A Lover of Books

Archive for the tag “debut novel”

Blog Tour – ‘Last Stop Tokyo’ by James Buckler

‘Last Stop Tokyo’ is James Buckler’s debut novel. It is being published on the 24th August 2017 in hardback and as an eBook by Doubleday and Transworld Digital. The lovely Anne Cater invited me to participate in this blog tour and I would like to say thank you for my review copy.

Alex thought running away from all his mistakes would make everything better. He decides to move to Tokyo where he’ll have a new life.

The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate Alex and he finds himself transfixed. Not long after he arrives in Tokyo, Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko. He doesn’t realise it at the time but the peace he is after is about to slip even further from his grasp.

Alex is about to discover that there’s no such thing as hitting rock bottom. Things could get even worse.

Wow! Are you sure this is really a debut novel? It was absolutely fantastic and had me totally hooked. This was such an exciting and fast-paced read and I felt as if I had come off a rollercoaster by the end of it. I loved the author’s writing style and the storyline. I also enjoyed reading about the events which led to Alex deciding to make a new life for himself.

It was interesting reading about Tokyo. Life there seemed to go on non-stop and it sounded like a very modern city. This book is such a good example of being able to travel to another country without actually leaving your seat.

Out of all the characters Alex was my favourite. He thought starting off afresh in another country would solve his problems but unfortunately things weren’t that simple. He found himself in an extremely difficult situation and one that to me seemed impossible to get out of. I didn’t really know what to make of Naoko. She appeared to be nice at first, but there was just something about her. I admired her though for her gutsiness.

I would never have guessed how the story was going to end and I was left quite shocked. I didn’t know who could be trusted anymore.

‘Last Stop Tokyo’ is not a story I will forget in a hurry. It is definitely going to be on my list of favourite books of the year. I am looking forward to more from James Buckler.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About James Buckler


James Buckler grew up in the South West of England and currently lives in London. In the past he lived in America and Japan, where he worked as an English teacher, providing inspiration for Last Stop Tokyo. He studied Film at the University of Westminster and worked in film & TV for many years, most notably as a post-production specialist for MTV and BBC Films. Last Stop Tokyo is his debut novel.

 

‘Last Stop Tokyo’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Stop-Tokyo-James-Buckler/dp/0857524968/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1503130393&sr=1-2

 

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Blog Tour – ‘The Companion’ by Sarah Dunnakey

‘The Companion’ is Sarah Dunnakey’s debut novel. It was published in hardback and as an eBook on the 27th July 2017 by Orion Books. I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour for which I was kindly sent a copy of the book to review.

Set in Yorkshire from 1932 onwards, Billy Shaw has spent the first twelve years of his life living in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace is the best entertainment venue there. His ma runs the tea rooms and Billy is looking forward to becoming Mr Potter’s assistant when he’s a bit older. But Mr Potter has other plans and Billy soon finds himself going up to the High Hob on the moors to be a companion to Jasper Harper who is a wild and very unpredictable young man. Jasper lives with his mother Edie and Uncle Charles who are brother and sister authors. For four years the boys are mostly inseparable but when Charles and Edie are found dead, apparently having committed suicide, Billy has already left with the intention of starting a new life in London.

Almost a century later, Anna Sallis, the newly appointed custodian of Ackerdean Mill, formerly the Palace, arrives. She begins to sort through the chaotic archives of the Mill, the Palace and the Harper siblings and it is left to her to unravel the knots and discover the truth. Just what will she find out?

I firstly want to mention the cover which I absolutely love. The design and the colours are beautiful and it caught my eye straight away. I really liked the sound of ‘The Companion’ and was looking forward to reading it. This book was right up my street and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I literally could have read it forever. I loved Sarah Dunnakey’s style of writing. The story is set in two different timelines, 1932 onwards and the present day and is narrated by Billy and Anna.

I so enjoyed reading Billy’s story. I wish I could have been there exploring the moors. I liked Billy but I didn’t really warm so much to Jasper. I also really liked Anna and I felt that in a short time she did so much for the community. Some things were maybe best left in the past though, but all the same it was interesting seeing what Anna discovered.

Although Anna’s story is set in the present day I do feel it would have been better if the chapters had been headed up with the year and not just the months. There could also have been a map at the beginning of the book.

I really hope there will be more from Sarah Dunnakey. A great first novel and one I recommend.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About Sarah Dunnakey

When she’s not writing fiction, Sarah writes and verifies questions and answers for a variety of TV quiz shows including Mastermind, University Challenge and Pointless. She has an honours degree in History and has previously worked as a librarian, an education officer in a Victorian cemetery and an oral history interviewer.

