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Extract from ‘The Secret Mother’ by Shalini Boland

‘The Secret Mother’ is being published as an eBook on the 9th November 2017 by Bookouture.  As a special treat they are giving readers the chance to read an exclusive extract from the book.  Isn’t that just lovely of them?

I am just one of a number of bloggers who is hosting this extract.  First though here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Tessa Markham comes home to find a child in her kitchen calling her ‘mummy’. But Tessa doesn’t have any children.

Not anymore.

She doesn’t know who the little boy is or how he got there.

After contacting the police, Tessa comes under suspicion for snatching the child. She must fight to prove her innocence. But how can she convince everyone she’s not guilty when even those closest to her are questioning the truth? And when Tessa doesn’t even trust herself…

A chilling, unputdownable thriller with a dark twist that will take your breath away and make you wonder if you can ever trust anyone again. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Sister.

~~~~~

What readers are saying about Shalini Boland:

‘Read in one sitting from 9pm last night until 2:15 am.  I literally could not put it down!!!!  The story line and the twists and the way it’s written just draws you in completely and you have to know where it’s going  I couldn’t read fast enough… absolutely addictive and brilliant  and an end I didn’t see coming.  This is one book you have to read and it gets 5 huge stars from me!!!! ’  Goodreads reviewer , 5 stars

‘What can I say? Just wow. I’m usually never surprised by an ending, but  this one blew me away. I am totally in shock  and think I’ll have a hangover from this book for a while.  A great read that keeps you on your toes until the very last word .’  Stacey Harrell, Goodreads

‘If anyone can have me reading until 2am and finishing a book in less than 48hrs in the school holidays it’s this author…  massive five stars  from me.’  Sarah Mackins, UK Crime Book Club , 5 stars

‘The  ending of this book blew me out of the water, you won’t be able to put this down .’  For the Love of Books , 5 stars

‘The plot is  gripping  and once you’ve started reading,  you have to keep on reading, you need to know how the story will end .’  Bits About Books , 5 Stars

… one of the most chilling reads of the year for me .’ Ajoobacats Blog , 5 Stars

‘This book should come with a warning… make sure you have enough time to read it in one-sitting because as soon as you’ll pick it up,  you won’t be able to put it down! ’  Bookishly Ever After , 5 stars

‘This is a brilliant psychological thriller. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve read. It is full of suspense and has  more twists and turns than a fairground ride .’  Jackie Roche, UK Crime Book Club , 5 Stars

‘I thought I knew the direction this story was going go. Then the  jaw dropping  moment happened!…  unputdownable! ’  Goodreads Reviewer , 5 Stars

‘Once again, Boland has managed to blow my mind with all the  twists and turns … an outstanding  explosive  read!’  Mello and June , 5 Stars

‘Great book. I read it in less than 24 hours. I was unable to put it down. The story was  fast paced and intriguing .’  Goodreads reviewer , 5 stars

 

Extract

Chapter One

The street lamps flicker, illuminating the grey pavement mottled with patches of dirty snow and slick black ice. Slushy puddles hug the kerb, cringing away from the hissing, splashing car tyres. It takes all my concentration to keep my balance. My hands would be warmer if I jammed them into my coat pockets, but I need them free to steady myself on walls, fences, tree trunks, lamp posts. I don’t want to fall. And yet would it really be so terrible if I slipped on the ice? Wet jeans, a bruised bum. Not the end of the world. There are worse things. Far worse things.

It’s Sunday: the last exhale of the week. That uncomfortable pause before Monday, when it all starts up again – this lonely pretence at life. Sunday has become a black dot on the horizon for me, growing larger each day. I’m relieved now it’s almost over and yet I’m already anticipating the next one. The day when I visit the cemetery and stand above their graves, staring at the grass and stone, talking to them both, wondering if they hear my inane chatter or if I’m simply talking into the empty wind. In burning sunlight, pouring rain, sub-zero temperatures or thick fog I stand there. Every week. I’ve never missed a Sunday yet.

Sleet spatters my face. Icy needles that make me blink and gasp. Finally, I turn off the high street into my narrow road, where it’s more sheltered and the wind less violent. A rainbow assortment of overflowing bins lines my route, waiting for collection tomorrow at some ungodly pre-dawn hour. I turn my face away from the windows where Christmas tree lights wink and blink, reminding me of happier Christmases. Before.

Almost home.

My little north London terraced house sits halfway along the road. Pushing open the rusted gate, I turn my face away from the neglected front garden with its discarded sweet wrappers and crisp packets blown in from the street, now wedged among long tussocks of grass and overgrown bushes. I thrust my frozen fingers into my bag until they finally close around a jagged set of keys. I’m glad to be home, to get out of the cold, and yet my body sags when I open the door and step into the dark silence of the hall, feeling the hollow of their absence.

At least it’s warm in here. I shrug off my coat, kick off my boots, dump my bag on the hall table and switch on the light, avoiding my sad reflection in the hall mirror. A glass of wine would be welcome about now. I glance at my watch – only 5.20. No. I’ll be good and make a hot chocolate instead.

Strangely, the door to the kitchen is closed. This strikes me as odd, as I always leave it open. Perhaps a gust of wind slammed it shut when I came in. I trudge to the end of the hall and stop. Through a gap in the bottom of the door I see that the light is on. Someone’s in there. I catch my breath, feel the world slow down for a moment before it speeds back up. Could I have a burglar in my house?

I cock my ear. A sound filters through. Humming. A child is humming a tune in my kitchen. But I don’t have a child. Not any more.

Slowly I pull down the handle and push the door, my body tensing. I hardly dare breathe.

Here before me sits a little boy with dark hair, wearing pale blue jeans and a green cable-knit jumper. A little boy aged about five or six, perched on a chair at my kitchen counter, humming a familiar tune. Head down, he is intent on his drawing, colouring pencils spread out around an A4 sheet of paper. A navy raincoat hangs neatly over the back of the chair.

He looks up as I enter the room, his chocolate-brown eyes wide. We stare at one another for a moment.

‘Are you my mummy?’ the little boy asks.

I bite my bottom lip, feel the ground shift. I grasp the counter top to steady myself. ‘Hello,’ I say, my heart suddenly swelling. ‘Hello. And who might you be?’

