Guest Post: Tara Lyons @taralyonsauthor (author of In The Shadows) #damppebblestakeover

You may be aware that I have been one incredibly lucky blogger of late, with a stream of sensational guest posts from superbly talented and truly lovely authors.  Well, today I am thrilled to welcome one of the loveliest ladies in literature to damppebbles, Tara Lyons.  Tara is the author of brilliant serial killer thriller, In The Shadows, along with co-author of Web of Deceit and The Caller with M A Comley.  If you click here you can ready my review of In The Shadows and if you click here you can ready my review of The Caller.

If my 5 star review isn’t enough to tempt you into purchasing a copy, here is the synopsis and the cover (which definitely will!):

41KOkRVBJRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton is tasked with apprehending a brutal murderer stalking the streets of London – and leaving not a shred of DNA evidence. As the suspect list mounts, his frustration and pressure from his superiors intensify.

Grace Murphy, who is dealing with the recent loss of her beloved grandfather, falls deeper into despair when her friends’ bodies are discovered. Fearing she may be the killer’s next target, she begins to question if her horrifying nightmares are the key to unravelling the murderer’s identity.

How far would you go to uncover the truth? Would you venture into the shadows to unmask a killer?”

One of my favourite books of the year so far, BRILLIANT!

Sadly I wasn’t able to make it to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate this year. So we sent our intrepid roving reporter….no actually, we didn’t!  But Tara very kindly offered to write a piece about her first visit to Harrogate for damppebbles.  Oh, and keep an eye out for some familiar faces in the slide show below…

My first time… at Harrogate
Tara Lyons

As I write this, a week has passed since the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, but it feels more like a month. It was my first experience of Harrogate, and any kind of book festival, and I’ve had a major comedown from the amazing event.

I booked up late, only securing a B&B in April (most people attending had booked the previous year as soon as the dates were announced), and now I’m so glad that my ‘fear of missing out’ bug kicked me up the butt just in time.

As a very new author, I was feeling quite daunted as the day to travel to Yorkshire approached. However, I pulled on my big girl pants and had a good talking to myself – this was a great opportunity to meet other authors, bloggers, publishers, publicists and people I’d spoken to online for over a year. If I’m honest, I think I embraced the experience more as a reader than an author, because once I was there my nerves took over on more than one occasion. But I don’t think it altered my experience at all. The festival is overflowing with new and established authors, crime fiction fans, bloggers etc. – all happy to chat about their writing journey, love of books and everything else in between. And I’ll admit, I had a huge fangirl moment when Martina Cole high-fived me over our shared love of Ireland and Clonakilty black pudding.

I think the truth of it is, at Harrogate it doesn’t matter what you do or your reason for being there because your passion for crime fiction means you’ll always find someone to talk too – trust me, the bar is always heaving and the conversation is always flowing. So, if you’re worried about going alone, please don’t! The whole weekend had a very chilled and relaxed atmosphere, with people happy to pose for photos, sign books and share a bottle of wine!

After booking my B&B it was clear I couldn’t afford to attend all the events on offer, so I carefully chose a few I didn’t want to miss. Despite the heat of the room (and I’m not complaining about the awesome weather we had), they were very interesting, well-structured conversations, with a chance for audience participation at the end. There’s nothing like hearing a successful author share their lows and highs to get the creative juices pumping – and yes, I have been at the laptop with an array of ideas since coming home. I came away from Harrogate feeling very inspired – and not just about crime fiction! Thanks to a very passionate blogger, I’m excited about quite a few things (but if I told you now, I’d have to kill you… but watch this space). I hope by time next year’s festival comes around – and yes, I have booked my room already – I’ll feel more confident as a writer, not just a reader.

There’s an author North versus South football match to enjoy, a chalked outline of a dead body on the ground, a huge WHSmith tent – that not only sells books but holds book signings too, deck chairs and a beer tent, the word ‘read’ in enormous cardboard letters that make you feel like you’re being welcomed to the book equivalent of Glastonbury and much, much more.