Sarah has won or been shortlisted in several short story competitions and her work has been published in anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4. In 2014 she won a Northern Writer’s Award, from New Writing North after submitting part of The Companion. She lives with her husband and daughter in West Yorkshire on the edge of the Pennine Moors.

 

Links

‘The Companion’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Companion-Sarah-Dunnakey/1409168557/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501612303&sr=1-1

Twitter – @SarahDeeWrites

 

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

 

Blog Tour – ‘Trust Me’ by Gemma Metcalfe


I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in this blog tour celebrating Gemma Metcalfe’s debut novel. ‘Trust Me’ was published as an eBook on the 10th March 2017 by HQ Digital. I got my review copy from NetGalley.

Lana is stuck in a dead-end job working for a callcentre in Tenerife, making the sort of phone calls most people find annoying. Her boss is breathing down her neck as she hasn’t been able to sell even one holiday yet. Time is running out for her. If she doesn’t make a sale she’ll be out of a job. Dialling yet another number Lana hopes that this will be the one. Never in a million years did she expect the response she got.

Hundreds of miles away in Manchester, Liam has decided that life just isn’t worth living anymore. As he contemplates the best way to commit suicide the phone rings. At first he doesn’t intend to answer but then he decides that at least one person should know the truth before he dies, even if it is a complete stranger.

As the clock ticks, Lana and Liam find themselves sharing their deepest secrets. Will Lana be able to help Liam and stop him from committing suicide?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Trust Me’. I have to say there wasn’t much in the way of happiness in this story and I thought it to be a bit too depressing at first, but I soon found myself totally hooked and wanting to learn more about both Lana and Liam. I thought the plot based loosely on Gemma Metcalfe’s experience as a callcentre operative worked really well. Spread out over an afternoon, this story is about two complete strangers opening up to each other.

I really admired Lana and how she risked her job to try her best to help a stranger in his hour of need. At the same time though Liam was also of some comfort to Lana as she felt able to reveal her past to him. I was just itching to know why Lana had no choice but to up and leave with her daughter and to run away to a different country. Surely things couldn’t have been that bad? But as I read on things became very clear indeed and I was left shocked at what happened to Lana. Equally shocking was Liam’s story and what he had been through. I felt so very bad at the way he had been treated. I couldn’t help but hope that there would be a happy ending for them both. I think that what happens next though is left to the reader’s imagination.

‘Trust Me’ is a gripping read which will leave you absolutely aghast.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

Giveaway

There is a giveaway being run throughout this blog tour.  It is open to UK residents only.  For you chance to win a Boots voucher, a hardcopy of Trust Me and some surprise Boots goodies click on this link Rafflecopter Giveaway.

 

About Gemma Metcalfe


Gemma Metcalfe is a Manchester born author who now lives in sunny Tenerife with her husband Danny and two crazy rescue dogs Dora and Diego. By day, Gemma can be found working as a Primary school teacher, but as the sun sets, she ditches the glitter and glue and becomes a writer of psychological thrillers. An established drama queen, she admits to having a rather warped imagination, and loves writing original plots with shocking twists. The plot for her debut novel ´Trust Me,´ is loosely based on her experiences as a call centre operative, where she was never quite sure who would answer the phone…

 

Links

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01M4KBUBM/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/33853393-trust-me?ac=1&from_search=true

Twitter: @gemmakmetcalfe

 

Interview with Patrick Garratt

It’s time for another interview now.  Patrick Garratt’s debut novel, ‘Deg’ was published last year and I asked him all about it.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your book, ‘Deg’ please?

Deg is screen culture paranoia, anarchic politics and drug exploration written in an automatic, surrealist style. I wrote it in a fit of desperation I doubt I could ever replicate. The diary element to its method set the form of my further books, but it now seems that opinion and inspiration based on imaginary input will alway be subservient to reportage for me. Deg was likely a once in a lifetime event.

 

Is this a book you’ve always wanted to write?

In a way, I suppose. I’d been working on another novel called The Ooning, which I eventually canned after two rewrites, and was spending a lot of time reading twentieth century postmodernism. That these authors could write as they pleased, with little thought for the traditional notion of readability, was revelatory. In that sense I’d always wanted to write Deg. I was just ignorant of the fact.

 

Where did you get your ideas for it from?

Deg is my life story, a psychedelic diary. Thematically it’s a product of my family’s environment at the time of writing. Roughly three years before I wrote Deg we’d emigrated from the UK to Corrèze, a rural department in the Limousin region of southwest France. My wife and I lived in a huge house surrounded by forests with our three small children. Corrèze is so sparsely populated that it’s possible to get back to nature in a way I didn’t realise still existed in western Europe, and I allowed myself to start using cannabis again after a long abstinence from any drugs at all, including alcohol. The result was explosive. I just let it come out.

