#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Mountain in my Shoe by Louise Beech (@LouiseWriter) @OrendaBooks

The Mountain in my Shoe aw.indd“A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself. On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all. Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Mountain in my Shoe blog tour.  The Mountain in my Shoe was published at the end of September 2016 and is written by the incredibly talented Louise Beech.  Today I am thrilled to have a wonderfully honest guest post from Louise to share with you.

Writing My Life…

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Louise aged 9

The other day I was interviewed on BBC Radio Humberside and we got around to storytelling, and what it means to me. We had been discussing National Care Leavers Week in relation to my second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, and how my own experience of being briefly in the care system had partly inspired the book. And the host asked me if maybe the story I was looking to write was perhaps my own. It was a profound moment. I realised that I started writing stories around the age when my siblings and I first went into care. I’d always created stories in my head, literally from being a tot, but I actually started writing them in notebooks when I was about nine.

This was also when our mum made a serious suicide attempt that resulted in her yearlong stay in a psychiatric unit. My baby brother was fostered, and my two sisters and I went to live up north with our grandma. Other times, when she simply couldn’t have us, we stayed at an orphanage here in East Yorkshire. So I’m really beginning to wonder if I write stories to find my own. You see, I don’t remember everything from being small. There are huge gaps in my memory, which is a theme I’ve explored in my third novel.

So is my absolute love of writing – and I do love it, perhaps more than anything – a journey of self-discovery. Most of my novels have been inspired by some aspect of my life, whether it’s my grandfather’s bravery at sea, my daughter’s illness, my voluntary work or my own childhood. They are usually fictionalised – which perhaps affords me some safety, some distance – but they definitely come from a deep part of me. But don’t all writers do this? I can’t be the only one? And is it self-indulgent, or do stories created from such personal places resonate that little bit more with readers?

When I write I try hard to avoid self-pity or indulgence. I’m always aware that the reader is with me and I want to give them a story that they can enjoy, that is uplifting. So while I do face dark aspects of my life in my work, I’m an optimist by nature. I’m Scarlett O’Hara in that I think tomorrow will always be another (better) day. I may be looking back to piece together missing bits from my past, but I look most excitedly to the future. And this is something I hope shines through most of all in my books….

***

Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Louise.  I am pleased to confirm that I have a review copy of The Mountain in my Shoe so look out for a review on damppebbles coming your way soon.

A Mountain in my Shoe by Louise Beech was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 30th September 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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dscf5005-1Louise Beech has always been haunted by the sea, and regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show. How To Be Brave is Louise’s first book. The Mountain in My Shoe will be published in 2016.

Author Links: Twitter | Website |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac (@JaneIsaacAuthor) @Legend_Press

9781785079474“The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?”

I am absolutely delighted to be kicking off the Beneath the Ashes blog tour today.  Beneath the Ashes is the second book in the DI Will Jackman series and is published tomorrow (that’s Tuesday 1st November 2016).  A very happy book birthday for tomorrow, Jane and Legend Press!

DI Jackman is called to investigate a partially burnt corpse found on the outskirts of a fire damaged farm outbuilding.  There’s something suspicious about the scene though.  How did the body get so far away from the site of the fire?  Elsewhere Nancy Faraday wakes on the kitchen floor with no memory after a night out with her (newish) boyfriend.  The broken glass and the missing boyfriend cause immediate alarm.  What happened last night?  If only she could remember.  As DI Jackman investigates he starts to unravel a startling web of lies and nothing is as it seems…

I really enjoyed this book; my introduction to DI Will Jackman and the work of Jane Isaac. There’s something about a well written police procedural that gives me the warm fuzzies and this is a well written police procedural.  I love DI Jackman and I want to read the first book in the series (Before It’s Too Late) before it’s too late…(see what I did there!?).  Book three is coming out next year and I, for one, can’t wait.

DI Jackman is a new favourite of mine, despite the fact that he’s not my usual hard-boiled grumpy police officer.  I didn’t warm to Nancy at all.  I wanted to like her but her blinkered point of view frustrated me somewhat.

It’s an intricate story with many seemingly unrelated threads.  I spent a large proportion of the story wondering how things were going to tie together but oh boy, they do!  There’s a brilliant twist which I didn’t see coming at all…absolutely brilliant!  I was interested from start to finish and I’ll say it again…that reveal is FABULOUS!

Would I recommend this book?  I would, it’s a cleverly crafted police procedural with a brilliant reveal.  More Will Jackman please, Ms Isaac!

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Lucy at Legend Press and Jane Isaac for providing me with a copy of Beneath the Ashes in exchange for an honest review.

Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac was published in the UK by Legend Press on 1st November 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Legend Press |

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Jane Isaac lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire.