I have only just skimmed the surface about my time at Harrogate because I think if I launched into it fully you’d be scrolling down your screen for quite some time. But I’ll end on this – if you love crime fiction, be it because you’re a writer, a reader, a publisher, a blogger, a publicist or anything in between, then treat yourself to Harrogate 2017. The enjoyable atmosphere is contagious and I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. I met some wonderful people, was asked to sign a copy of my paperback (that was an “OMG, is this real?” moment for me) and had the opportunity to talk to authors about their writing experiences and get some valuable tips and advice. I didn’t buy a rover pass for the day/weekend, but many people did, some dined with authors and publicists while others soaked up the sun… Harrogate is what you make it, but it’s definitely a book festival not to be missed.

Oh, FYI… this year, I stayed at the Baytree House, which is about 20 minutes from The Old Swan Hotel (the hub of the festival). It’s a beautiful B&B, reasonably priced with a fab breakfast and lovely staff.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Harrogate, please just give me a shout, I’m more than happy to have a chat about my first time…

www.facebook.com/taralyonsauthor | www.twitter.com/taralyonsauthor | Taralyons236@hotmail.com

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Thank you so much roving report…*ahem* I mean,  Tara.  It sounds like you and everyone who attended had an awesome time.  I’ve started saving for my 2017 festival ticket, just don’t tell the hubby!

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Tara LyonsTara is a crime/psychological thriller author from London, UK. Turning 30 in 2015 propelled her to fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

In the Shadows is the author’s solo debut novel published in March 2016. She also co-writes with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, M.A Comley; The Caller is the first book in their new Organised Crime Series. Web of Deceit is a standalone novella written by the duo.

When she’s not writing, Tara can be found at a local Wacky Warehouse stuck in the ball-pit with her young, energetic son.

Sign up to theTara’s mailing list for exclusive news, sneak peak previews and giveaways. Find out more about Tara and follow her writing journey:

www.facebook.com/taralyonsauthor | www.twitter.com/taralyonsauthor |

www.instagram.com/taralyonsauthor | www.taralyonsauthor.blogspot.co.uk

 

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*Blog Tour: Guest Post* Ghost Target by Will Jordan (@WillJordan83)

Ghost Target crop small“From Marseille to Islamabad at breakneck pace… it’s kill or be killed for Ryan Drake and his team

Ryan Drake, once a decorated field operative, is now wanted for treason. On the run from the CIA’s corrupt Deputy Director Marcus Cain, he has spent the past six months in a remote French safehouse. Drake’s former life seems to be behind him, but the uneasy peace is shattered when Cain moves against him with startling force.

Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is faltering in the wake of a devastating suicide attack. Cain though has a plan to find and destroy al-Qaeda’s top commanders. And nobody will stand in his way.

Backed into a corner, Drake turns to the deadly but unpredictable Anya – once Cain’s most promising agent, now his most bitter enemy. With tensions running high and their uneasy alliance threatening to tear itself apart, Drake’s hastily assembled team travels to Pakistan to intercept Cain.

With the fate of the War on Terror hanging in the balance, loyalties are tested and scores settled, as Drake embarks on the fight of his life. Only one side will survive…

From the bestselling author of Black List and Deception Game, Ghost Target is the sixth Ryan Drake thriller, and an incredible tale of deception, desperation, and ultimate betrayal.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Ghost Target blog tour.  Ghost Target, written by Will Jordan, is book six in the Ryan Drake series of novels and was published by Canelo last month (July 2016).  I haven’t come across Will’s main protagonist, Ryan Drake, before but I’m thrilled to have a copy of Ghost Target on my mountainous TBR so look out for a review in the near future.

Will has very kindly written a guest post for us today.  So, without further ado, I will hand you to over to Will:

Writing an ‘Espionage Epic’

I was on my Goodreads author page a couple of months ago, answering a reader’s question about my Ryan Drake series, when something rather interesting happened. He made an astute and, to me, quite startling observation:

“It helps that you’ve constructed what could be called an “espionage epic” of sorts, only instead of Gods and legendary warriors, you’ve got spies, killers and large intelligence services “

I’d never quite thought about it in those terms before, but the more I mulled over that comment the more sense it made. I had, in effect, taken an epic fantasy series structure and transported it into the present day thriller genre.