 

How long did it take you to write?

I wrote the first draft in around three months. It was a little like vomiting.

 

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

Absolutely, yeah. As I said, it’s a thinly-veiled diary.

 

What was the publication process like for you?

A little bizarre, but ultimately amazing. I tried to get Deg published via the traditional route of finding an agent, but, unsurprisingly, it got rejected everywhere. I’d moved onto writing the next book, and had given up reasonable hope of seeing Deg published at all. On the advice of a friend I approached video game artist Ste Pickford to draw the cover as a precursor to self-publication, and he liked it so much he decided to illustrate every chapter. I saw Matthew Smith, Urbane’s boss, requesting book pitches on Twitter, and he showed immediate interest.

From then the process was incredibly relaxed. Matthew is eminently professional and I couldn’t be happier with the result. The hardback really is a thing of beauty, from the physical materials to the reproduction of Ste’s drawings, and that’s all I could have hoped for. Being published by Urbane was a great experience.

 

Have you got any good advice for anyone wishing to write a novel?

Jeepers. So much of this depends on your goals. Many people approach writing as a career, as a job. There’s a financial element to it, as in they want to make money from novels. They attend seminars and buy places on courses and do degrees in creative writing and whatever else, eventually (hopefully) becoming trained in the creation of commercial fiction. If that’s what you want, then off you go. There’s an entire coaching industry waiting for your cash.

I always wanted to be a literary author, meaning the route to success is far muddier. The truth is that if you “want to be a writer” then you must write. Write anything, everything, in any way you want, but you must be productive. Embrace your fear and write your brain, not someone else’s. Don’t worry about making money or getting published or getting an agent. Just be as good as you can be, and that means a constant striving for personal betterment, for self-tuition and the overcoming of internal struggle. If you want to create art then learn art. Allowing yourself to be the person you want to be, to be you, could well be the hardest thing you ever do, but you’ll only reach your core by remorselessly breaching personal barriers. Stop giving a shit about the opinions of others. You won’t be recognised for replication.

To give an example. While I was working on the book following Deg, I lapsed into quite a serious period of self-doubt (yes, this is normal: few people are more pitiable than unpublished novelists), and signed myself up for a distance learning course in novel-writing. After I’d completed the first lesson, part of which was to outline my goals as a writer, the tutor told me I would never secure an agent or a deal if my work wasn’t “accessible”. Urbane signed Deg the following week. I never got round to lesson two.

 

Are you working on any other writing projects?

It never stops. I’ve written two full novels since Deg and I’m about to start another.

 

Have any authors influenced your work and if so, who?

The more experimental twentieth century postmodernists, such as Gaddis, Burroughs, Ballard, Acker and Pynchon, have heavily influenced me. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (it’s noteworthy as I read it just before starting writing Deg) showed me how strange fiction could be, that writing could be powerful as a result of being simultaneously formless and structured. It had a strong impact on my work.

I’m starting to read more theatre and poetry. Fiona, my wife, just passed a Masters in translation studies (with distinction, I should add: I’m very proud to be married to a genius), and she focused on Peter Weiss’s Holocaust play The Investigation for her dissertation. This type of experimental form is currently interesting me as I’ve been fixated with novel-length fiction up to now. I’ve also just finished a collection of Daniil Kharms’s poems and plays, something completely different from my usual reading. Some of his pieces are so beautiful, so insightful. It’s hard to not be influenced by him.

 

How long have you been a journalist for?

Forever. I started working as a video gaming journalist in 1998.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

We now live in the Vosges, a mountain region in the northeast of France, so I’m able to ski when there’s snow and go mountain biking when there isn’t. I work out a lot. Travelling is becoming a lot more important to me, and, obviously, I love to read.

 

If you were only allowed to own two books what would they be?

Probably Infinite Jest and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson’s my children’s’ favourite author, so it’d always remind me of when they were young. I’d take Infinite Jest because I still haven’t read the endnotes. I’m such a fraud.

 

Links

‘Deg’ is available to buy from:-

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

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deg-Patrick-Garratt/dp/1911129481/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489694327&sr=1-1

Patrick Garratt’s Personal Website – https://patrickgarratt.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/patlike

Deg Illustrator Ste Pickford’s Instagram account – https://www.instagram.com/stepickford/

Guest Post by Adam Steiner

I would like to introduce you all to Adam Steiner.  His debut novel, ‘Politics of The Asylum’ is out this autumn.   Adam has written a guest post for this event.

 

Notes From the Abyss

Politics of The Asylum (PoTA), forthcoming from Urbane (Autumn 2017), is a nightmare vision of the modern NHS. Based on the author’s own experiences, the novel tells the story of a hospital in decline through the eyes of a downtrodden cleaner, Nathan Finewax. As things fall apart accidents, mistakes and cover-ups are on the rise and Nathan becomes institutionalised by hospital routines, finding it harder to escape his circumstances and the inevitable fate of one day becoming a patient himself.