Her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was published in the US in 2012 and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013’. Jane is also the author of The Truth Will Out, Before It’s Too Late and Beneath the Ashes, published in the UK by Legend Press. The Truth Will Out, was selected ‘Crime Thriller of the Month by EThriller.com and ‘Noveltunity Book Club Winning Selection’.

Jane’s next novel The Lies Within is published by Legend Press on 2nd May 2017.

Follow Jane on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor

 

Author Links: |  Twitter | Website | Facebook |

#GuestPost | #Giveaway: #BlackRun by Karen Traviss (@karentraviss) #technothriller

I am thrilled to welcome the incredibly talented Karen Traviss to damppebbles today.

There is so much about Karen’s work that I want to tell you, but I don’t think I can do her or it justice.  So I’ll kick off by saying Karen Traviss is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and you should visit her website to see what she has achieved. It’s pretty amazing and you may recognise one or two brands along the way.

Karen is currently writing a techno thriller series.  The first of which, Going Grey (Ringer Book 1), was published in June 2014.  Book two in the series, Black Run, will be available to buy on Kindle from 16th December 2016 for £4.99.  To whet your appetite here’s a sneak peak at the cover and blurb:

preview_concept_black-run-3“You make a few enemies in the security business, as former Royal Marine Rob Rennie has discovered. He’s made a few more since helping his buddy Mike to shelter Ian, a teenager with a unique talent for disguise. Ian’s the subject of  an illegal experiment: a biotech company is pulling out all the stops to get him back. But Rob’s loyalty to Mike could now cost him his life. An unexpected enemy from the past is hunting down Rob and his son, and Ian and Mike have to make tough choices that could tear both their families apart. The past doesn’t forgive. The past doesn’t forget. And now it knows where to find you.”

Karen has written a fascinating piece about the nuts and bolts of writing which I LOVE!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Rules of writing; set in sand, not concrete.

There are any number of how-to books and writing courses designed to teach people how to write a novel, but as you’ve probably discovered if you’ve chatted with writers about the nuts and bolts of their working day, a single definitive method doesn’t exist. I knew that before I started writing fiction, but there was one thing I wasn’t fully prepared for even years later – that even an individual method can suddenly desert you for no immediately obvious reason.

In the end, simply switching off a light put me back on track when a book was proving to be a major struggle. And it made me realise just how fragile a balancing act of awareness writing can be, and how dependent it is on small rituals that can look completely barmy to outsiders.

There’s only one technique that every writer I know consistently employs, and that’s finishing the manuscript in front of them. It might sound glib, but, as an editor told me years ago, the vast majority of people who start writing a book never finish it. Sticking with a novel is a skill in itself.

For some writers, writing really does seem to be a case of sitting down and just letting a subconscious process unfold without questioning it. For others – myself included – it’s something they analyse to a greater or lesser degree, and for some – yes, this is definitely me – it’s something they want to dissect completely in order to find what delivers consistent results every time. Much of that isn’t about art or anything high-minded but about a minute-by-minute working process.

As with many jobs, one method doesn’t fit all when it comes to getting the work done, no matter how similar the product looks from the outside. Techniques and methodologies vary, from the different ways we gather information to stylistic elements like how we handle point-of-view, and inevitably that depends on the way an individual’s brain is wired.

If you consider how complex the task of writing fiction actually is – creating a consistent, populated universe in your mind, complete with causality – then you can see how many variables we’re dealing with. Some people plan every detail, others write from a single image in their head that opens a door as they go, and there’s every permutation in between. I came into fiction as a meticulous planner, but I discovered almost immediately that I needed to fly blind to keep a story fresh. I’d come from a journalism background, so the method I was used to was one of exploration, of approaching a topic that I often knew nothing about and letting those who did understand it explain what was happening. I didn’t make assumptions about what would happen.

So that became my method and my style. My fiction was reportage. It let the characters talk, and I stayed out of it, just asking them questions. That proved to be what I enjoyed most, exploring the unknown territory of another person’s mind. All I had to do was create the people who would have existed if the world had been real. My primary technique became the construction of three-dimensional characters before I started writing and understanding them so well that I knew how they thought and how they’d behave in any situation. It was, in a way, a formula much more like computer modelling or games: I knew the characters, and all I had to do was put them in an environment I’d designed and see what they did and how they interacted with each other. That became the plot.

Every writer needs to find their voice when they begin, but mine turned out to be many different voices in the form of multiple, very tight third person point-of-view. I told the story entirely through the eyes of characters who were nothing like me and who didn’t see events the same way as the other characters in the same story. I even used their language for the narrative, not just their dialogue. I’m not sure how I learned to do it, but I could think like someone else, and, for the duration of the scene, become another person with a world view utterly alien to my own. It was a kind of controlled dissociation. I’ve done this to the extent that the characters’ take on life has made me question my own long-held views on major issues. With that kind of approach, the characters decide the plot. I start out with an idea of where they might go, but as often as not, they go off at a tangent and I follow.