‘You know. I’m Harry,’ he replies. ‘Do you like my picture?’ He holds the sheet out in front of him, showing me his drawing of a little boy and a woman standing next to a train. ‘It’s not finished. I haven’t had time to colour it in properly,’ he explains.

‘It’s lovely, Harry. Is that you standing next to the train?’

‘Yes.’ He nods. ‘It’s you and me. I drew it for you because you’re my mummy.’

Am I hallucinating? Have I finally gone crazy? This beautiful little boy is calling me his mummy. And yet I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him before in my life. I close my eyes tight and then open them again. He’s still there, looking less confident now. His hopeful smile has faltered, slipping into a frown. His eyes are now a little too bright. I know that look – it’s the one that precedes tears.

‘Hey, Harry,’ I say with false jollity. ‘So you like trains, huh?’

His smile returns. ‘Steam trains are the best. Better than diesels.’ He scrunches up his face in disgust and blinks.

‘Did you come here on the train? To my house?’

‘No. We came on the bus. I wish we did come on the train, the bus was really slow. And it made me feel a bit sick.’ He lays the sheet of paper back on the counter.

‘And who did you come with?’ I ask.

‘The angel.’

I think I must have misheard him. ‘Who?’

‘The angel brought me here. She told me that you’re my mummy.’

‘The angel?’

He nods.

I glance around, suddenly aware that Harry might not be the only stranger in my house. ‘Is she here now?’ I ask in a whisper. ‘Is there someone else here with you?’

‘No, she’s gone. She told me to do some drawing and you’d be here soon.’

I relax my shoulders, relieved that there’s no one else in my home. But it still doesn’t help me solve the problem of who this little boy is. ‘How did you get into the house?’ I ask, nervously wondering if I might find a smashed window somewhere.

‘Through the front door, silly,’ he replies with a smile, rolling his eyes.

Through the front door? Did I leave it open somehow? I’m sure I would never have done that. What’s going on here? I should call someone. The authorities. The police. Somebody will be looking for this child. They will be frantic with worry. ‘Would you like a hot chocolate, Harry?’ I ask, keeping my voice as calm as possible. ‘I was going to make one for myself, so—’

‘Do you make it with milk?’ he interrupts. ‘Or with hot water? It’s definitely nicer with milk.’

I suppress a smile. ‘I agree, Harry. I always make it with milk.’

‘Okay. Yes, please,’ he replies. ‘Hot chocolate would be lovely.’

My heart squeezes at his politeness.

‘Shall I carry on colouring in my picture,’ he says, ‘or shall I help you? Because I’m really good at stirring in the chocolate.’

‘Well, that’s lucky,’ I reply, ‘because I’m terrible at stirring in the chocolate, so it’s a good thing you’re here to help me.’

He grins and slides off the stool.

What am I doing? I need to call the police right now. This child is missing from somewhere. But, oh God, just give me ten minutes with this sweet little boy who believes I’m his mother. Just a few moments of make-believe and then I’ll do the right thing. I reach out to touch his head and immediately snatch my hand back. What am I thinking? This boy has to go back to his real mother; she must be paralysed with worry.

He smiles up at me again and my chest constricts.

‘Okay,’ I say, taking a breath and blinking back any threat of tears. ‘We’ll do the chocolate in a minute. I’m just going to make a quick phone call in the hall, okay?’

‘Oh, okay.’

‘Carry on with your drawing for a little while. I won’t be long.’

He climbs back up onto the stool and selects a dark green pencil before resuming his colouring with a look of serious concentration. I turn away and pad out to the hall, where I retrieve my phone from my bag. But instead of dialling the police, I call another number. It rings twice.

‘Tess.’ The voice at the other end of the line is clipped, wary.

‘Hi, Scott. I need you to come over.’

‘What? Now?’

‘Yes. Please, it’s important.’

‘Tessa, I’m knackered, and it’s hideous out there. I’ve just sat down with a cup of tea. Can’t it wait till tomorrow?’

‘No.’ Standing by the hall table, I glimpse Harry through the doorway, the curls of his fringe flopping over one eye. Am I dreaming him?

‘What’s the matter?’ Scott says this the way he always says it. What he really means is, What’s the matter now? Because there’s always something the matter. I’m his damaged wife, who’s always having some new drama or make-believe crisis. Only this time he’ll see it’s something real, it’s something not of my making.

‘I can’t tell you over the phone, it’s too weird. You have to come over, see for yourself.’

His sigh comes long and hard down the phone. ‘Give me twenty minutes, okay?’

‘Okay. Thanks, Scott. Get here as soon as you can.’

My heart pounds, trying to make sense of what’s happening. That little boy in there says an angel brought him. He says I’m his mummy. But he’s not mine. So where on earth did he come from?

I take a breath and go back into the kitchen. The air is warm, welcoming, cosy. Nothing like the usual sterile atmosphere in here.

‘Can we make hot chocolate now?’ Harry looks up with shining eyes.

‘Of course. I’ll get the mugs and the chocolate. You open that drawer over there and pass me the smallest pan you can find.’

He eagerly does as I ask.

‘Harry,’ I say. ‘Where are your parents, your mummy and daddy?’

He stares at the pans in the drawer.

‘Harry?’ I prompt.

‘They’re not here,’ he replies. ‘Is this one small enough?’ He lifts out a stainless-steel milk pan and waves it in my direction.

‘Perfect.’ I nod and take it from him. ‘Can you tell me where you live?’

No reply.

‘Did you run away from home? Are you lost?’

‘No.’

‘But where’s your house or flat? The place you live? Is it here in Friern Barnet? In London? Close to my house?’

He scowls and looks down at the flagstone floor.

‘Do you have a last name?’ I ask as gently as I can.

He looks up at me, his chin jutting out. ‘No.’

I try again, crouching down so I’m on his level. ‘Harry, darling, what’s your mummy’s name?’

‘You’re my new mummy. I have to stay here now.’ His bottom lip quivers.

‘Okay, sweetie. Don’t worry. Let’s just make our drinks, shall we?’

He nods vigorously and sniffs.

I give his hand a squeeze and straighten up. I wish I hadn’t had to call Scott. And yet I need him to be here when I ring the police. I can’t deal with them on my own, not after what happened before. I’m dreading their arrival – the questions, the sideways glances, the implication that I might have done something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong, though. Have I?

And Harry… he’ll be taken away. What if his parents have been abusive? What if he has to go into foster care? A thousand thoughts run through my mind, each worse than the one before. But it’s not my place to decide what happens to him. There’s nothing I can do about any of it, because he’s not mine.

I don’t have a child. Not any more.