So how (and why) on earth did I end up doing such a thing? Well, even though I’d committed to writing a series of thrillers about covert operations, conspiracies and hidden conflicts, there were certain things that had come to bug me about this genre – the biggest of which was the reset button effect, where characters basically don’t change from book to book. Their experiences – good and bad – don’t affect them in a meaningful way. They just continue as they always have, bounding from one adventure to another.

This wasn’t for me at all, because it’s not how real people act. Real people are constantly changing and developing, growing and learning from the things they’ve seen and done. Traumatic experiences often leave deep marks that go far deeper than physical scars, while important lessons can inform the way they respond to future situations.

In short, I wanted a series based around real people.

A human hero
One of the things many reviewers have picked up about my main character Ryan Drake is that he’s surprisingly human and vulnerable compared to many heroes in the genre. He doesn’t have the brute strength and unflinching machismo of Jack Reacher, the fearless bravado of Dirk Pitt, the deadly skills of Jason Bourne. He can make mistakes, he can be misled, he doesn’t always have all the answers or know how to prevail in every situation.

Why did I make him this way? Because I knew his development as a character was going to unfold gradually over a series of many books. If I made him near perfect right from the start, where did I have left to take him? How could he change and grow and improve?

No, I wanted to take a different approach with my protagonist. In fact, I wanted to do the same with all of my recurring characters. Why? Because for me, that’s the joy of writing a series – depicting not just the action, but the effects of that action on those involved.

A tiny example is that during my first novel Redemption, Drake is disarmed and threatened by another series regular Anya (an older and more experienced operative). On the face of it, this seems to be nothing more than a brief, violent encounter between these two characters. However, two books later Drake is able to use exactly the same technique to overpower an opponent who’s got the drop on him. He’s learned from his experience, and is able to put those lessons to good use, gradually becoming stronger and more capable as a result.

By the time of Ghost Target, my sixth book, Drake has become tougher, more jaded and cynical than ever before. He’s more of a threat to his enemies than he’s ever been, but his experiences have left him questioning what he’s actually fighting for, what he and his companions have risked and sacrificed so much to achieve. It isn’t until the war comes very suddenly and violently back into his life that he realises there can be no walking away from the life he’s chosen.

Getting the balance right
“As someone who despairs at the fact the complex ‘serialized arc’ format is under attack by readers, I commend you for being an author not afraid to have a grander vision than just making stand-alone closed loop plots for your novels, and instead, make a sweeping tale with a unifying arc.”

The quote above pretty much sums up my entire thoughts on the Ryan Drake series.

For me, any story has to constantly feel like it’s building towards something. This applies both to individual novels, and also to the series they’re part of. Every book is a stepping stone on the path to the ultimate end of the series, the pieces of a larger puzzle coming together. Not only is there an overarching storyline to my books, but a complex backstory involving most of the major characters whose details are gradually expanded and fleshed out. Again, it’s important for me to show that every character isn’t just influenced by events in the present, but also that they have a life and a history all of their own.

Of course these books need to be able to stand on their own merits, to tell their own stories, and I always try to include enough background to put their events into context for first-time readers, but I believe the Ryan Drake series is a far more rewarding experience for those able to enjoy it in its entirety.

And when it’s finally over, well, I hope I can look back on it as something truly unique.

***

Thank you, Will. You’ve made me look forward to reading Ghost Target even more thanks to this fascinating post.  I may also need to add the first five Ryan Drake books to my wish list (just don’t tell my other half!).

Ghost Target by Will Jordan was published in the UK by Canelo on 4th July 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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unnamedWill Jordan is a British thriller writer, born in Fife, Scotland in 1983. His works to date include:

Redemption (Ryan Drake 1) – 2012
Sacrifice (Ryan Drake 2) – 2013
Betrayal (Ryan Drake 3) – 2014
Black List (Ryan Drake 4) – 2015
Deception Game (Ryan Drake 5) – 2015

After graduating high school he moved on to university, gaining an Honors Degree in Information Technology. To support himself during his degree he worked a number of part time jobs, one of which was as an extra in television and feature films. Cast in several action/war movies, he was put through military boot camp and weapons training in preparation.