With some novels, I’d write the opening scene, the end, and a couple of key plot pivots, and then infill, sometimes in chronological order, sometimes not. I accepted that I would probably throw out those initial scenes once the characters took over. With other novels – in the same series, and in the same style as far as the reader was concerned – I found I started at the beginning and worked through in a linear way, still letting the characters drive and develop on the page so that the reader got to know them as well as I did.

But just as there’s no single definitive formula for writing a novel that works for every writer, I found that the techniques I settled into stopped serving me, and it took me some time to work out why. It proved to be more than just the normal change of outlook brought about by living life and changing as a person.

I’ve just finished my twenty-sixth novel, and it’s proved far harder than any book I’ve ever written. I was used to going into a writerly purdah, immersing in the manuscript, and finishing it in six to eight weeks, sometimes less, with very little editing. Each novel played out in my head like following the characters around with a TV camera. With the last book, though, it took me two years. Every writer has a pace and length that’s normal for them – again, there’s no such thing as the right time to spend writing or an ideal length – and two years is a good average for many writers. But it was so far out of my normal range that I was worried that I’d somehow ceased to be able to write.

On the surface, I had a rational explanation for what had made such a huge difference to my output. My father had been ill for a long time, I was his sole carer, and inevitably my priorities had to change. But the more I looked at the situation, the more I realised it wasn’t just a case of having different demands on my time. True, I wasn’t able to lock myself away from the world for a few weeks and just plunge into the book. But the biggest barrier was being unable to stay in the characters’ heads for sustained periods even when I was at my desk.

In the past, when I hit a rocky patch in a novel, I always knew it was because I’d started to slip out of the relevant character’s psyche. I’d stopped seeing the world as they saw it, so I wasn’t as sure of what they’d do next. Once I remembered that, I started to what was happening with this marathon of a novel. No matter how hard I tried to focus, part of my brain was constantly on alert, waiting for another crisis in the real world that I’d need to deal with, and that meant I never immersed fully. I was aware that the characters weren’t doing the talking, so I’d start over and rewrite the lot. I’d reached the stage where the complex world I needed to juggle in my head had become too fragmented. I had, in every sense of the phrase, lost the plot.

Interruptions – real or anticipated – had derailed me. I found a piece of workplace research showing that frequent interruptions during complex work not only made employees start over in terms of their mental process, but that each interruption had a cumulative and increasing effect. Staff took longer to recover each time. The odd thing was that I was used to working in noisy, distracting environments; I remember writing one novel while carpenters used power tools a few feet away from me, and yet I was able to shut it all out. I even made a point of having the TV on a news channel while I worked, to recreate the white noise of being in a newsroom.

But this time, I couldn’t ignore the real world around me, and I wasn’t sure how knowing why would help me fix it and sort out the book. I didn’t have writer’s block, and never have, but I was definitely suffering from writer’s repetition.

I tried to minimise distractions. I switched the TV off and worked in silence. I tried to schedule protected times when I wouldn’t be interrupted. But the slightest noise outside jerked me out of writing, and I spent the scheduled writing time with one ear cocked for the phone in case there was a major emergency with my father. It looked like I couldn’t switch off at all.

In the end, the solution owed more to chance than insight. When I switched off the light one night, the story came back to me in a sudden rush with all the things the characters would do next. Working in complete darkness wasn’t a practical solution because writing via voice recognition never worked well for me, but with some experimentation I worked out that it wasn’t the light level, noise, or time of day that made the difference.

It was the absence of visual stimuli.

I drew the blinds, made sure there was absolutely nothing in my eyeline or peripheral vision that wasn’t directly connected to the book – especially anything that moved – and things fell back into place. I still haven’t worked out the exact mechanism in my brain, but there’s something specific about visual distractions under stress that stop me in my tracks.

When I start my twenty-seventh novel, I’ll be prepared for yet another change of technique, depending on what’s happening in the real world. The bedrock of my writing is still building characters and letting them dictate what happens. But as for the rest of the rules, they’re set in sand, not concrete.

***

What a fantastic post – thank you, Karen.  It’s so interesting for us readers to see how writers create their stories, and the different approaches taken.  I had assumed that once you had ‘your technique’, that was it!  It hadn’t crossed my mind that what worked for one book, may not work for the next.

Karen has very kindly offered a free Audible code to one lucky reader.  The code will enable you to download her first techno thriller, Going Grey, free of charge.  To enter the competition please click the link below and good luck everyone:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:  One winner will be chosen at random.  You will need to send me your email address so I can forward the code and instructions on how to download the audiobook to your Audible account.  There are no alternatives.  The competition closes at midnight on Friday 4th November 2016.

