and the final version must be uploaded to Amazon at least three days before publication day. That means I can focus on drafting and scheduling social media posts in the days before.

Secondly, due to a quirk of timing, the audiobook for my second novel, We Have Lost the Pelicans, is launching the day before We Have Lost The Coffee goes live. So, I’ll do a bit of publicity for that, as well.

On the Day

On the day itself, there are no balloons, party poppers or champagne corks being popped. It’s less excitement and more trepidation as you finally let go of your baby after months of careful nurturing.

For me, it will be a long day in front of the computer. For example, I’ll check my sales figures for books one and two, as well as my Amazon US ads, like I do every day when I’m at home. Then I’ll launch into Facebook and Twitter posts. My mailing list is only small at the moment, but I’ll alert subscribers.

There are lots of other things to do: updating Twitter and Facebook profiles with details of the new book; tweaking the book’s blurb (an ongoing process in a novel’s first few weeks); refreshing my website; and updating Amazon author profiles (annoyingly, you have to do this separately for each site). I also have a Facebook party lined up in the evening. I’m not entirely sure what that involves, as someone is organising it for me. But hopefully, it won’t just be me and my Mum …!

My wife will be at work during the day but I’ll have my trusty, four-legged feline assistant Lulu with me – she’ll doze off on the sofa while I’m doing all the hard work. I’ll probably have a drink in the evening, or go for a meal, or just crash out on the sofa in front of the TV. Probably the latter!

 

About Paul Mathews

Paul Mathews is a 40-something British guy who’s given up his 9-to-5 job in London to become a full-time comedy novelist. Why did he make this bold step? Well, he’d had enough of crazy managers and uncooperative printers. So one afternoon, after nearly 20 years working at the heart of the British Government, he shut down his computer, deleted all his emails and escaped the office – never to return. (Okay, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but he is a fiction writer, so please cut him a little slack.)

His two decades working as a Government press officer gave him an invaluable insight into all the key elements of modern government: bureaucracy, bungling, buffoonery, buck-passing and other things that don’t begin with the letter ‘b’ – such as politicians with huge egos and very little talent. He’s now putting that knowledge to use by writing about a British Government of the future – where, believe it or not, the politicians are even bigger idiots than the current lot.

Before becoming a PR guy, he was an accountant. But he doesn’t like to talk about that. And going back further, he went to Cambridge University and studied philosophy. Despite thousands of hours of thoughtful contemplation, he still hasn’t worked out how that happened. The highlight of his university years was receiving a £300 travel grant to visit Prague and ‘study philosophy’. It was a trip which ignited his love of Eastern Europe where he spends a lot of time writing and drinking black beer.

Other interests include wearing sunglasses and having his photograph taken. Visit his website for more info on this (allegedly) humorous man: http://www.iamthe.website

 

‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072MJXKNL/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496861102&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=we+have+lost+the+coffee+by+paul+matthews

 

Guest Post by Glenn McGoldrick

Gleen McGoldrick is a writer of short stories.  Today Glenn is on my blog with his very own story which I hope you enjoy reading.

 

My Story

Where to start? I liked writing as a kid. Yep. My stories at primary school. Tiger Man was one of them. I wrote and wrote, page after page. Can’t remember any of the story at all. I was probably around 7 years old. I just had the main character, Tiger Man. Total crap.

I won some kind of prize for it. Notepad? Jelly babies? Gold star? Something.

At secondary school I was The Man in English class; won the yearly prize plenty of times. I could spell. I was Mr Coleman’s favourite, when I wasn’t being a little bastard in class.

And I was a reader too. Oh, yes. I liked reading so much that I stole a nice collection from Mr Coleman’s shelves. All the classics, in really attractive covers. There were about ten copies of each book, so he didn’t really notice me skimming a book every couple of days.

And I was a reader. What did I read? Stephen King. Yeah, horror mostly; during my teens, I loved it. Westerns, too.

I kept a diary for a few years too. Found it helpful to write stuff down. But I stopped, in my early 20s. With my mother helping me, I tore up all my diaries, chucked them in the bin. Why? It felt like I was letting go. Of what? Moving on? From what? It felt therapeutic.

Now I have my writing ‘sessions’. Something bothers me, then I write about it, pages, free flow, let it rip. It’s personal, a conversation with me – that’s what I tell myself.

It’s a confessional, a chance to just get it all out, no editor, no censor, just throw it onto the page. Sometimes I’m scared of where it takes me.