~~~~~

Did the extract leave you wanting to read more?  ‘The Secret Mother’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2xrkDu4

Amazon US – http://amzn.to/2vXeg3W

 

About Shalini Boland

Shalini Boland lives in Dorset, England with her husband, two children and their cheeky terrier cross. Before kids, she was signed to Universal Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter, but now she spends her days writing psychological thrillers (in between school runs and hanging out endless baskets of laundry).

THE SECRET MOTHER (published by Bookouture) is now available to pre-order!

Shalini’s debut psychological thriller THE GIRL FROM THE SEA reached No 1 in the US Audible charts and No 7 in the UK Kindle charts. Her second thriller THE BEST FRIEND reached no 2 in the US Audible charts and No 10 in the Amazon UK Kindle charts. It also achieved number 1 in all its categories and was a Kindle All Star title for several months in a row. Shalini’s recent release THE MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE reached No 9 in the Kindle UK charts.

Follow Shalini Boland on:-

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ShaliniBoland

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ShaliniBolandAuthor/

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Guest Post by Robert Enright

I would like to welcome Robert Enright back to my blog  Last year I read and reviewed the wonderful ‘Doorways’ and I am still waiting patiently for the next book in the series.  Robert has written a guest post for my event.

 

Doorways: A new chapter

I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 months since Doorways has been published. It may not seem like a long time, but considering the book actually came out over a year after signing the contract, my concept of time has rapidly changed. And now, knowing that Doorways is sat on the shelves in places such as Foyles and Waterstones, it feels like a new chapter in my life has begun.

But before all that, let me introduce myself. I am Robert Enright, author and a recent member of the 30 club! I have been writing since I can remember, be it silly stories when I was a kid or roleplaying games during my (admittedly uncool) teens. It was when I hit 17 that I started knuckling down, properly designing characters for a comic book series and planning stories. Then I spent the next 7 to 8 years swinging from idea to idea, like Tarzan through the jungle. Then my brother gave me a boot up the backside and I started writing seriously.

First book, One by One, was met with some great critical acclaim, scoring high ratings with every reviewer who let me grace their blog and it changed my life. Not only did it show people I could do it, it showed me that I could. I pitched it to Matt, but he was more interested in Doorways, which I hinted at in my email. A phone call and a few beers later and I had signed on the dotted line, with only 4 chapters and a concept. It was daunting, because now someone else was backing my idea and I was contractually obliged to provide a good book.

Well hopefully I did. The critical acclaim that Doorways has achieved has been nothing short of mind blowing, purely because it is such a weird book. One by One was a straight revenge story, whereas this is an Urban Sci-Fi, Mystery, Crime Thriller, Buddy Cop, Paranormal Investigation. So yeah….quite a tricky one. And for my book tour, I had a batch of some of the most talented and highly regarded CRIME reviewers. None of them read Sci-Fi and many were fairly sceptical, agreeing to read it based purely on One by One (and NOT because I sent them money. Which I didn’t….because I have none!)

I almost cried at the response. Every single one of them gave Doorways a 5 Star review, all of them perplexed that they had enjoyed a Sci-Fi novel as much as they did. That was what made me smile the most, the fact that I got people to not only experience a new type of story, but to actually enjoy it. If you follow me on social media, you will know I’m pretty nerdy. Comics, computer games, films….I love a lot of Sci-Fi and Doorways was such a passion project for me, as it allowed me to create my own worlds, with their own rules and laws. The fact that Argyle, the ‘Other’ from the Otherside is such a favourite was amazing to hear.