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Credit: Mark Wingham

New York Times best-selling novelist, games writer and comics author Karen Traviss is the author of techno-thriller GOING GREY, the first in the Ringer series. The sequel, BLACK RUN, will be published later this year – sign up for a newsletter via Karen’s website to be notified when other formats go on sale.

GOING GREY links: amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Inside the Whispers by A.J. Waines (@AJWaines)

itwlargefinal-1Where the most Dangerous place – is inside your own head…

Following a London Tube disaster, three traumatised survivors turn to clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, for help – but she’s mystified when their stories don’t add up. Her confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they start committing suicide.

When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what is causing them and a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel.

Then the flashbacks begin for Sam…

The first book in the Dr Samantha Willerby Series, INSIDE THE WHISPERS is a tense, haunting Psychological Thriller that will leave your nerves in shreds.”

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Inside the Whispers blog tour.  Inside the Whispers was published on 20th October 2016 and is written by the very talented A.J. Waines who has created a different yet brilliant protagonist in the form of Dr. Samantha Willerby.

Hospital based clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willberby is starting to feel alarmed.  Sam helps patients after they suffer trauma, talking through their experiences and helping them learn to cope with what has happened to them.  Three of her patients suddenly recall a traumatic  escape from an underground fire, but that was not the reason they were initially referred to Sam.  Being the consummate professional she does all she can to help them come to terms with the harrowing events, but things aren’t adding up.  Samantha takes it upon herself to do a little investigating in her spare time, only to confirm her suspicions.  No matter what her patients say, they couldn’t have been in the tube fire.  Then, one by one, her three tube patients commit suicide.  What could Sam have done differently?  Full of remorse, she starts to notice similar signs in her boyfriend.  Then he starts to recount memories from a tube station fire which Sam knows he didn’t experience.  Can Dr Willberby work out what is going on before her boyfriend becomes the next victim…?

Before I say anything else, I have to shout from the rooftops that I loved this book!  Now, I’m no expert in clinical psychology (or any psychology for that matter!) but if the theories in this book are real then crikey, that’s seriously scary stuff.  If they are not real, then I am more than happy to suspend my belief and you should do the same.  An absolutely brilliant read!

Dr Samantha Willerby is now one of my favourite fictional characters.  And how refreshing to have a clinical psychologist as the lead character.  The budding new relationship between Samantha and her sister, Miranda was wonderful to read.  Although having not seen each other for many years things start out quite strained and I did feel a little uncomfortable at times.  Miranda is also a brilliant, well written character who I hope will make a return in any Dr Willerby sequels.  There were several other brilliant characters featured who I either loved, or loved to hate!

The plot was twisty and it grabbed my attention with both hands.  When I was busy doing other things (like feeding my children) I was thinking about this book.  I didn’t want to put it down, it was so good.  I’m fascinated by psychology so this book was a real treat for me.  It was my first A.J. Waines read but it certainly won’t be my last.

Five out of five stars.

Many thanks to A.J. Waines for providing me with a copy of Inside the Whispers in exchange for an honest review.

Inside the Whispers by A.J. Waines was published in the UK on 20th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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AJ Waines has sold over ¼ of a million books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. She was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, gaining a rare insight into criminal and abnormal psychology. AJ Waines is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Random House) and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth novel, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and in 2016 was ranked in the Top 10 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

AJ Waines lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Authors Links:Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: I Know Your Secret by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @caffeinenights

i-know-your-secret-book-cover“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

“Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop (and sadly the final stop) on the I Know Your Secret blog tour.  I was thrilled to be asked to read and review this book after recently participating in the Matching the Evidence blog tour, also by author Graham Smith.  If you would like to read my review of Matching the Evidence please click here (there is also a rather brilliant guest post from Mr Smith which you don’t want to miss).

After 30 years of service DI Harry Evans is approaching enforced retirement.  He’s not a happy man as he lives for the job and would do anything to keep working with Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team.  But his replacement, DI John Campbell is keen to see the back of Harry and his renegade ways.  While DI Evans is trying to deal with the trial of his wife’s rapist, DI Campbell is called to the scene of a horrific death.  A local priest has been violently killed and crucified to the church floor.  Shortly after, another priest is viciously attacked and left for dead.  Are the two crimes linked?  It’s down to DI Campbell and the Major Crimes Team to discover who has a grudge against the local clergy and whether the secrets being kept are worth killing for…

I really like Harry Evans.  There’s something about him that makes me feel like I shouldn’t like him, but I do!  He’s a bit of a maverick, bit of a rule breaker but with a good heart.  And I love the camaraderie between him and the rest of the team.  I said in my Matching the Evidence review that I wanted to know more about the characters of the Major Crimes Team and this book has done that.  I really like Neil Chisolm and felt strangely sorry for him being stuck in the office rather than out there in the field with his colleagues.  I wasn’t so keen on Lauren, she seems a little too eager to use her feminine wiles rather than her smarts.  I’d love to know more about Bhaki, he seems a little too nice and polite to be a cop!  And I still haven’t warmed to DI John Campbell.  But he brings the necessary friction to a well-gelled team, which makes him quite vital.