Sometimes it takes me to dark places, upsetting places. Painful. Yeah. Sometimes. But I usually feel better afterwards. Lighter. Clearer of mind.

When did I start writing fiction? I had the idea in 2012. Read a ‘How To’ book and thought, this is something I can do.

I enrolled on a course: Creative Writing Flying Start. Different assignments and exercises. The last assignment was to write a story. So I wrote my first story. It was OK, good marks.

I moved to Argentina. I wrote some stories, but didn’t get much done, as my head was coming apart. Thousands of miles from home, and I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t really want to be with the woman I was with, but I struggled to just say it.

I just kept it to myself, growing more miserable each day, drinking more. I’d sit in the garden until long after midnight, drinking, thinking about my family back home, staring at the tall trees in a neighbour’s garden. I looked into the dark tree tops silhouetted by moonlight, seeing strange shapes, big cats, snipers taking aim at me; I was just hoping to see the faces of friends.

Eventually it all went to hell, and I came home broken and confused. I didn’t know if I’d see her again, how big I’d screwed up, or what was coming next. A week later my mother died.

So, as well as seeing a therapist for depression, I started another writing course with Writer’s College. Somehow I got plenty of work done. How did I focus? Jesus. I don’t know.

But I got work done, happy to have something to throw myself into, and my marks were good. Eventually I started dating again, and felt a lot better about things.

Why writing? Short stories for now. It’s hard at times. Need discipline. Just sit down and write. Never mind the laundry, or making a curry, or going for a bike ride – sit your ass down and write. There’ll always be other stuff to do, so get to it after you write.

And criticism? Yeah, it sucks. I paid for critiques from a professional. Some of them got to me. Not his fault; it just hurt.

You’ve been working on something for a week or two, develop it, get it down, finish it off, sit back and think about how good it is. Then a stranger shows you all the holes in it and you think, Bloody hell! He’s right. It’s not so great.

So, initially it was rough, facing criticism of a story that I’d put a lot of work into. But I toughened up.

I can’t expect every story to be a success, every story to sell. If it does well, then great; if it doesn’t, then too bad. I just get the hell on with the next one.

I pay attention to all the critiques I receive, and try to take all the criticism constructively. If I don’t get too ruffled by some negative remarks, then I see it as a chance to improve, hopefully getting a little better with each story.

And when a story is accepted, it’s great. Relief. Joy. Satisfaction. Validation. I can do this. Show me the money.

So I’ve had some successes, sold some stories, won a competition or two. I’ve had plenty of rejections and disappointments too. So what. It’s all part of the game.

I published a collection of some of my stories on Amazon Kindle. Researched for a couple of months, did all the work, even the cover photo. I wanted to be able to say that I’d done absolutely every part of the process myself. It turned out quite well, I think; it was stressful at times, but very rewarding, and it’s great to see my book on Amazon.

I promote the book on social media, and I’m trying to spread the word, get reviews, all that jazz. I’ve sold some books already, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

But, to me, there’s no hurry. The sales will pick up, I think, as I learn how to better promote my work, and until then, well – I’ll just get the hell on with the next story.

 

About Glenn McGoldrick

I worked in land-based casinos for five years, living and working in such diverse places as Luton, Israel, Greece and Middlesbrough!

In 1996 I started to work on cruise ships, then travelled the world for the next 15 years. I saw many wonderful places, had some great times and met some real characters.

I finished working on cruise ships in 2011, and since then I’ve settled in England, making my home in the North East. Life is good, but I still miss a little bit of scuba diving…

 

Links

Website:       http://www.glennmcgoldrick.com/

Kindle:         http://amzn.to/2p1vU0k

Paperback:    http://amzn.to/2pddBFA

Twitter:         @G_T_McGoldrick

Facebook:      Glenn McGoldrick

Goodreads:    http://bit.ly/2pLDbES

 

Guest Post by Carole McEntee-Taylor

I would like to introduce you all to the lovely Carole McEntee-Taylor.  Her latest book, ‘Obsession: The Deepening’, the third in a series of five, was published as an eBook on the 6th June 2017 by GWL Publishing.  Carole has written a really interesting guest post for my blog.  If like me you love historical fiction or like reading about military history then you must check her books out.