I wrote Politics of The Asylum with a clear goal in mind: I wanted to provide a critique of the NHS pushed to breaking point, based upon some of my own experiences working as a hospital cleaner. I started writing the book back in 2013, and it has become ever more prescient in the intervening years.

My pervading memory is a Proustian hangover of bleach. Endless bleach, washing and re-washing surfaces, day in and day out, life reduced to the mode of repetition – which ultimately made me question what the staff and patients were living for. This sounds very OTT, but at the time, I was trapped in a very debauched and damaging cycle of early-morning work and mad, wild evenings driving around country lanes of the Warwickshire hinterland, trying to find something to do and somewhere meaningful to go, with not enough sleep and steadily going out of my mind. Needless to say, there were many scrapes and much unpleasantness, but I’m glad to say I came through it, more or less undamaged, but I remember everything – and what I experienced went straight into the book. Names are changed, identities erased and the real fictionalised; in an ironic meta-sense, I’ve been as paranoiac and controlling as the NHS itself. And I’ve tried to be as respectful and secretive as I can to the dead and the damaged – but without pulling the teeth from the book.

From a political, that is to say, personal, standpoint – I believe that if we are to call ourselves a democratic society, one of our most important is to critique and question the political and civil state in which we live. So it should be with the NHS – it is an institution more meaningful to our daily lives than any monarchy could ever hope to perform – although I expect they go private – which makes them the enemy, or at least part of the problem.

The people who work as part of the NHS, dedicating their lives in order to help others, are, in my view, a form of civil servant – they have chosen this role, and with it comes certain expectations – the most crucial being the duty of care. This applies to frontline, hands-on staff, but also to all administrative bodies, up to the highest managers and directors – they would do well to remember this.

In any large organisation there is always corruption, maladjustment and the power of ego corrupted by power. And while I have to emphasise that the majority of NHS staff are excellent people with the right intentions; the purposeful dismantling of the NHS by the current occupying government is the major source of the rot which has created a climate of fear and decline in NHS behaviour and standards. I have experienced staff pushed to breaking point, attacked by the media and deliberately undermined by the state. Ultimately, this leads me to a wider philosophical concept, that undermines the unity of the NHS, the Death of Affect.

One of the major themes of my book is the nature of power relationships between individual beings; from the level of atomic exchanges of heat and energy, people pushing and shoving, and psychological manipulation of patients, staff and civilians – all of which reside in power – a preoccupation of the French philosopher, Michel Foucault. He argued that through completing an archaeological account of social and civic institutions, hospitals, asylums etc. we can draw an arrow of time through to the present, and re-evaluate how we live now. So far, so straight edge.

The minutiae of these day-to-day power relationships is embodied in the simplest of tasks; from handing a thirsty person a glass of water, listening to the lubb-dupp of their heartbeat or helping them to the toilet. These are acts of kindness, driven by duty and obligation of a role – but ultimately, these individuals are motivated by their ability to be affected by the plight and need of others. The NHS staff member is placed in an intimate position of power and responsibility, they are faced with options in their daily lives, hard choices to be made; and must make decisions of how and when to act – or not.

Death of affect is comparable to the lack of empathy present in sociopathic mindsets and psychopathological traits; where people see no need to act, let alone care, in order to help others. The pressure and pejorative scrutiny placed upon NHS staff creates this same deadening of affect – creates a failure to care or to act to the utmost of their abilities – engendering a return to the state of nature and sheer individualism – it is in this environment in which cruelty breeds and failure is accepted as a day-to-day occurrence. It is this schism in human nature, these internal tensions that are throttling the NHS that my novel explores, challenges and struggles to find the answers to.

Adam Steiner, 2017.

 

Guest Post by Rose McGinty

Rose McGinty’s debut novel, ‘Electric Souk’ is out on the 23rd March.  I am absolutely thrilled to have Rose on my blog today with a guest post.

 

Electric Souk by Rose McGinty

This is my first piece about Electric Souk for a blog review and I am delighted it is for Sonya’s site as her love of reading shines from the screen and she is such a supporter of new writers. Sonya asked me what inspired my story and to say something of my travels. I really enjoyed thinking back to my time in the desert and I hope you enjoy a glimpse into that world too.

Electric Souk started out as a letter home – from the desert. I had taken a job in the health service in the Middle East.  The day started early and finished by 1pm.  Now, I had always craved living in a culture where you could while away the afternoon in dreams. But I was somewhere that so saturated the senses that sleep was impossible. So while the desert afternoon was still I wrote a diary and long letters home, based on  my entries.