Harry Evans is distracted throughout the story by the trial of his wife’s rapist.  I thought these sections were well written and gave an emotional insight into a normally gruff character.  I really felt for Harry.  I did enjoy the way he dipped in and out of the investigation to distract himself from what was happening in court.

There were several different threads running through the story and at times I couldn’t see the connection.  There were no clear links in my mind, but the author has done a brilliant job of linking the different storylines up and making the plots fit seamlessly together.  The book was well paced with an exciting conclusion.  I look forward to reading more from Graham Smith in the future.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Noelle Holten, Graham Smith and Caffeine Nights Publishing for providing me with a copy of  I Know Your Secret in exchange for an honest review.

I Know Your Secret by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights publishing on 17th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Caffeine Nights |

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graham-smith-author-photoGraham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |
Graham’s Books: Matching the Evidence | Snatched from Home | Lines of Enquiry | I Know Your Secret |

#BookReview: Three Weeks Dead by Rebecca Bradley (@RebeccaJBradley)

51z4pwkyql“How far would you go if someone took your wife?

Especially, if you buried her a week ago.

When Jason Wells is faced with this scenario, he is confronted with the prospect of committing a crime that will have far-reaching consequences.

Can young DC Sally Poynter get through to him before he crosses that line, or does a desperate husband prove to be the case she won’t ever forget?

A prequel novella, set before Shallow Waters, the first in the DI Hannah Robbins series.”

Are you looking for a quick read that packs one heck of a punch?  Well congratulations lovely reader, you’ve just found it.  I cannot recommend this novella enough – it’s a stonking read that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let go until the very end.  Particularly with that absolutely brilliant opening chapter!

Jason Wells receives a message telling him his wife has been kidnapped.  Jason Wells’ wife died three weeks ago.  (Yes, you read that right…Jason’s wife died three weeks previously!)  Jason Wells is faced with a decision.  Commit a crime which will have devastating consequences the world over or, his wife becomes Fido’s breakfast.  DC Sally Poynter is on the case, with DI Hannah Robbins overseeing her junior colleague.  Robbins is trusting the young detective to make some sort of connection with the distraught widow.  But can Sally work out who the blackmailer is in time to save both Jason and his wife…?

This is my first Rebecca Bradley read but it certainly won’t be my last.  I loved Rebecca’s style.  Her characters are brilliantly written and I want to find out more about DC Poynter and DI Robbins (happily I have Shallow Waters on the #terrifyingTBR so look out for a review coming your way soon).

I became completely absorbed in the plot which was exciting and twisty.  I certainly hadn’t worked out ‘whodunit’ before the reveal, and it was one of those reveals that made me gasp.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I absolutely loved this short but chock full of content read.  I enjoyed everything about it, I just wished it was a full length novel!

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to Rebecca Bradley for providing me with a copy of Three Weeks Dead in exchange for an honest review.

Three Weeks Dead by Rebecca Bradley was published in the UK om 14th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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11093258Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective who lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola. They keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.

Sign up to the newsletter, on her blog at rebeccabradleycrime.com, for exclusive content and giveaways.

You can always chat with her on Twitter where she can be found spending far too much of her time at @RebeccaJBradley

Author Links: Blog | Twitter | Website |

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider (@JoyceSchneider1)

unnamed“A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men…

Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can’t remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help.

Can she trust either of them – or even her friends?

Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent…but is she?”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to one of my most eagerly anticipated blog tours of the year, Her Last Breath by the incredibly lovely J.A. Schneider (or Joyce to her friends!).  Joyce has very kindly written a guest post to share with you today but before we dive in with that, I wanted to share again the post Joyce wrote for my #damppebblestakeover series which ran earlier this year.  Joyce wrote a wonderful piece asking whether writing is really just self-analysis in disguise; you can read the post by clicking here.

Today though, I have a new post to share with you and it’s another corker.  Over to you, Joyce…

What, really, is the best escape?
by J.A. Schneider

Too often, we all feel stress – and if it’s not stress it’s boredom, the everyday mundane jail cell. Stress or boredom are the bookends that squeeze much of our lives, but what to do? Dream of a more perfect love or help with financial problems or escape to exotic locations?