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My parents both loved books, my father read detective, adventure and espionage stories while my mother read historical fiction and romance so I grew up with a passion for reading most genres and this is reflected in my novels which although set in the 20th Century are a mixture of all these. I write both military history and historical fiction and the inspiration behind my writing was my father in law, Ted Taylor.

Ted was conscripted into the Rifle Brigade in September 1939 and fought in the Defence of Calais in May 1940 after which he spent five years as a POW. Although he’d never spoken about it we finally managed to persuade him to talk on tape and received a very sanitised version of the fighting and his subsequent years in a POW camp. In 2008 Ted suffered a crippling stroke and ended up in a nursing home. To cheer him up I suggested writing up his war experiences as a book.

This was quite daunting as I had no background in military history. So I began the long process of reading everything I could about the Defence of Calais, which wasn’t much. The battle was totally eclipsed by the evacuation from Dunkirk and was rarely mentioned, even on the most recent documentaries. I knew even less about the treatment of the ordinary POW at the hands of their captors or their lives, having grown up on a diet of sanitised POW camp films and even one comedy set in a Stalag, none of which bore any reality to the truth. Like most authors I struggled to find a publisher but eventually, Ted’s story, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, was published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd.

I was now hooked on writing military history and have written several other books, but I also wanted to write fiction because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. I have always been a voracious reader. I’d save up my pocket money as a child, progressing from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie amongst others, disappear up into my bedroom and not come down again until they were finished. My Dad always used to say they were a waste of money because I could get through two or three books in a weekend but they weren’t. They were my escape from reality and the more I read the more it fuelled my imagination. As I grew older I read anything I could get my hands on, crime, thrillers, historical fiction, occasionally romance and science fiction and of course chic lit! I liked big books I could lose myself in, probably to escape my disastrous relationships. Having finally extradited myself from the last one two years later I met David. I no longer needed to escape my reality so I stopped reading. I found books by authors I’d always loved no longer held my attention so I decided to write something I wanted to read and I had the perfect idea.

Whist writing Ted’s story I learnt that Brenda, my mother in law, had been a nurse throughout the London Blitz, and she and Ted were engaged when he went to war. Five long years later he came home and they were married. Their story fascinated me. They did not have the benefit of hindsight. Brenda waited even though she had no idea how long it would be or even if Ted would ever come home. Ted had somehow held onto the belief that he would come home even though he had no idea how long that might be. I decided to write up Ted and Brenda’s story including an element of fiction to cover something Ted did in France.

I soon realised it was impossible to fictionalise my in laws because they were real people. I couldn’t have them doing things that weren’t in character nor did I want to alienate the family and have my husband not talking to me because I had made his mum do something she wouldn’t have! So I changed their names and although the story is inspired by them and based on something that did happen, all the characters are now 100% fiction. Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle is in 5 books and is available on kindle (5 books for under £5) or in paperback.

 

About Carol McEntee-Taylor

Carole McEntee-Taylor is the author of several military history books published by Pen and Sword, including Herbert Columbine VC, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, A Battle Too Far and The Battle of Bellewaarde 1915 with royalties donated to military charities. She also writes historical fiction, including the best-selling Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle and recently released Betrayed, published by GWL Publishing. Carole worked for several years in the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester culminating in a history of the establishment written in the words of those who were there. Specialising in military biographies and village and town heritage books, Carole is now a full time author and partner in Military Lives www.militarylives.co.uk

 

Links

Carole McEntee-Taylor’s books are all available to buy on Amazon UK.  Click on the links below:-

‘Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Separation-World-War-Chronicle-Book-ebook/dp/B00WXL7IHC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1493814166&sr=8-4&keywords=carole+mcentee-taylor

‘Betrayed’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Betrayed-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B01F7WBQY4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

‘Obsession: The Awakening’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsession-Awakening-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B01MYY0T21/ref=pd_sim_351_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=KEKRXNH84ESFF6K5PPQJ

‘Obsession: The Quickening’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsession-Quickening-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B06XGWFPBT/ref=la_B0034ND9TE_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497972901&sr=1-2

‘Obsession: The Deepening’ – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsession-Deepening-Carole-McEntee-Taylor-ebook/dp/B071JRT57Z/ref=la_B0034ND9TE_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497972901&sr=1-1

 

Website – www.carolemctbooks.info

Facebook – www.facebook.com/carolemctbooks.info

Twitter – @CaroleMcT

 

Blog Tour – ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by Lainy Malkani

‘Sugar, Sugar’ was published in paperback on the 25th May 2017 by HopeRoad Publishing, an independent publisher whose aim it is to support neglected voices by focusing on writings and writers from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  I was delighted when HopeRoad contacted me via my blog asking if I was interested in taking part in this blog tour.