My letters at first documented nights in the shisha-smoky souk, or the bizarre scraps I found myself in as a lone, white, western woman. Such as the time when I had a meeting with the Director of the ambulance service and was given the typically hazy desert directions of ‘Go to the hospital and her office is next to the line-up of ambulances.’ I found a line-up of ambulances at the A and E.  I had my doubts and the receptionist quickly put me right.  The ambulance station was on the other side of the hospital complex.

‘Shukran,’ I called to her as I turned to walk back out. The receptionist and three porters bore down on me, ‘Lady! Lady! Where are you going?’ I was heading to the ambulance station.  ‘Are you crazee?’ It was at most a ten minute walk, admittedly in forty degree heat and humidity like a wet velvet towel.

There wasn’t a hope I was going to be allowed to walk there. I was going to be late. I didn’t have time to call and wait for a taxi. Taxis were almost as mythical as magic carpets. If you did manage to persuade a taxi to come and pick you up, you were in for a minimum hour wait in a city where the roads were permanently grid locked with Land Cruisers, and mostly the taxis never turned up.

I could walk I insisted, trying again to exit, managing to get half a foot over the threshold. I should have known better. Within seconds everyone in the A and E was shrieking at me. Step forward my hero in a green boiler suit.  Sami was a paramedic and he was heading over to the ambulance station. He would give me a lift. I was so grateful it didn’t click immediately that within the next minutes I would find myself hurtling downtown, the opposite direction to the station, in an ambulance.

Sami explained that the hospital enforced a strict one way system, which meant that whenever the ambulances needed to return to base they had to detour downtown. I gulped, fished out my mobile and rang my office to ask them to let the ambulance Director know I was going to be late.  A trip downtown meant a good hour in the snarling traffic, at least. As I explained my predicament on the phone, that I had got a lift but was stuck in traffic, carefully neglecting to mention I was in the back of an ambulance, I felt a sharp lurch.  Sami had stamped on the accelerator. The undeniable wail of the siren somewhat gave away my mode of transportation. I got to my meeting pretty much on time, Arabic time, but I never heard the end of it back at the office.

As the weeks turned to months my initial thrill of being somewhere so completely unfamiliar and disorienting wore off, and my diaries and letters became my life line.  The ripples of recession in Europe and America lapped at the edge of the desert. Gas and oil prices plunged deep. Threats of purging ex pats from government jobs intensified.  Suspicion about foreigners spread. The champagne brunches at seven star hotels lost a touch of their wild abandon. Was it time to cut and run? Would there be a coup? What was the truth about the rumours of a power struggle at the palace? The locals were whispering about it and after all power never transferred without bloodshed out here. You just can’t sweep away the desert, however many times a day you take a broom to the piles of sticky, red sand that insinuated through every tiny crevice.

Why did our mobile phones click, when they never did that at home? Who was the man now sitting on a stool outside my office every day? Who had been in my apartment, gone through my things yet not taken anything, just moved everything by an inch, and left the door open and a stubbed out cigarette – to let me know? And that night, that pitch, blistering night out in the desert – what really happened then?

Back home, free from the sand djinn, they still scorched my dreams. The only way I knew how to deal with them was to write. I took up my letters and diaries and pulled out morsels, popped them in the mouths of the characters that haunted my night terrors and Souk spoke as I put my pen to the page.

If you enjoyed this piece, you can read more about the moments that formed a backdrop to Electric Souk at my blog http://rosemcginty.wordpress.com

 

Links

‘Electric Souk’ is available from Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/electric-souk/

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Electric-Souk-Rose-McGinty/dp/1911129821/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489520881&sr=1-1

Twitter – @rosemcginty

 

Guest Post by Eva Jordan

I would like to welcome Eva Jordan back to my blog.  Eva’s debut novel, ‘183 Times A Year’ was published by Urbane Publications last year.  Eva wrote a guest post for this event.

 

IT’S NOT A LIFE, IT’S AN ADVENTURE!

Firstly, I’d like to thank the lovely Sonya for inviting me to take part in her Urbane Blog Event. Sonya is a great supporter of the Urbane family of writers and it was a real pleasure to meet her at the Urbane Shindig last year. For those of you that don’t know me, 183 Times A Year was my debut novel, published by Urbane Publications last year. My second novel, All The Colours In Between, is due for release in the autumn of this year. I have had several short stories published and I also write a monthly column and book review for a local lifestyle magazine called The Fens.

After recently reading the first edited copy of my second novel, comments from Matthew are, “there’s a comfort zone for existing 183 Times A Year readers but new readers will easily be able to read this as a ‘stand alone.’ It is also more adult and hard-hitting but I am very, very happy with it.” I hope this little teaser has wet your appetite, and don’t worry, like 183 Times A Year, there’s still plenty of humour in this book. In the meantime, for the rest of my guest post I thought I’d give you a bit of insight into how I came to write my debut.