We flail, but what to do when immediate help is needed to feel better? What beats anything that comes out of bottles and lasts only briefly?

Books. The best sanity savers.

Reading will lift you from the mundane or troubling to the marvelous. Reading will transport you to other worlds, to characters you’ll either love or loathe or who will terrify you – but they’re really all your friends, see – because they’re the magic carpet ride to “outta here.”

Once, on a Paris sidewalk, I saw a family: wife, husband, and two pre-adolescent kids. The husband was yelling at his kids, who were sulking/sassing back, and the wife who was getting ignored was crying, “But this was our dream trip! We saved for this! Why are you all ruining it?”

The inevitable shrinking. It happens a lot.

I walked on, hoping that poor woman had a book to run and hide inside to help her calm, lose herself in a favorite romance, or a thriller whose heroine was in much worse straits than she was. I pictured that woman hopefully getting under a pillow with a flashlight and her favorite old paperback, telling the world to just go away, re-losing herself in that wonderful story she’d been reading.

So much for “dream trips,” or dream this or that. Mundane reality lurks everywhere.

Some people reading this know that I’ve traveled a lot, studied in other countries, gotten into some pretty wild-sounding situations (got arrested in the Soviet Union for spreading anti-Soviet propaganda – ha! I have a gift for getting into situations). And okay, many have asked about that, it’s in my Goodreads profile. And what I hear, mostly, is “Oh, that sounds so amazing, so interesting and fascinating.”

Well yes, it was…interesting to see those places, have those experiences, if only to tell you later about them.

But honestly, a field in Russia looks no different from a field in Connecticut, where I live.

And that castle in France so gorgeous on a poster, in reality is freezing eight months of the year and has lousy plumbing.

Reality, what a concept – it really, really often translates into ‘’the inevitable shrinking.”

Just give me a room, a quiet corner on a cozy couch and a wonderful book; that is where I’m happiest.

Because the best adventures take place between the ears.

That’s really your happy place. Your best place to grow, too.

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This is such a good read!  I haven’t had the pleasure of reading a J.A. Schneider novel before (Fear Dreams is on my wishlist) but I will definitely be making a beeline for her books in future.  There’s something about this book and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but, gosh….it sucked me in!

Mari Gill wakes to a bloodbath.  Thankfully it’s not her blood but that of a naked man lying next to her on the bed with a knife in his chest!  Maybe she shouldn’t be so thankful after all.  Did she kill him?  Surely not!  Mari, in a panic, spirals into a chronic asthma attack.  Unable to breathe, she crawls through broken glass trying to escape the horror before her, before being taken into the strong arms of her saviour and given resuscitative breaths. With no memory of the night before, confused and scared, Mari is arrested for murder.  Her soon to be ex-husband is a top attorney and is determined to clear his wife’s name.  But Mari is torn, two men competing for her attention whilst all she wants to do is try and remember what happened that night.  Kerri Blasco is on her side and firmly believes in Mari’s innocence.  But who else can Mari trust?  And I mean, really trust…?

Blasco and Brand are brilliant characters.  I particularly loved Kerri Blasco with her strong determination but gentle approach.  I’m not normally one for romance in my thrillers but the relationship between Blasco and Brand is so well done that you don’t really notice that they’re a couple.  I also loved Mari Gill.  She’s so suspicious of everyone around her.  I didn’t need to spend time working out who the killer was as Mari did all of the detective work for me.  So often, when reading a crime thriller, you want to shout at the characters and say ‘for goodness sake, are you REALLY going to do that..?’ (similar to a horror movie, ‘now why have you locked all the doors when you know the killer is inside the house with you’…) but there was no need with Mari.  She was more suspicious than me!

The plot was intriguing and drew my attention throughout the book.  I was on the edge of my seat for a large proportion, particularly for the closing chapters.  There is a cracking twist which I certainly didn’t see coming.  Joyce’s writing is punchy and without faff, just the way I like my books.

Would I recommend this book?  I most definitely would.  I’m excited to read Fear Dreams now, which is the first book in the Detective Kerri Blasco series.  It’s a compelling read driven by intriguing, interesting characters.  A brilliant plot with a fabulous twist to knock your socks off!  Brilliant!

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to J.A. Schneider for providing me with a copy of Her Last Breath in exchange for an honest review.

Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider was published in the UK by RGS Media on 21st October 2016 and is available in eBook format | To buy from amazon click here | Goodreads |

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unnamed

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | amazon.com | Website | Goodreads |

 

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates (@Anne_Coates1) @urbanepub

51spunndbkl-_sx324_bo1204203200_SHE IS HUNTING FOR THE TRUTH, BUT WHO IS HUNTING HER?

Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan.

When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognisable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat.