Lainy Malkani has written a guest post for my blog about books that inspired ‘Sugar, Sugar’.  First though, here’s what Lainy’s book is all about.

 

Book Blurb

A fascinating web of honey-coloured threads linking Indian migrant workers, who first left the SubContinent more than a hundred and fifty years ago, and their descendants now living in contemporary Britain

Sugar, Sugar is a contemporary collection of short stories which reveals a rich and culturally diverse history behind India’s migrant workers and one of the most abundant and controversial commodities in the world.

Inspired by historical documents between 1838 and 1917, and the living memories of the descendants of indentured workers, Sugar, Sugar, spans five continents, travelling through time uncovering inspiring tales of courage and resilience.

With sugar at its heart, this collection unveils lives rarely exposed in modern British literature and adds a new dimension to the history of sugar, post emancipation, whilst sharing a previously untold strand in the story of the making of contemporary Britain.

 

Guest Post

Books that inspired this book 

When I decided to write Sugar, Sugar I submerged myself in the short story genre trying to find my voice as a writer. I particularly enjoyed and felt connected to the stories in ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her stories are steeped in African culture and also contain universal themes which make them accessible to all readers.  I read, ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez so many times I have lost count and the same goes for Satyajit Ray’s ‘Twenty Stories’, which I love for its haunting atmosphere. Clare Wigfall’s ‘Night after Night’ found in her debut collection of stories, ‘The Loudest Sound and Nothing’ was a master class in getting to the heart of a story in the first line and I read Anton Chekhov’s Selected Stories every night before I went to bed, just so I could wake up feeling inspired.

 

About Lainy Malkani

Lainy Malkani is a London born writer, broadcast journalist and presenter with Indo-Caribbean roots. In 2013 she set up the Social History Hub to bring the stories of ‘unsung heroes’ in society to life. Her critically acclaimed two-part radio documentary for BBC Radio 4, ‘Sugar, Saris and Green Bananas’, inspired her to create this collection of short stories. She has written for the British Library, the Commonwealth and the BBC. She is married with two children and lives in North West London. Her cross-cultural roots; from Britain, India and Guyana, in the Caribbean, has been a great source of her work, both as a writer and journalist.

 

Links

‘Sugar, Sugar’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sugar-Bitter-Indian-Migrant-Workers/dp/1908446609/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496069257&sr=1-1&keywords=sugar+sugar

HopeRoad Publishing – http://www.hoperoadpublishing.com/

 

Guest Post by Richard Whittle

Big congratulations to Richard Whittle whose new book, ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ is out today published by Urbane Publications.  Richard took part in my Urbane Blog Event in March and it is a real pleasure to have him back on my blog with a guest post.

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Sonya, thank you for inviting me to write a Guest Post, I really appreciate it! In March you were kind enough to interview me and to publish an extract from my novel, The Man Who Played Trains, which will be published on 25th May by Urbane Publications. My publisher calls it an intelligent thriller.  What more could I ask?

The Man Who Played Trains is not my first novel. Fifteen years ago I was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award and received a runner-up prize, presented by Ian Rankin – who, tongue in cheek, asked me not to set any novels in Edinburgh. He also told me to keep writing, encouragement I didn’t need at the time but which I would have appreciated many times before, and since, that day. Like so many writers, I’d had short stories published, but no full-length novels. I had been submitting novels to publishers and agents for years, receiving those negative responses we all know so well. Also, occasionally, a few words of encouragement.

The best writing advice and encouragement I ever had was from Random House. Years before my modest success with the Dagger I submitted the typescript of a full novel to the company (probably as part of a scattergun approach to publishers and agents, I cannot even remember which novel I sent). Somehow it fell into the hands of one of the company’s directors and he personally edited, with a lot of red pen, the first three chapters of my book. The letter accompanying the returned typescript ran to two single-space pages of helpful critique and suggestions. He ended by assuring me that one day I would be published. He did add that it might take some time. He was right.

A few years ago I became so disheartened with the responses to my submissions that I gathered up all my correspondence and ceremoniously shredded the lot. Regretfully, the Random House letter died in this purge – though if I am honest with myself I see little point in keeping such things – I read somewhere that we are known for what we do today, not what we have done in the past. That is not always true (think Mandela, Einstein, Pankhurst, Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky…) but it is sound advice that keeps me on my toes.