What next? Well Bermuda is coming back!! I am nearly halfway through the sequel which see’s our hero stop decimating London and destroy Glasgow instead. I have a comic book in the works (OH YEAH!!) and whisper it, but we may be seeing One by One reach the shelves aswell. But for now I will go back to writing and slowly panicking at my first book event coming up later this month, before I head to Waterstones in April for my own evening. Seriously…..somebody pinch me!

I would also like to thank every single reader, writer, blogger and reviewer for the continuous support and inspiration you bring to writers like myself. It means more than these words I’m writing. Also, make sure you follow Sonya on Twitter because her blog and reviews are AMAZING!!

Rob 🙂

 

‘Doorways is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/doorways

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doorways-Bermuda-Jones-Case-File-ebook/dp/B01LOO18EW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489226001&sr=1-1&keywords=doorways+by+robert+enright

 

Blog Blitz – ‘In The Wake of Death’ by Billy McLaughlin

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I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog blitz.  ‘In The Wake of Death’ was published in paperback and as an eBook in August of this year.   Billy McLaughlin has written a guest post for my blog, but first here’s what his book is all about.

 

book-cover

Book Blurb

Sometimes waking up is only the beginning…

He was left for dead on the side of the road. Now Marc Adams is awake and he can barely remember anything about his life before. All he knows is that his meddling sister has returned to his life, whilst his partner Joel is gone.

Marc is convinced that something has happened to Joel. Why won’t anybody believe him?

As he is pulled further into the pit of his subconscious, Marc begins to remember exactly what happened on the night of his accident.

Soon, he’ll be wishing he hadn’t woken up at all.

~~~~~

Guest Post

Publication Day

So, your book is being published!

Woo hoo!!

How do you spend publication day eve and the actual day?

•   What do you do the night before?
•   The morning?
•   Who are you with?
•   Where do you go?
•   What do you spend the day doing?
•   Is publication day 1 the same as publication day 2? And so on?
•   Do you have any rituals?

These questions are not set in stone; answer the ones you like and add in anything you think has been missed!

I haven’t enjoyed any of my publication dates so far. The first novelette was released when I was on my way to Birmingham on a coach. I hadn’t yet even told a single living soul that I was releasing it – not even my partner.

The publication date of my second book ‘Lost Girl’ happened to fall on a working day, so I didn’t do anything to celebrate it.

I think I will make a point of having some sort of celebration when I release the next book because it’s something I want to enjoy now that I feel more connected to it.

I have no rituals when I finish a book except to breathe. I get so engrossed in the writing that I thunder forward without really thinking about how I’ll feel when its finished. The new book is taking longer than any of the previous ones, but that’s because I haven’t given myself such a rigid deadline and because I want it to be perfect. Also, the story is brand new. It hasn’t been built on the carcass of anything that I had previously written. The only thing carried over in it is some of the characters who have now become mainstays of my books.

~~~~~

Giveaway

There is a chance to win an eBook copy of ‘In The Wake Of Death’.  To enter just click on the link below:-

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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About Billy McLaughlin

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Billy McLaughlin is a Glasgow born author whose first three books are based in and around the area of Glasgow. His first novelette “Invisible” was a precursor to his first mystery novel “Lost Girl” which was released in May 2016. He then followed up with “In The Wake Of Death” which saw its release date of August 2016. Both novels have received praise for their dark and pacey tone, and for their strong relatable characters. Work on the next novel has already begun, with a view to a late 2016 / early 2017 release.

‘In The Wake of Death’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wake-Death-Mr-Billy-McLaughlin/dp/1535010495/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1481983372&sr=1-1-spell

 

Interview with John A. Marley

I would like to introduce you all to John A. Marley.  I met him at Goldsboro Books Crime in the Court event back in September.  His debut novel, ‘Standstill’, was published by Avocado Books on the 14th September.  I asked John some questions.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your book, ‘Standstill’ please. 

Standstill revolves around an ambitious young thief called Danny Felix who finds himself dragged into an audacious plot to pull off the biggest robbery London has ever seen, He is co-erced into this by a corrupt, psychopathic policeman called Inspector Harkness, who is simultaneously being investigated by another Detective called Christine Chance.  The robbery is huge, the characters intense and London looms large as a character in it’s own right throughout.  Expect violence, a fast moving story and the odd bit of black humour along the way.

book-cover

What made you decide to write it? 

I have always read and loved books particularly pulp crime fiction and so I just really wanted to have a crack myself.  It’s been tremendous fun and, most importantly for me, truly creative.

 

Where did you get your idea from for this book?

It was an amalgam of thoughts all born during endless commutes in and out of London by train and tube, and latterly when I met my wife and her family, some of whom are retired ex Flying Squad, the plot just gelled for me…and I was off and running…

 

I see it is the first of a series.  How many books in total will there be?

At the moment I have five books in my head…but who knows…Danny might lead us on more merry dances…

 

Did you have to do any research and if so, what did it entail?

I researched extensively.  Whilst I obviously wanted it to be entertaining, Standstill had to have an authentic core.  I met and spoke with many Flying Squad detectives, some retired some still serving.  I recce’ed most of the locations in the book, especially where the robbery takes place and I used pretty much every scrap of info, anecdote and observation that I gleaned from the many real cops (and the odd reformed villain too)… I was very lucky, lots of people were generous with their time and thoughts for me.

 

Would you like to see ‘Standstill’ made into a film? 