As she comes to realise that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her power to expose the truth …. and stay alive.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Dancers in the Wind blog tour and let me tell you…this is one fantastic book.  Dancers in the Wind is author Anne Coates debut thriller novel and I for one hope there is a lot more to come.

To celebrate the publication of Dancers in the Wind (which happened on 13th October 2016) I have a brilliant guest post from Anne Coates to share with you today.  Anne has written a fascinating piece which gives an insight into one of the many processes a book goes through before it reaches publication.  What a skill to have!

Gamekeeper turned poacher?
How editing and abridging books has informed my own writing

While I have been writing most of my life, I have also been an editor and an abridger of both fiction and non-fiction. This started with my staff job on Woman’s Weekly and Woman & Home and, after I went freelance, with Reader’s Digest (books) and Orion for their Compact Editions series and as a fiction consultant for a part-work.

I had to undergo training at Reader’s Digest – they have very specific rules and guidelines – and have worked for them for most of my freelance life. Every year they had a huge lunch party in London inviting publishers, agents, authors and celebrities. The first year I was invited I felt like I was the recipient of one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets!

Meeting one of the authors I mentioned that I’d cut his novel. He and his wife exchanged a glance and I cursed myself for being an idiot. Then his wife said, “It was amazing. Try as we might, we couldn’t see what you’d cut out.” And that is what abridgers aim for – a shorter book where the reader can’t see the joins. Needless to say I was chuffed to bits.

Memoirs are often easier to cut as authors tend to give too many people their back-stories which are mostly superfluous. If my eyes glaze over during my first readings, it’s a sign that something needs to be cut.

The effect this has had on my own work is that I write succinctly.  This was a perfect style for my short tales with a twist and flash fiction but for my novels I have had to learn to expand and develop both characters and narrative.

My first draft often reads like a series of disconnected scenes and I rewrite and rewrite until I’m satisfied everything works. Even so mistakes can get through – even for the best writers. In Mill on the Floss, the dog changes sex halfway through the book!

Timelines are so important. When abridging a book, I probably read it at least six times and probably am more intimate with it by the end than the author. I found a plot flaw when working on Anna Karenina that would probably (and has) passed most people by. Plus another well-known author had an eleven-month pregnancy in her novel.

But just in case you think I am getting above myself, I realised recently while writing the sequel to Dancers in the Wind, that I’d included a real event, which had actually happened the year before Death’s Silent Judgement is set. It made me think of the biblical quote: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged… Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

So please forgive any logs of my own making – although I am sure the pros at Urbane Publications will have eliminated them.

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This is a very enjoyable novel which I devoured in the space of 24 hours.  No scrap that, it was more like 7 hours which for me, is super speed reading.  I couldn’t put it down.  Once I became immersed in Hannah and Caroline’s tale, I was hooked!  Before starting this book I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The cover suggested murder and violence but the title…didn’t!  I now know why the book is called Dancers in the Wind and I feel a little silly.  It all fits perfectly!

Freelance journalist Hannah Weybridge is working on a feature to coincide with the release of a television documentary featuring young prostitute, Princess and new copper on block, DI Tom Jordan.  The interview with Princess opens Hannah’s eyes and she hears things about life on the streets that she would prefer not to.  With DI Jordan it’s clear to see the sparks fly but Hannah is far too professional to make anything of it.  And DI Jordan has enough on his plate trying to solve the murder of a local prostitute. When the body of a second girl is found Tom is suddenly aware that the first murder was not the work of an overly frisky punter but something much more sinister.

Hannah meanwhile is getting on with her life, having forgotten all about the prostitute and the cop; she has a six month old daughter to care for and being a single mum she needs the phone to ring with more work.  But instead of the phone ringing, the doorbell rings late one night.  On her doorstep Hannah finds the badly beaten body of Princess, she’s barely alive.  Against her better judgement Hannah gives the girl shelter and cleans her up.  But what has Princess brought to Hannah’s door?  Are Hannah and her baby daughter safe? And will those responsible be held to account for their actions, or are they beyond the reach of the law…?

One of the things that stood out for me in this book is the fact that the main protagonist is a  journalist rather than a detective or PI.  She’s not really an investigative reporter either, she’s just a normal mum trying to do the best for her baby daughter.  That appealed to me and I found it refreshing (surely I’m not growing tired of my grumpy, addiction riddled cops…am I?).  Granted, DI Tom Jordan does feature quite heavily but he is by no means the star of the show.  This story belongs to Hannah and Princess (AKA Caroline).

It’s a gritty read and in some places quite shocking.  My attention was held from the opening chapters to the very end.  Once I’d finished the book I felt quite bereft and wanted more (there is a sequel on the way – no pressure, Anne Coates!).