After my children and family I have four other passions my life, namely reading books, listening to music and watching films, and the fourth is – yep, you’ve guessed it, writing. In fact, I probably almost love writing as much as I love my children – they’d probably say more so, if you asked them. And yes, it sounds like a cliche’ but I have always wanted to be a writer. Lack of opportunity, inexperience, and bad life choices all held me back to a point but a lack of belief in myself is probably what held me back the most. I did have a few minor publication successes with short stories and poetry when I was younger and I also co-wrote many original songs with my brother for his band, as well as singing backing vocals from time to time. Then came marriage, quickly followed by two beautiful children followed by divorce. That was my “Nodus Tollens” moment. I love this phrase, coined by John Koenig from his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows at http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/post/48395591256/nodus-tollens
it means “the realisation that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.”

Divorce was both difficult and unpleasant and financially life became very tough. My back was against the wall and I felt quite desperate at times. My children were very young at the time of my divorce so I found myself having to take jobs that fitted in around them – school holidays were an absolute nightmare; most of the money I earned went on childcare. I decided I wanted something better for my children and I. So, with the help of my parents (who babysat for me), I went back to college during the evenings. I studied English, History, Sociology and Psychology for two years then applied to study for a BA Hons Degree in English and History. It was a full-time course over three years so that meant finding work that both fitted in around the children and my degree. It wasn’t easy, I still had the school run to do, dinners to cook, uniforms to wash and iron, school plays and assemblies to attend, doctors appointments, hospital appointments, parents evenings, swimming lessons, dance classes, piano lessons, guitar lessons, not to mention all the fancy dress costumes I had to put together for various parties and the school’s annual World Book Day, as well as essays to write and exams to revise for, for my degree. And, somewhere in between, I had to find time to sleep. I sometimes look back at those years and wonder how the hell I did it. I definitely remember tears at times. However, in 2009 I graduated with a BA Honours Degree in English and History and gained a first for my history dissertation looking at civilian morale during the London Blitz of WWII. I felt immensely proud, as did my children and family.

By then I’d met my other half, who also had two children, and we all moved in together and became a blended family. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was when a seed was planted and ideas for my debut novel began to form. Being part of an extended family is fun, however bringing up children, whether it’s your own or others, is not always easy. My journey from single motherhood, to studying for and obtaining my degree, to finding love again which included step parenting and a blended family, taught me I was a far more capable person than my younger self had given herself credit for. After completing my degree I began working for the city library service, which I absolutely loved – I spent my time around books for goodness sake, what’s not to love! I also began writing a book, a thriller come love story based in 1960’s London. However, trying to navigate my new life as a working parent and stepparent was both fraught and outrageously funny at times. Sometimes I felt like pulling my hair out. I discovered through research and talking with friends and colleagues that many people were enjoying, but struggling with the same daily problems I was experiencing. I abandoned my first novel and started to write 183 Times A Year and the rest, as they say, is history. I have to add here, holding the printed copy of my book last year was one of the best moments of my life!

Life is slightly less manic now but it still isn’t easy at times. Unfortunately, due to an injury, I have been left with permanent neck and arm pain and some days this can make writing very difficult, but it will never stop me. I love writing and hope to expand to different genres. I am currently working on my third novel and I hope to write many more in the future because after all (in the words of Grandad in 183 Times A Year) it’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

If you want to know more you can find me at all the usual places:

Website: evajordanwriter.com

Twitter: @evajordanwriter

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

 

Book links:

Urbane Publications: http://urbanepublications.com/books/183-times-a-year/

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B015G3FIZM

Amazon.com: http://amzn.com/B015G3FIZM

 

Interview with Simon Wan

I’m delighted to welcome Simon Wan to my blog.  His debut novel, ‘Love and a Dozen Potatoes’ was published last year.  Below is my interview with Simon.

 

I absolutely love the title of your book. Can you tell me a bit about ‘Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes’?

It’s about love, addiction and obsession, and how all of these three things can very easily get muddled. I also like to think that it can serve as both a warning and encouragement to people who read it. We do foolish and brave things when we’re falling in love, but we do terrible and hurtful things when we are forced to look in the mirror when it all falls apart, and this is normal. Even in the depths of despair there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it’s a tiny flicker, often its a firework. A cautionary tale, a fairy tale, maybe a little bit of both.

 

How did you come up with this wonderful title?