Having always enjoyed writing, he used this experience as the basis for his first thriller, REDEMPTION. He was able to supplement this with visits to weapon ranges in America and Eastern Europe, as well as research trips to Washington DC, London and New York.

For his second thriller SACRIFICE, he was able to interview members of the British armed forces who had served tours in Afghanistan. His fifth novel in the Ryan Drake series, DECEPTION GAME, was released in November 2015.

He lives in Fife with his wife and two sons.

For more information on Will and the Ryan Drake series, go to www.willjordanbooks.com or follow him on Twitter at @WillJordan83

Will Jordan Tour.jpg

Guest Post: Chris Curran @Christi_Curran (author of Mindsight & Her Turn To Cry) #damppebblesTakeOver

I am absolutely thrilled to have the very talented Chris Curran join me on damppebbles today as part of my #damppebblestakeover series.  July may have come to an end but I still have a number of fabulous guest posts to share with you, you lucky people 🙂

Chris has written two psychological suspense novels; Mindsight which was published in 2015 and Her Turn To Cry, which was published in eBook format in July (with the paperback hitting the shelves in September).  I have a review copy of Her Turn To Cry on my TBR so keep an eye out for my review soon.  To whet your appetite, here is the blurb and cover of Her Turn To Cry:

61x-3uE4hEL“Twelve years ago Joycie Todd’s mother abandoned her. But what if she never really left? A tautly written psychological suspense novel, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Alex Lake.

London, 1965. Top model Joycie Todd lives a glittering life with photographer Marcus Blake. But her childhood tells a different story…

When she was eleven, Joycie’s mother disappeared. Run away with another man, so everyone says. But Joycie can’t forget the thumps she heard in the night, or the bloodstained rug hidden under the bed. A rug that was gone the next day.

Twelve years later, Joycie has left her past behind. But when an old friend dies, Joycie is left a letter beseeching her to find out the truth. Unable to keep the door locked any longer, Joycie sets out to discover why her mother left her – if she ever really did.

As she travels to the shabby seaside towns of her childhood, Joycie soon finds that it’s not just her mother who vanished all those years ago. Joycie knows the disappearances are connected, she just doesn’t know how. But there’s someone out there who does – and they will do anything to keep it buried.”

Sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to read it.

Recently Barbara Copperthwaite appeared on damppebbles with a brilliant post about domestic noir; a subgenre we’ve all heard of, right?  But what about amnesia noir?  OK, it doesn’t actually exist, but maybe it should….?  Over to you Chris.

Amnesia Noir? Some favourite crime novels of memory loss

At the recent Bristol Crimefest I was asked a question about the role that memory plays in my debut novel, Mindsight. It’s a crucial element of the mystery because the main character, Clare, is unable to remember the car crash in which she killed several members of her family whilst under the influence of drugs.

It wasn’t until I was answering the question that I realised that memory, or the lack of it, is also important in my new book, Her Turn To Cry. Joycie Todd is living a charmed life as a model in 1960s swinging London, but she is scarred by what happened during her childhood and has blocked many memories from that time, including what she knows of her mother’s disappearance.  So memory seems to be a thread running through my work.

Then I began to notice how often characters with memory loss or fractured memories occur in crime fiction generally. A protagonist with this kind of problem has an obvious mystery to solve, even if that is the last thing they want to do. This can make for the perfect unreliable narrator. Memory problems are often connected with a traumatic event the character can’t bear to remember. So is this something terrible that was done to them or something they have done?  The truth about their situation is a secret even from themselves and, however sympathetic they may appear, the reader is bound to suspect them as well as those around them.

There is no crime sub-genre called amnesia noir, but if there was these novels would certainly be some of my favourite examples.