So where are all these novels, you might ask? Complete and incomplete typescripts litter my hard drives – stories not dead but merely sleeping, awaiting modification and renovation. Many stem from a stage when I wrote only for myself (I had spent far too much time submitting my work to agents or publishers and not enough time writing). During this time, a period of about four years, if I tired of the novel I was writing I put it aside and started another. It is rather like having a big garage full of old cars, some in bits, some almost ready to run (apologies for the analogy if you know nothing about old cars. I am sure you can think of another).

One of these restarts and rewrites was Playpits Park, a novel I self-published on Amazon. To my surprise it acquired more 5-star reviews that I could ever have wished for. The Kindle version was downloaded more than six thousand times.

So who do I write for now, myself or the reader? That is not an easy question to answer. When you read The Man Who Played Trains you enter a world I inhabited before you, a world built from real and imagined places, real events and fictional events. I believe Robert Harris said it first – there are holes in history that you can fall through. This story, set in Edinburgh (sorry, Ian), the far north of Scotland around ten years ago and in Germany in wartime, is a crime novel, a mystery, a thriller and adventure story. My greatest wish is that you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it. That makes it all worthwhile.

I wrote at the start of this post that The Man Who Played Trains is not my first novel. Nor is it about trains, though they do appear now and again. Thank you for reading this guest post until its end. That, too, makes it worthwhile!

 

Buy The Man Who Played Trains from Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-man-who-played-trains/

Also at Waterstones, Blackwell’s, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