In my family, and I guess in many other large families we only get to spend time together at Easter, Birthdays, Christmas and so on, and these times usually come with a roast dinner. We all love to cook as much as we love to eat so every meal there’s usually heated discussion on who makes the perfect roast potato. Which made me think my search for the perfect partner in life was just the same, I was looking for perfection, even though perfection isn’t real. The dozen came from counting how many times I’d fallen in love and it just clicked.

 

Did events in your own life make you decide to write this book?

I had always wanted to write a book and with my 40th birthday crashing towards me I only had about 3 months from making that decision. I did start writing a sci-fi opus but soon realised that time was running out. So, one night in my old flat in south London while eating a homemade pie with my house mate Tony I mentioned that I was going to struggle to finish the sci-fi book in time. His simple reply was, ‘Just write what you know mate’. I thought about it for a few mouthfuls and replied ‘All I know is falling in love with the wrong women…’ And there it was.

 

What do you hope readers will get out of it?

I want people to know it’s okay to completely lose yourself in another person and open themselves to being hurt, because you will. It will hurt and sting and make you feel rotten, but, and but but but but there will always be someone else if you just let go. Someone else will walk into your life when you least expect it. I want readers to know it’s okay to take risks and it’s okay to fall flat on your face. I want people to know it’s okay to be happy with who you’re with and not secretly be searching for that special perfect prince or princess who only exists in your mind.

 

Would you like to see your book made into a film and if so, who would you choose as the cast?

As an actor, I’d be foolish to say I wouldn’t want to play myself in the later years plus my agent Tom would tell me off. For an American remake, Joseph Gordon Levitt would be a good pick for my late 20’s early 30’s. It would be a gold mine for female casting as there are 12 featured female lead roles. Oohh, actually I’m gunna cast a few loves right now…

Lily Rose Depp as the Girl who Looked French
Jenna Louise Coleman as the girl with the perfect smile
Shakira as the Sunshine Stripper
Rose Byrne as the Ballerina

And that will do for now, or people will start recognising themselves!

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished the sequel to Love and a Dozen, which is called ‘Life and a Dozen Months till Meltdown’ and it follows on almost right away from the first book. I have a few things in the pipeline, or up in the air, depending on what day it is. I’m developing book one into a TV series with my directing partner Robin Schmidt and we’re also waiting on a pitch for Creative England which, if successful will allow us to start production of our first feature film together. I had a week away from the keyboard when I finished book two, but have spent the past few days cracking on with screen plays which have been nipping at my heels now for the last few months.

 

What has the publication process been like for you?

I’m probably going to piss people off here, but it’s been really good. Matthew Smith (Urbane Publications) has made the whole process really easy and I trust him. He took a punt on me and for that I’ll always be grateful. The only negative things I had to get used to was the pace of the industry and having to faff around with the artwork because of a major retailer, proving that they actually do judge a book by its cover. Other than that it’s all pretty new to me so I’m just taking it how it comes.

 

I just have to ask you this. I saw a quote by Limahl in your book. Oh how I love his songs! Do you know him for real?

Yeah, Limahl and I go way back to the days I was in a pop act. He was part of our team and as we were riding the electro 80’s vibe we thought it was cool to have him on board. The reality of it was that he’d spend most of the days in the studio talking about when he went to dinner with Diana Ross or a million other celebrity encounters rather than helping us come up with hooks and melodies. Bless him. I remember one night we all drove to a studio in Bedfordshire because Kajagoogoo had finally made up after decades of money disputes and bad vibes and I’d convinced Limahl to let me film it. They played ‘Too Shy’ and ‘Never Ending Story’ just for us and as cheesy as it was, it was also amazing.

 

Do you really write just wearing a towel?

Yes of course! Although I have been double dressing gowning lately which is decadent. I don’t like writing fully dressed, it doesn’t feel right somehow. If I do find myself having to write in an office I’ll secretly take my shoes off.

 

Have any authors influenced your work?

I’m going to have to say Douglas Adams for comedy and pace, Antony Burgess for his melody and brutality, Bukowski for his honesty and exploration of the mundane.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time, apart from wearing towels that is?

Since moving up to Leeds, I spend any free time at my little brothers gym doing gymnastic ring work and martial arts tricking, it’s great fun and keeps you fit especially after being hunched over a laptop for so many hours. I do love to cook, mainly because I love to eat so much. When the suns out and it’s dry I skateboard. I’ll be a skater till the day I die. In fact, my dream would be to listen to ‘A hitch hikers guide to the galaxy’ on headphones while I skate down a hill wearing my towel eating a pork bun. I’m going to probably do that. I’ll send you the video when it gets sunnier.

 

Describe your life in three words.

Passionate, Foolish, Lucky.