What better place to start than with Wilkie Collins and his masterful examination of memory and identity: The Woman In White. The title character, Anne Catherick, appears to Walter Hartright, like a ghost, on a dark road at the very start of the story and remains a wraithlike presence throughout. She closely resembles Laura, the woman Walter comes to love, but is forever on the edges of the narrative. Nor does she figure as one of the many narrators, whose disparate and quirky voices bring the novel to vibrant life. But Anne, her mind confused and twisted by her incarceration in a Victorian asylum, is the lynchpin of the whole novel speaking truths that sound like madness.

Christine, in SJ Watson’s novel, Before I Go To Sleep, wakes every morning with no memory of the past and knows only what the husband she can’t remember and her, equally unfamiliar, doctor tell her about who she is and what happened to her. But can she trust either of them? And can she even rely in her own diary, written every evening and discovered anew each time she wakes?

Rob Ryan from Tana French’s, chilling novel, In the Woods, is a police officer, but his ordeal occurred when he was a child. He went into the woods with two friends and was found bloodied and tied to a tree. The others were never seen again. He has changed his name and seems to have blotted out all memory of his ordeal but is forced to confront it when a recently murdered child is found in the same woods where his nightmare occurred.

Rachel, in The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins, has black-outs because of her drinking and is clearly an unreliable narrator. Embittered and resentful, she commutes daily to a job she’s been sacked from and obsessively watches her old home, where her ex-husband still lives. But when she believes she has seen an act of violence from the train she tries to get her behaviour back under control and solve the mystery. All, of course, is not as it seems.

Another alcoholic is Charlotte in All Things Nice by Sheila Bugler. She has only hazy memories of the night of her birthday party and fears she may have done more than fight with her daughter, Freya, when Freya’s boyfriend, Kieran, is found knifed to death near Charlotte’s home. One thing she does recall, however, is that she has very personal reasons to hate Kieran.

Emma Healey’s poignant take on the mystery genre is Elizabeth Is Missing. The Elizabeth of the title is the friend of dementia sufferer, Maud, who pursues her investigation into Elizabeth’s disappearance with dogged determination to the embarrassment of her long suffering daughter and the irritation of the police and Elizabeth’s relatives. They all insist there has been no crime. If Maud’s grasp on the present is sketchy, to say the least, her recall of the past is pin-sharp, especially of one particular event. In 1946 Maud’s elder sister vanished and in Maud’s unravelling mind the old and the new mysteries begin to overlap and entwine.

Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane, is set in 1950s America on an island that houses a high security asylum for the criminally insane. Federal Marshall, Teddy Daniels, and his new partner, Chuck, arrive to investigate the disappearance of child killer, Rachel Solando. As a storm rages, isolating the island, Teddy begins to suspect that Rachel may not be the only missing patient. The reactions of the inmates, but also of the staff are often unsettling and in keeping with the paranoia of the times, the spectre of mind control drugs and experiments begins to hover over his investigation.

The possibility of mind control, this time in contemporary Britain, looms large in CJ Carver’s fast moving novel, Spare Me The Truth. Part spy thriller, part police procedural, part psychological mystery, it features three main characters including Dan Forrester. He lost a chunk of memory after the accidental death of his three year old son, for which he blames himself. Dan has managed to reclaim some contentment in a settled domestic life with his wife and daughter, until he is confronted by a woman who claims that they worked together and that his past is very different from what he has been told. It’s not long before Dan begins to suspect that everyone has been lying to him and that he knows nothing, even about himself.

***

What a fascinating post, thank you Chris.  I’ve read two of the books you mention in your post – one of which I loved, the other I didn’t enjoy at all!  Have you read any of the books Chris mentions?  Or can you think of any other examples that would fall into the ‘amnesia noir’ category?  Let me know in the comments.

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Chris Curran has written two psychological crime novels for Harper Collins Killer Reads. She left school at sixteen to work in the local library – her dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading her way around the shelves before reluctantly returning to full- time education. She lives in Hastings on the south coast of England where she is a proud shareholder of the recently reopened pier. Amongst other things she has worked as a primary school teacher, an actress and an editor, all the time dreaming of the day when she would see her own books gracing those library shelves. Connect with Chris via Twitter @Christi_Curran | Chris’ amazon author page | Chris’ website | Chris’ Facebook author page | KillerReads on Twitter @KillerReads |

 

*Blog Tour: Guest Post* Unquiet Souls by Liz Mistry (@LizCrimeWarp)

Liz Mistry Unquiet Souls.jpg“What is the link between the abduction of a little girl and a dead prostitute?