This is another read where you suspect pretty much every character at one point or another.  I always enjoy books which use that formula as I’m always keen to hone my detective skills.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  Brilliant characters with heaps of mystery to keep you guessing.  A thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing read.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to Liz Barnsley, Urbane Publications, NetGalley and Anne Coates for providing me with a copy of Dancers in the Wind in exchange for honest review.

Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 13th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Urbane Publications |

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annecoatesFor most of her working life in publishing, Anne has had a foot in both camps as a writer and an editor, moving from book publishing to magazines and then freelancing in both.

Having edited both fiction and narrative non-fiction, Anne has also had short stories published in a variety of magazines including Bella and Candis and is the author of seven non-fiction books.

Born in Clapham, Anne returned to London after graduating and has remained there ever since. In an attempt to climb out of her comfort zone, Anne has twice “trod the boards” – as Prince Bourgrelas in Ubu Roi when a student and more recently as a nun in a local murder mystery production. She also sings periodically in a local church choir and is relieved when she begins and finishes at the same time – though not necessarily on the same note – as everyone else. Needless to say, Anne will not be giving up her day job as an editor and writer.

Telling stories is Anne’s first love and nearly all her short fiction as well as Dancers in The Wind began with a real event followed by a “what if …” That is also the case with the two prize-winning 99Fiction.net stories: Codewords and Eternal Love.

Anne is currently working on the sequel to Dancers in the Wind.

Author Links:Twitter | Website | Blog |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan (@Kittycathogan) @PoolbegBooks

51yc4ejdstl“Ring-a-ring o’ rosie . . .
… Someone wants to play.
… Who’s not playing the game?
… Now Someone must pay.

Jen Harper likes to play it safe. She is settling into life on the outskirts of a sleepy fishing village with her little boy, Danny. Life by the sea – just how she wanted it.

When she meets Andy, she feels the time has come to put her baggage and the scars of the past behind her. Then she is introduced to Scott, Andy’s best friend, and is stung by his obvious disdain for her. Why is Scott so protective of his best friend? What is the dark secret that threatens all of them?

In her attempt to find answers, Jen must confront her demons and push her relationships to their limits. By digging up the past, she puts Danny and herself in danger. Will she succeed in uncovering the truth before they all fall down?”

 A very warm welcome to my stop on the October They All Fall Down blog tour. They All Fall Down is Cat Hogan’s debut novel, and what a brilliant start! I’m looking forward to seeing what Cat has in store for us next.

Single mum, Jen Harper, has inherited a beautiful house by the sea. It’s perfect for her and young son, Danny. Perfect except maybe for the live in lodger! Before long Jen starts to see Andy, her lodger in a different light. After all he is rather dishy and maybe it is time she moved on with her life. Andy seems to feel the same spark, and with very tentative steps Jen and Andy become a couple. But Scott, Andy best friend, despises Jen. Just as he despised Andy’s deceased wife. She mysteriously jumped off a cliff. Scott hopes the same doesn’t happen to Jen…

This is a fantastic character driven psychological thriller. I loved Jen, I wanted to share a glass of wine with her and shout ‘it’s OK, I believe you!’. The build up to the conclusion was wonderfully tense.  Just how I like my books! I desperately wanted to tell (read: yell in a fairly aggressive manner) Jen’s friends what I thought of them. Oohh, they made me cross!

The plot was interesting and I flew through the book. I found They All Fall Down very easy to read despite the use of Irish vocabulary which I am not used to (although with the more Irish books I read the easier I am finding it).

Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would. It’s a great psychological thriller with a compelling build to an exciting conclusion. Plus some of the characters will make you want to shake them, which I love. After all, you’ve gotta FEEL something when reading.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Cat Hogan and Poolbeg Press for providing me with a copy of They All Fall Down in exchange for an honest review.

They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan was published in the UK by Poolbeg Press on 1st July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | 

Cat Hogan was born into a home of bookworms and within spitting distance of the sea. Her father, Pat, a lightship man, instilled in her a love of the sea and the stars. Her mother, Mag, taught her how to read before she could walk.  Writing, storytelling and a wild imagination is part of her DNA. The beautiful County Wexford, Ireland is home to Cat, her musician partner Dave, two beautiful sons Joey and Arthur, and her tomcat Jim Hawkins. There they live a life of storytelling, song and adventure. The other love of Cat’s life is food. A self-professed foodie, there is nothing she loves more than feeding a houseful of friends round her kitchen table. When she is not conjuring up imaginary friends, she can be found supporting local musicians and writers of which there is an abundance in her home town. One of her first endorsements for her novel is also her favourite and comes from fellow Wexfordian of Artemis Fowl fame. ’If the Gone Girl met the Girl on the Train, they would have come up with They All Fall Down’ -Eoin Colfer. They All Fall Down is Cat’s debut novel.