Ooh yes, and any crime fiction writer who says no to that is either lying or they’re lying…take your pick! Films play a huge part in Danny’s life, and indeed in mine (I started out as a film critic in Northern Ireland and I was one of Barry Norman’s producers at the BBC).

 

What do you hope people will get from your book?

Entertainment!  I want them to not notice their commute, or read just one more chapter before lights off, or enjoy it on a sun lounger somewhere hot and nice.  i want them to want to know more about Danny and I want them to laugh, cry and gasp along the way.  No pressure!!

 

Did you always want to write? 

Yes.  I love words, language, I always have, and when you have that mindset I think it becomes a compulsion, a need.  Playing, working and living through your words and use of them is to be celebrated at every turn.  My heroes (apart from Eric Cantona) are people who can take words and weave magic with them.  Funny magic like Groucho Marx or Elmore Leonard.  Thrilling magic like Michael Connelly or Denis Lehane and of course beautiful magic like James Lee Burke or Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  Words are to be played with and respected, they make our world a better place.

 

Apart from writing what else do you do? 

I love my football, travel is a great passion, I have two Cocker Spaniels, Bobby and Baxter, who really run the show and I enjoy cooking and real ale, but not necesarily in that order.

 

How has social media helped you as an author? 

I love how crime readers and writers have so much access to each other and the feeling of community that generates. Social Media helps make that happen. I love how you can discover new writers and encourage new readers especially with Twitter…I’m generally a fan of it and Facebook…

 

Have you got any advice for anyone wanting to write a book?  

Do it! Just do it.  You’d be surprised at how it happens once you have started.  It’s the old saying, a word becomes a phrase, a phrase a sentence, a sentence a paragraph and suddenly you’ve written a page.  Then you can roll from there.  Even if you never show it to anyone, just the act of committing a story or thoughts to paper or laptop screen is hugely beneficial and therapeutic.  It’s fun!  If you want to write a story in which the Queen’s pants fall down then guess what…they do!  Creativity is at its best when it is done out of sheer joy, writing a book or short story can be the release of that joy.

 

Who are your favourite authors? 

I’d need a toilet roll to get all the names on, but if pushed, James Lee Burke is my favourite.  His lyrical prose combined with hard boiled plots, just makes my heart swell.  I also like Westerns, if you have not read “St Agnes’ Stand” by Thomas Eidson, you’ve missed a gem.  Elmore Leonard…Denis Lehane, my fellow Irishman Brian McGilloway writes wonderfully, Craig Johnson’s Longmire books are fun…I could go on and on…oh, make your kids read the Asterix and Obelix books, they play with language beautifully and teach them how funny word play can be.

 

About John A. Marley

John A. Marley is a writer and TV producer with a proven track record in creating and producing distinctive, original entertainment and factual programming and formats for both a UK and international audience. His eclectic portfolio of high-profile shows include Britain’s Ultimate Pilots: Inside the RAF; Britain’s Flying Past; Staraoke; Best of Friends; Skatoony; Noel’s House Party; Through the Keyhole; SMTV:Live/CD:UK; How Euro Are You? and live coverage of The Oscars. In 2008, John set up his own production company Archie Productions. Prior to this, he enjoyed a wide and varied career in television with creative roles at Talent Television, Planet 24, Carlton Television and Walt Disney UK.

John’s writing career started with a poem about two brothers who both liked sausages. Their names were Butch and Dutch, and his Primary School teacher Mr. Murray liked it so much it made the main noticeboard at the entrance to Holy Child Primary School in West Belfast. A little older but none the wiser, he ended up as a film journalist in his native Northern Ireland, contributing to local newspapers, BBC Radio Ulster and latterly writing as the main film critic for the glossy magazine, Northern Woman.

In the course of writing his first novel Standstill, John was determined to make it ring true to the work of the Met Police’s legendary Flying Squad. He was lucky enough to be able to call upon the experiences and stories of several officers from the squad, some serving and some retired, which he found invaluable.  Most importantly, the female serving officers he met were very generous with their time and anecdotes, helping him to create the character of DC Christine Chance and rounding her out with some of the realities of being a woman in a 21st century police force.

John’s love of good stories came from the Irish predilection for telling a good yarn and the fact that there was nothing quite like sneaking away his Dad’s battered paperbacks to read. And so pulp fiction such as The Edge Westerns by George G. Gilman, the adventure novels of Alistair MacLean and the thrillers of Jack Higgins all served to whet his appetite for a good story told at pace. These days, his reading tastes still focus on thrills, spills and good plot and he can’t walk by a James Lee Burke or an Elmore Leonard without pausing to read a few pages…even if it is in a busy bookshop. Standstill is his debut, and the first in a planned series.

 

Links

‘Standstill’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Standstill-1-J-Marley/dp/0993565840/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481483684&sr=1-1&keywords=standstill

Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Standstill-J-Marley-ebook/dp/B01L5O5I74/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481483684&sr=1-2&keywords=standstill

Website – http://www.jamarley.com/

Twitter – @jamarleybooks

 

Blog Tour – ‘Exposure’ by Ava Marsh

Blog Poster

I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour today for which Ava Marsh has written a guest post.  Ava’s new book, ‘Exposure’ was published by Corgi on the 16th June 2016.

 

Writing Sex

Every year the Literary Review holds an award for the worst sex in fiction – last year’s winner was none other than Morrissey, after turning his talents from song lyrics to a novel. While Morrissey probably took the distinction in his stride – after all, it’s just one award among many – the rest of us fictioneers dread ending up on the Review’s shit list.