When the body of a prostitute is discovered DI Gus McGuire is handed the case. But what first appears to be a simple murder soon turns into an international manhunt for the members of a twisted child trafficking ring.

McGuire who is suffering with problems of his own, he must pick his way through the web of deceit and uncover the truth in time before the body count rises.

Can McGuire identify The Matchmaker before it’s too late? And can he trust those he is working with?

Unquiet Souls is the first book in a dark and compelling new police series.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Unquiet Souls blog tour.  I am so excited about this book and I can’t wait to read it.  This is Liz’s debut novel and the first in a new series featuring DI Gus McGuire (the first…I’m starting at the beginning for once!).

Without further ado, here is Liz’s guest post explaining why she loves reading and writing crime fiction:

Why Crime Fiction does it for me

I write gritty crime fiction and I love it!  My debut novel Unquiet Souls is the first in a series of police procedurals set in Bradford featuring DI Gus McGuire and I loved writing it.  I loved getting into the mind of the villains and trying to suss out what made them tick.  I also loved working out how my hero would eventually ‘put the world to rights’ and, for me, crime fiction ticks all the boxes, both as a crime writer, and as a reader.

Crime fiction is the largest selling genre for many reasons.  It takes us to a world where the ‘goodie’ usually triumphs over the ‘baddie’.  It allows us to explore the darkest aspects of humanity from the safety of our sofas and it stimulates our ‘sleuthing’ skills. It provides the same satisfaction that playing Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians or British Bulldogs did in our childhood.  It allows us, through the pages of a book, to bring some of the evil that exists in the world into our own home, take charge and make some sort of sense of it, secure in the knowledge that most of the time the baddie will get his or her comeuppance.

For me crime fiction, in all its many guises, is an exploration of the things we see as being wrong in the world and our attempt as crime fiction writers to highlight them and express our shock in them.   Whether you’re a cosy crime fan or a gritty thriller lover you can always, on the shelves of a good book shop, find something for you.  The increase in sub-genres under the crime fiction umbrella is a constant source of joy to me.  I can pluck a JD Robb off my shelf and be transported to New York of the future where interplanetary movement is routine.  Or, I can grab a gritty police procedural by Caroline Mitchell and find myself thrilled with paranormal activity.  Or, if I’m feeling a bit romantic there’s Beverley Barton or Mary Burton at hand to dart a Cupid’s arrow in my direction.  This means that crime fiction as a genre never goes stale – there are always surprises, always new places to visit whether it’s Vaseem Khan’s, Mumbai, Martin Holmen’s, Stockholm or Deon Meyer’s South Africa.

Read, or write crime fiction and you travel the world, experiencing good and bad, love and hatred, joy and sadness, highs and lows, and you do it arm in arm with the best and the worst of humanity.  Mmmm!  Just my cup of tea!

An absolutely BRILLIANT post Liz, thank you.  I’m a hardcore crime fiction fan and I’m often asked why I love the genre so much.  For me, you have hit the nail on the head and in future I’ll just point the asker to this post. THIS is why I love crime fiction!  BRILLIANT!

Unquiet Souls by Liz Mistry was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 30th July 2016 and is available in eBook format.

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lizLiz Mistry was born in West Calder, Scotland and educated at Stirling University before moving to Bradford for her PGCE, where she settled with her husband, Nilesh, her three children, Ravi, Kasi and Jimi and her two cats.  Liz taught in Inner city Bradford schools for many years.  Suffering from depression for many years, Liz used her writing to help her through the darkest times.  She is currently part-way through an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University, which she acknowledges as being instrumental in developing her confidence as a writer.  Liz is co-founder and main contributor to The Crime Warp Blog (http://thecrimewarp.blogspot.co.uk/)