Guest Post by Betsy Reavley of Bloodhound Books

Over the next few weeks I plan to publish a number of guest posts from both authors and publishers.  Today I have the amazing Betsy Reavley, an author and co-founder of Bloodhound Books on my blog with a very interesting post.  I really hope you enjoy reading it.  Don’t forget to check out the great books being published by Bloodhound Books.

~~~~~

When Sonya asked if she could feature the company I co-founded on her blog I jumped at the chance.

It’s nearly three years since Bloodhound Books was born and what a whirlwind it has been.

My husband and I formed the company because we saw a gap in the market for a digital publisher that focused on crime and thriller fiction. I am an author and my husband was in marketing so we decided together we had the skills to go into this business.

This has been a learning process for us both since neither of us comes from a publishing background but our determination and willingness to learn from our mistakes has catapulted us into the limelight. We were recently included in a list of three of the most dynamic digital publishers in the UK.

We work very closely with each of our authors, all the way through the editorial process right up to the cover design. Even as we’ve grown, and now work with more than 50 authors, that vision remains at the forefront.

We are growing very rapidly and sales are the best they’ve ever been. We sold our millionth eBook at the start of 2017, and the next million is already in sight. Currently we sell over 2000 books a day and, to date, we have had over 20 top 100 bestsellers worldwide. This is something we are extremely proud of. The company has allowed us, and some of the authors we work with, to make a living out of this industry. When you know you have helped people achieve their dreams it really is a wonderful feeling.

We take a chance on authors who may have struggled to find traditional representation but whose talent and voice deserve to be heard, and help them reach a mass-market audience. It’s a special feeling when one of our authors tells us that, because of their success, they can give up the day job and focus just on their writing.

We take pride in helping launch the careers of some of our authors and hope they go on to become global superstars, whether that be with us or another publisher. This is a competitive business and as an author I understand you have to grab every opportunity you can.

I think and hope we have a very healthy attitude towards the business. We appreciate that we are not Penguin or Harper Collins and therefore do not try to compete with them. This is why we focus our efforts on eBook sales, where we can and do contend.

One of the most controversial subjects that surround eBooks is their price. 99p does not seem like very much money for an author who has spent months or even years polishing a manuscript. However, reading habits are changing. There are readers who consume numerous books a week. Not everyone can afford to spend upwards of £30 a week on their reading habit.

The company has been so successful that recently a bestselling author approached us and wants to work with us to launch an imprint for women’s fiction. This is an extremely exciting development and we look forward to whatever the future holds. Watch this space.

I have to say, for me, one of the best parts of my job is the people I work with. Not only do I get to work side by side with my husband and the talented authors but also the team at Bloodhound. Without Alexina Golding, Sarah Hardy and Sumaira Wilson, plus the excellent editors we work along side, we would not be in the great position we are in now. Fred and I are very proud of the reputation the company has built and look forward to discovering more talent and helping writers live the dream.

Many thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts and the journey my company is taking with you.

 

Visit Bloodhound Books at www.bloodhoundbooks.com

 

Blog Tour – ‘Blue Gold’ by David Barker

Congratulations to David Barker whose debut novel, ‘Blue Gold’ was published yesterday the 11th May by Urbane Publications.  For a taster of David’s book click on the link below:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/extract-from-blue-gold-by-david-barker/

It’s my turn on the blog tour celebrating the publication of ‘Blue Gold’ and I am delighted to be hosting a guest post written by David Barker.

 

Water, water, everywhere…

And not a drop to drink, as the Ancient Mariner once said. Hopefully by now you know that Blue Gold is a thriller set in the near future during a world war for water. Articles about water shortages are becoming more common. I’ve been thinking about this for the past seven years or so as I tried to craft a setting for my novel. So, what’s the problem and why is it getting worse?

Many of you may know that only 2.5% of the world’s water is drinkable, the rest being seawater. And two-thirds of the freshwater is locked up in polar icecaps or glaciers. That in itself is scary but not a problem; our ecosystem has always been like that.

The problem is a combination of three factors: demographics, economics and climate change. The demographics part is quite easy to follow. Over the next twenty years the global population is expected to rise by 20%, that’s 1½ billion people who need food and water. Unfortunately, most of those extra people are likely to be born in regions of the world already stressed by water shortages: Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Many of the countries with the biggest populations are showing economic success, raising families out of poverty towards better incomes. That, of course, is fantastic news – and an oft forgotten aspect of the global inequality debate – but richer families tend to consume more water. Their diets shift away from vegetarian to meat-based. Cattle require ten times as much water as crops do to grow. And when a family can afford its own apartment, with their own bathroom, they use more water.

So, it’s obvious that demographics and economics will boost the demand for water significantly over the next 20-30 years. The effects of climate change are more subtle. A hotter atmosphere doesn’t change the amount of water in the ecosystem. But extreme weather events – droughts and floods – are becoming more common. California just went through its worst drought in over a thousand years. Floods, oddly, are unhelpful for water supplies too because rivers and drains can’t cope with the deluge; the excess water is often contaminated and can’t be stored. The effective supply of rainwater is declining with weather extremes.

What can we do about this problem? In the first instance, we simply tap into the underground stores of water known as aquifers. But these take millennium to refill, and the rate of depletion in most suggests a looming problem.

People often assume that desalination – removing salt from seawater – can solve the problem, but even with technological improvements it’s still expensive. It leaves behind a concentration of salt that can be devastating for the local environment. Water is very heavy. If the city you are trying to supply is miles from the sea, or as in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, 7000 feet up an escarpment, you can forget about desalination as a practical source of freshwater. And desalination uses a lot of energy. It will be hard enough for us to meet the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions without the extra burden of powering desalination plants and transporting water inland.