So was I nervous about all the sexual content in my novels, Untouchable and the recently released Exposure? Yes, and no. Yes, because there’s a thousand ways to get it wrong, including using phrases like Morrissey’s unforgettable ‘bulbous salutation’.

And no, because there’s one hell of a difference between writing sex, and writing about it. In both my books, the bulk of the X-rated scenes are more about describing a job rather than an act of love – Kitty, the porn star heroine of Exposure, and Grace, the escort protagonist of Untouchable, both work in the sex trade, so sex for them is a somewhat prosaic, day-to-day activity – at least once they’ve got past their initial nerves. So in the main, their first-person accounts of their experiences ‘between the sheets’ tends to be more matter-of-fact than erotic.

In many ways this distance from the act – or rather, in Kitty’s case, the performance – makes these scenes easier to write. Simply a case of describing what’s going on. On the other hand, I had more difficulty with the scenes where Grace and Kitty have sex with someone they actually care about – making love rather than money.  Mainly because it’s hard to get across the emotional content of sex without resorting to clichés – or indeed going completely off-piste à la Morrissey.

I think one of the keys to writing good sex – or bad – lies within the writers themselves. Are you comfortable with your body and what it can do? Are you comfortable with other people’s bodies? Do you feel embarrassed even saying certain words? (I once met a woman who never uttered the word ‘vagina’ in her life, before training as an antenatal teacher).

Sex isn’t difficult to write about, any more than eating is difficult to write about. It’s the self-conscious element that creeps in that makes the whole thing fumbly and awkward. Or overblown, in the case of Morrissey. If you’re squirmy about sex in real life, then this is going to bleed into your fiction, I believe –  best then to simply draw a curtain over what goes on in your character’s bedrooms.

Here’s my advice for writing sex scenes that don’t make readers roll their eyes or squirm in their seats – unless, of course, you want them to squirm in sympathy with your heroine and what she’s having to do (there are several scenes in both Untouchable and Exposure that are meant to make your eyes water). Write as little or as much as you feel comfortable with. If you’re not relaxed about describing things in detail, then close the bedroom door behind you; readers have active imaginations – they can fill in the blanks.

And don’t for heaven’s sake start thinking up novel and strenuous metaphors – just call a spade a spade. Or, in the case of ‘bulbous salutation’, simply refer to your character’s massive erection.

 

‘Exposure’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Exposure-Ava-Marsh/dp/0552171212/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466584863&sr=1-3&keywords=exposure

 

Cover Reveal – ‘No Turning Back’ by Tracy Buchanan

Book Cover

I am delighted to be taking part in this cover reveal.  ‘No Turning Back’ is being published on the 28th July 2016 by Avon as an eBook and in paperback.  This book sounds really good and is one I am planning to read.

 

Book Blurb

You’d kill to protect your child – wouldn’t you?

When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.

But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister.

A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.

Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?

 

‘No Turning Back’ is available to pre-order from Amazon UK:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Turning-Back-Tracy-Buchanan-ebook/dp/B01BB1VMKI?ie=UTF8&keywords=tracy%20buchanan&qid=1461951070&ref_=sr_1_4&s=books&sr=1-4

 

 

‘The Sleeping Warrior’ by Sara Bain

The Sleeping Warrior - Book Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

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

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

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

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Silent Girls’ by Ann Troup

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‘The Silent Girls’ was published by Carina on the 18th February 2016.  I really liked the sound of this book and was interested in taking part in the blog tour for it.  Today it is my turn and below is my review.

Returning to Number 17, Coronation Square in Winfield after a very long time, Edie is shocked to find that the place she remembers from her childhood reeks of mould and decay.  But she has a task to do, a big one at that.  Edie is there to clear out her recently deceased Aunt Dolly’s house.  It sounds simple enough but it isn’t.  Coronation Square, where five vicious murders took place many years ago has changed a lot and not for the best either.

At Number 17 there is misery, sin and dark secrets that can no longer stay hidden.  The truth has to come out at some stage.  Finding herself dragged into the horrific murders of the past, Edie must find out what happened all those years ago.  But as she uncovers the history of her family she had all but forgotten, she begins to wonder if perhaps it would have been best to leave things as they were.

I thought ‘The Silent Girls’ was a cracking read, absolutely fantastic.  The prologue had me totally intrigued and I couldn’t wait to get into the story.  There were some shocking revelations and secrets and it was just so hard to trust the majority of the characters.

I really liked Ann Troup’s style of writing.  There were so many twists and turns throughout this story and I found myself trying to piece everything together and work out what actually happened all those years ago.  I have to say I would never have guessed in a million years who was actually responsible for the murders.

One of the characters, Sophie is actually named after a book blogger I know.  In the story she was down on her luck, but Edie being the kind person she was took her in and looked out for her.  The real Sophie is lovely and I soon found myself warming to her as a fictional character as well.  I thought she was really gutsy and that she deserved a break.

‘The Silent Girls’ will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and it will leave you wanting more.  This isn’t a story you’ll forget in a hurry.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About Ann Troup

Author Picture

Ann Troup tells tales and can always make something out of nothing (which means she writes books and can create unique things from stuff other people might not glance twice at). She was once awarded 11 out of 10 for a piece of poetry at school – she now holds that teacher entirely responsible for her inclination to write.