 

Links

Amazon book link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Dozen-Roast-Potatoes-Simon/dp/1910692905

Urbane Author Link – https://urbanepublications.com/book_author/simon-wan/

Actor show reel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC-xTlmiBig

Music link (Fearnes show)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plPgTyGL6Ms&t=35s

Super Massive Sizzle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jevwuWsRPWQ

BOOK PROMO link 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc1JZwJ6NkU

When I went to WHSmiths and saw my book for the first time on the shelves and signed them for random people so they had to buy it 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/loveandadozenroastpotatoes/videos/145482772539166/

Guest Post by David Barker

david-barker

I would like to introduce you all to David Barker.  His debut novel, ‘Blue Gold’ is being published on the 11th May of this year.  There is a blog tour being planned for David’s book which I will be taking part in.

David has written a really interesting guest post which I hope you enjoy reading.

 

Publishing Routes

Over the past nine months I have witnessed my wife self-publish a children’s picture book, a good friend get published by Penguin and my own debut novel comes out in May with Urbane Publications, a proud member of The Independent Publishing Guild. Each route has advantages and drawbacks. I attempt here to highlight the main ones, as I see them, to help you think about the trade-offs involved in each.

First, the traditional publishing route. You write a brilliant book, submit to an agent who’s interested in your genre, and get signed up. OK, that is not easy, not easy at all. Expect lots of rejections along the way. To get through the slush pile, it will need to sparkle, be on trend and be commercial. Once that’s been achieved, it’s not an automatic ticket to fame – the agent might want some editorial input. And then they have to find a publisher who wants to produce your book. I know writers who have got an agent but progressed no further.

Let’s suppose you’ve got that far and the rights have been bought – you’re definitely part of a hallowed minority and should feel justifiably proud. But the publisher might want some major alterations at this point, even to the title of your book and that can be pretty painful – like being told you don’t get to name your own child. Delays are not uncommon. For my friend, the brilliant Ali Land, whose debut Good Me Bad Me was released in January, it was virtually two years between being snapped up at the London book fair and finally seeing her novel hitting the shops.

But oh boy, when you get there… You can be sure that the publisher has invested a lot of time and money in your book. And they won’t skimp on the publicity campaign, high-profile reviews, marquee quotes on a beautiful cover. Your book will be stocked up and down the country. Doors will open for interviews, appearances at literary events etc.

At the other end of the spectrum is self-publishing. The most obvious advantage is that you get to choose if and when your book is published as long as you foot the bill. E-books are cheap, picture books very expensive. You’re responsible for editing and proof-reading. Designing the lay-out of the book and a striking cover is a skill in itself. It may be worth paying for some expert help if you can afford the increase in costs involved.

Once your book is out there, the really hard part begins. Most book shops are not interested in stocking self-published titles; it’s nothing personal, nor a judgment on your book, they’re simply too busy to look at the work of every self-published author who approaches them. A local connection – getting to know the people at the shops you want to target – can help and it might even earn you a premium spot in the store. My wife’s book sells very well at the places it is stocked, it’s just very hard to replicate that on a wide scale.

For these reasons, some self-published authors focus a lot of their effort on the e-book format, using social media to promote themselves and their work. It’s time consuming and the successful ones seem to rely on producing a large number of titles to ensure their fan-base grows and so they can afford to give away some of their work for free. You’ll need to be prolific and media savvy, but this route can work given enough time.

The final option is a kind of compromise between the first two. Independent publishers are willing to take more risks with the books they publish. My novel, Blue Gold, is a thriller set during a world war for water. Some agents suggested to me that Cli-Fi (speculative fiction about climate change) was not on trend at the moment. Were they being realistic about the current market or too conservative in their thinking?

Most indie publishers don’t require that you have an agent, which means that there is no third party taking a slice of the royalties. Typically, you’ll get more freedom in the editing process while still getting support on cover design and layout. Independent publishers may have their own fan base, helping to promote each book as it comes out. But you won’t get a big publicity campaign and titles don’t automatically get stocked in the big national chains. You’re going to have to get yourself out there, talk to people, try to get invited to festivals, offer to do talks and book signings.

It’s worth noting that both self-publishing and indie publishing can morph into the traditional route. The Martian, by Andy Weir, was originally self-published before being picked up by Del Rey when they noticed how well it was doing. Eimar McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was originally published by Galley Beggar Press of Norwich after several bigger houses thought it was too risky. But as it started to gather critical acclaim, Faber & Faber stepped in and offered to help maximise the book’s potential.

To all my fellow writers out there, good luck in your endeavours, whichever route you choose.

You can buy my wife’s book, Amelie and the Great Outdoors here: www.fionabarker.co.uk

You can find out more about me and my book, Blue Gold, here: www.davidbarkerauthor.co.uk

And my publisher here: http://urbanepublications.com

 

‘Blue Gold’ can be pre-ordered 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

 

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