The real solution lies in using our freshwater more carefully. Educating households and businesses on the importance of looking after this precious commodity. Reducing pollution in our rivers. Building homes that catch rainwater and use that to flush our toilets. Modernising our sewage systems. Inevitably, all of this will require a helping hand from Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’. The price of water will have to rise significantly to persuade people to take the issue seriously and to reward the innovators.

What will happen in the poorest parts of the world then? It was probably no coincidence that the Arab Spring of 2010-12 occurred during a period of rapid increases in the price of flour and bread. People like to grumble when luxury items become more expensive. People riot when basic, essential items becomes unaffordable. I hope it doesn’t come to that. It’s one prediction I’ll gladly get wrong.

 

Find out more about Blue Gold and me on my website:

www.davidbarkerauthor.co.uk

 

About David Barker

David was born in Cheshire but now lives in Berkshire. He is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time.

David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing.

 

‘Blue Gold’ can be purchased from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/blue-gold/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Gold-David-Barker-x/dp/1911331655/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488657122&sr=1-1&keywords=blue+gold+by+david+barker

 

Guest Post by Jackie Buxton

Well, my Urbane Blog Event is almost over but I still have a few more posts.  Jackie Buxton took part in my event last year and I am thrilled to have her back on my blog again.  Jackie has written a guest post this time.

 

Glass Houses: the Unexpected Campaign

In the first chapter of Glass Houses, Tori Williams is slumped over the steering wheel after her Jeep has collided with the car in front. We quickly learn that moments before Tori crashed, she had sent a text to her husband reminding him to put the chicken in the oven.

Recently, I’ve taken to putting my phone in my bag on the back seat so that it’s totally out of reach when I’m driving. This is not because I consider myself some sort of model driver, nor is it because I’m some evangelical, holier-than-thou do-gooder, it’s because of the research I did for this novel.

Through the course of writing Glass Houses (where Tori Williams quickly becomes Public Enemy Number One, blamed for all the deaths in the collision, and has to fight to change public perception of her) I became consumed with the world of road traffic accidents. I spoke to police, other members of the emergency services, people who’d emerged from a coma and the loved ones of those who hadn’t. I read about victims of road traffic accidents and the stories of those behind the crash, and the more I read, the more I became convinced that there could never be a good reason to use a phone in the car. Your life, or someone else’s life, it just isn’t worth it, is it?

Many people have either said or posted in reviews, that because of reading Glass Houses, they would never now pick up their phone when driving, whether to speak or to text. I hadn’t expected this when I wrote the first words of Glass Houses, nor when I’d finished the first draft, not even when I had the very first copies in my hands. But I am so happy to hear this now.

My eldest child passed her driving test last summer and my youngest is about to start learning. It occurred to me that if we could start this young generation of drivers off on the right foot, instil from the start that there is no place for the phone at the wheel, then they could carry this practice forward, set the right example, put other generations to shame, and change a nation’s attitudes to phones in cars for ever.

I’m not saying this will be easy. I hear it all on radio phone-ins: Impossible! Nobody will manage it! We need our phones for work, for emergencies, to call our loved ones!

But I think it is possible, because this kind of change in a nation’s thinking happens all the time.

Back in the glorious 1970s when children played outside until they were hungry and walked to school on their own as soon as they could tie their shoe laces, back when they ate frozen mousse in a pot full of chemicals and when Wagon Wheels were bigger, I remember my three sisters and I playing Moving Houses. This was our game of choice on any car journey longer than ten minutes or so. Indeed, my abiding memory of the vast stretch of the eight hour journey from Wylam in Northumberland to Bridgend in South Wales for our annual summer holiday with our welsh relatives, was of our feet hovering six inches above the footwell, hands in laps, in Moving Houses position.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I realised this wasn’t a game entirely confined to my family – in fact, most of my peers seemed to have played it – this game involving great whoops of laughter as our orange Skoda saloon, weighted down with children and luggage, took a corner a little tightly and one, if not all of us, would lose that particular round as a foot inevitably touched the floor.

It’s incredible to me that this falling about in the back of the car happened in my life time. When I’d looked back on it previously, before I’d done any research for Glass Houses, I’d surmised that four girls between the ages of 7 and 12, wedged so tightly on the back seat, wouldn’t be going anywhere in a crash; even getting out of the car once stopped, it was difficult to move until others had detached themselves from the line. However, I’ve since seen the videos of simulated accidents and know that come crash, we’d have been lucky if all of us hadn’t careered out of the front windscreen, killing our parents en route. I heard that an unrestrained child in the back of the car would have the force of a baby elephant as it propelled forward and through the screen.

We know this now. And thus, after many unsuccessful attempts, seatbelt wearing in the front and back of the car has been compulsory since 1983 and 1986. I’m surprised it was as late as that but still, it’s a long time since I’ve seen anybody who doesn’t Clunk Click Every Trip.

I was too young to notice, but there were clearly many people and organisations protesting against a legal obligation to wear seat belts in the seventies and eighties, and I’m sure there were many others who recognised the need but didn’t believe that a nation could change its thinking.

And yet it did.

I think that we can get rid of mobile phones from the front of cars. And if Glass Houses can help persuade people to do this, although that was never my original intention, nobody would be happier about that than me.

Are you with me?

 

Links

‘Glass Houses’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/glass-houses/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Glass-Houses-Jackie-

‘Tea & Chemo’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/tea-and-chemo-fighting-cancer-living-life/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tea-Chemo-Fighting-Cancer-Living-Life/dp/1910692395/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448719909&sr=1-1&keywords=tea+and+chemo+by+jackie+buxton

Jackie Buxton’s Blog – http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

Jackie Buxton’s Website – http://www.jackiebuxton.com

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