Her writing space is known as ‘the empty nest’, having formerly been her daughters bedroom. She shares this space with ten tons of junk and an elderly Westie, named Rooney, who is her constant companion whether she likes it or not. He likes to contribute to the creative process by going to sleep on top of her paperwork and running away with crucial post-it notes, which have inadvertently become stuck to his fur. She is thinking of renaming him Gremlin.

She lives by the sea in Devon with her husband and said dog. Two children have been known to remember the place that they call home, but mainly when they are in need of a decent roast dinner, it’s Christmas or when only Mum will do. She also has extremely decent stepchildren.

In a former incarnation she was psychiatric nurse, an experience which frequently informs her writing. She has also owned a cafe and an art/craft gallery. Now she only makes bacon sandwiches as a sideline, but does continue to dabble with clay, paint, paper, textiles, glue…you name it. Occasionally she may decide to give away some of these creations (you have been warned!).

 

Links

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B015QM8AP8/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28441057-the-silent-girls?ac=1&from_search=1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TroupAnn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anntroupauthor/

Website: https://anntroup.wordpress.com/

 

 

Cover Reveal – ‘No Longer Safe’ by A.J. Waines

Book Cover

I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in this cover reveal and what a gorgeous one it is.  ‘No Longer Safe’ is out on the 4th February 2016.  I for one can’t wait to read it.

 

Book Blurb

She was your best friend. Now she’s your deadliest enemy – and there’s nowhere to run…

When Alice receives an invitation from Karen, her charismatic University friend, to stay in a remote cottage in Scotland, she can’t wait to rekindle their lost friendship. But two more former students arrive – never friends of Alice’s – and as the atmosphere chills, Karen isn’t the warm-hearted soulmate Alice remembers. Barely is the reunion underway before someone is dead and the fragile gathering is pushed to breaking point.

As the snow cuts them off from civilisation and accusations fly, Alice finds herself a pawn, sinking deeper into a deadly game she can’t escape.

NO LONGER SAFE is a chilling Psychological Thriller that delivers a delicious sting in the tail.

 

‘No Longer Safe’ can be pre-ordered now from:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebooks-No-Longer-Safe-J-Waines-ebook/dp/B018UAAAW4

 

Interview with Barbara Copperthwaite

Author Picture

Barbara Copperthwaite is a bestselling author of psychological crime fiction. Her debut, INVISIBLE, went on sale last year and became an Amazon Top Ten best seller in the UK. FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD has been equally successful, charting as soon as it was released.

Barbara kindly agreed to being interviewed for my blog.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your latest book please?

Flowers For The Dead is a psychological crime thriller where the killer is as much a victim as the women he murders. Adam is a man who will do anything to make the woman he loves happy – even kill her.

The plot follows him in the present, as he stalks his latest victim, making her wonder if she is losing her mind; and in flashbacks explains how an innocent child was so tragically warped that he became the serial killer he is today.

His latest victim, Laura Weir, is already struggling with her own demons after witnessing her entire family being wiped out. She’s spent most of the last four years wishing she had died with them. Her vulnerability makes her exactly the kind of woman Adam can’t resist.

But only now that Laura is about to die does she realize how much she wants to live.

 

How long did it take you to write?

My first book, Invisible, took me almost two years to write, because I only had time to work on it during my daily commute to the magazine I edited. Now, I’m a freelance journalist, working from home, so it was much easier to concentrate on Flowers For The Dead. I started working on it in January 2015, and the first draft took me six weeks. But then there were further drafts, and then it had to be sent to my editor, it had to be proofread, etc, so the whole thing wasn’t perfected and ready to print until August. During June and July I was also working with my partner, Paul, on the cover. He’s a professional artist, so I’m very lucky.

 

What research was involved?

I have reams of research on my laptop. As a journalist, research is second nature to me, and so I’ll do a mixture of things:

* Look at real life case studies: for example, Adam dyes his hair a shade darker, in order to look paler when grieving. This is actually something UK killer Jeremy Bamber is believed to have done after murdering his family. It was so melodramatic yet calculating; I couldn’t resist using it.

* Talk to contacts in the police and legal world.

* Check with therapists, counselors and psychologists I know, to ensure I’m getting the correct motivations and reactions in my characters.

* I also Google like crazy, reading FBI reports on serial killers and so on.

Learning the meaning of flowers was particularly fascinating. It’s a very genteel language that was great fun to subvert to more sinister use.

What genuinely shocked me during my research, though, was how easy and cheap it is to buy locksmith equipment and surveillance items. I was also stunned to discover that it is possible to turn a mobile phone or any other device with voice recognition software or a microphone into a ‘bug’. So that includes televisions that you ‘speak’ to, many laptops and tablets, smartphones etc.

Back in 2006 the FBI used a crime family’s devices against them, in order to gather evidence then successfully prosecute in court. These days anyone can do it by buying the right software on the internet. The programme will allow someone to eavesdrop on phone calls, get details on text messages, remotely control the phone using SMS, track the location of the phone with GPS and log the phone’s activities. It will also allow them to use the phone as a listening device and hear what is happening in the surrounding area. Scary stuff!

 

Would you like to see your books made into dramas or films?

If Hollywood were to contact me, I wouldn’t say no! It would be a surreal but incredible experience to see Flowers For The Dead play out in front of me on a big screen.

The hardest person to cast would be Adam, because he is so incredibly complex. It would have to be someone who has the ability to convey not just a cold-blooded killer but also a certain amount of vulnerability. Benedict Cumberbatch could probably do a great job of it, as he is a fantastic actor, but I’m not sure if he’s right for the role physically. It’s a bit random, but I think my top choice would be Daniel Radcliffe. He has the innocence – we’ve all seen that in his role as Harry Potter, but I’ve watched him in plays and he has the range to show an evil side, too. Playing a serial killer would definitely be a different direction for him!

 

Can we look forward to more books from you?

My next novel has been outlined, and I’ve just started writing it. I’m itching to see how it works out, as I’m very excited by it.

It’s about a woman coping with the murder of her child, which is threatening to tear her marriage apart. Inevitably, nothing is as it seems, especially when an old friend appears from her past. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one – and not all of them I know about yet!

 

Where do you like to do most of your writing?

I have an old-fashioned writing desk I sit at, in one of the bedrooms I’ve turned into an office. It’s the kind with the writing area that folds down, and I absolutely love it. Most of my writing is done there, with my dog, Scamp, sat patiently at my feet.

Writing is a solitary experience though, and I like being surrounded by people. So in summer I will often head outside with my laptop, and write in my local park. In winter, I can often be found sipping hot chocolate in a café whilst typing.

 

I see that you’re a journalist.  How long have you been doing journalism as a career?

I’ve spent over twenty years as a journalist, writing for national magazines and newspapers in the UK. Celebrities don’t hold a lot of interest for me, on the whole, instead I prefer interviewing ordinary people; people who have found themselves thrust into extraordinary situations.

Through my work, I’m very privileged to have met people from all walks of life, who have experienced all manner of things happen to them – but in particular, those who have been victims of crime, either directly or through the loss of loved ones. As a result of them bravely and generously sharing their experiences with me, I know a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrongdoing. This depth of experience lends my novels psychological insight into the characters, and a feeling of reality for the storyline. It’s also why my novels are not simply about the criminal act, but the repercussions they have. People are always at the heart of my thrillers.

 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to write their first novel?

Just do it! The hardest part is starting, so force yourself to begin, don’t let yourself get distracted, and definitely don’t listen to your fear telling you it isn’t any good. Write, write, and write some more, until you have finished it – don’t give up halfway through!

What you’ll have at the end is a first draft. It will be rough, and will need a lot of work, so don’t beat yourself up about it. There isn’t a single writer, no matter how experienced and successful, who doesn’t have to improve their first draft. With that in mind, recognize what has to be worked on in your own book, and then go through it again and again until it is the best you can possibly make it.

 

Describe a day in your life.

One of the things I love about my life is that every day is different. Some days are all about being a journalist. Researching a story, putting someone at ease, and getting them to open up to me, a total stranger, about the worst moments of their life. It’s a tough job, but such a privilege.

Other times I’ll be writing my book, doing in-depth research for part of the story I’ve just come up against. I might simply be staring into space, seemingly aimlessly, whilst trying to think out a problem in the plot.

Whatever my day involves, though, I always have to find time to walk my dog, Scamp.

 

How useful is social media for you?

Incredibly! Not only is it a fabulous way of getting word out about my novels, but far more importantly, it’s a way of readers being able to contact me. I love hearing from them, and being able to chat to them on Facebook or Twitter. They are so friendly, and their feedback is very important to me.

 

I am absolutely intrigued by your nature website, Go Be Wild.  What’s it all about?

Juggling journalism, writing a novel, and doing publicity, plus running a home, can get a bit hectic and stressful sometimes. I constantly have ever-growing lists in my head of things I must do, and am always thinking three steps ahead with everything. But when I’m watching nature, all of that is left behind.

My nature website, www.gobewild.co.uk is something I do purely for pleasure. I’m no expert, and don’t claim to be, I just love keeping track of what I’ve seen on the blog, and write some features on the site, too.

I particularly love taking wildlife photographs. It really takes my mind off everything and focuses me on living in the moment. There is no past, no future, only that perfect time when I’m barely breathing as I focus my camera on something beautiful, such as a butterfly, and take the snap.

Hopefully, in addition to be a lovely, relaxing thing for me to do, Go Be Wild also resonates with other people.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

The best way for me to relax is to spend some time with Scamp and Paul. We like being out and about, going on long walks while I photograph wildlife. Catching up with friends and family is the best use of spare time, definitely.

I also enjoy drawing (again, mostly nature) and do a spot of knitting, sewing, or baking.

And, of course, I read – a lot!

 

Who are your favourite authors?

I’ve always been a bookworm. As a child I used to climb a tree so I wouldn’t be disturbed while reading! I’m one of those people who loves to re-read favourites: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens; Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy; Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith.

I’m also a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. In homage to Rebecca, I chose never to name my character in Invisible, which was a fantastic device for showing just how invisible she had become in her own life.

Although I do have these favourites, I also love discovering new authors such as: Clare Mackintosh (I Let You Go), Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), Ben McPherson (A Line of Blood), and Claire Kendal (The Book of You). I recently finished Peter Swanson’s ‘The Kind Worth Killing’, which I thought was brilliant.

 

 

Book Cover

Book blurb

Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.

How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?

When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?

 

You can buy ‘Flowers For The Dead’ from Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flowers-Dead-Barbara-Copperthwaite-ebook/dp/B014LDUJZ2/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1443168422&sr=8-1&keywords=flowers+for+the+dead

 

To find out more about the novels INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD go to www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite or follow @BCopperthwait on Twitter. To find out more about Barbara go to www.barbaracopperthwaite.com

 

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