#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Sealskin by Su Bristow (@SuBristow) @OrendaBooks #Sealskin

Sealskin cover.jpg“What happens when magic collides with reality? Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous … and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.”

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the Sealskin blog tour today alongside the lovely Steph over at Stephs Book Blog.  Sealskin was the winner of the Exeter Novel Prize in 2013 and is the work of author and Consultant Medical Herbalist, Su Bristow.  What an amazing achievement!  Sealskin will be published in paperback by the wonderful Orenda Books on 15th February 2017 so make sure you pre-order your copy NOW!

Today I have a fascinating guest post from author, Su Bristow.  Seeing as it’s day one of the blog tour, Su and I thought it best to start at the very beginning with a few words explaining the Selkie legend, which the book is based upon.  So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Su…

The Foundations of Sealskin
Su Bristow

First of  all, here is the version of the story that was the starting point for Sealskin:


Once, there was a fisherman who spent many nights fishing alone. One night at full moon, he witnessed a marvel: nine seals came ashore, put off their skins and became beautiful young women, dancing on the beach. The fisherman hid himself, and as he watched, he began to fall in love with one of them. Secretly, he hid her sealskin, so that when the others returned to the sea, she was left behind.

The fisherman took her home to be his wife, and he hid the skin at the bottom of a chest. They lived together for some years, and she bore him children. She seemed to be happy, but from time to time she would look out to sea and weep.

One day while he was out at sea, one of the children found the skin and showed it to his mother. When the fisherman returned at the end of the day, she was gone, and he never saw her again.

Stories about Selkies, or seals who can turn into people, are found along the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, and across the sea in Iceland and Scandinavia too. In fact, the word ‘selkie’ is just the Orcadian word for ‘seal’, but it’s come to be used particularly for these shape-shifting beings. And the stories vary from place to place, although they generally don’t end happily. It seems that selkie men and women are irresistible to the humans who encounter them, and they always fall in love. Male selkies are very willing to ‘mate’ with humans, but they won’t stay long, and always go back to the sea. Females, on the other hand, have to be tricked into it by hiding their sealskins; given the chance, they too will return to their natural element.

It’s interesting that whereas most mythological creatures are dangerous to us humans, selkies are usually gentle. Perhaps I strayed a little from tradition when I gave Mairhi some magic of her own; although she never uses it to attack anybody, she can certainly defend herself if need be. But the stories don’t go into much detail about how the marriage between the fisherman and the selkie woman actually worked, and that was what interested me. You wouldn’t expect any relationship to be possible after such a horrible start! So I added a few twists, which I won’t go into now because I don’t want to spoil the story for people who haven’t read it yet, except to say that almost immediately, Donald knows that what he did was wrong. And really, the whole story is about how he tries to make amends, and how that changes him and everyone else around him.

Going back to the legend, on a more general level it’s about how humans want to ‘own’ the wildness of nature. All over the world, people tell stories about interactions with animals and birds. Whether they really believe it on the practical level or not, they certainly portray animals as having minds and feelings of their own. Is it just us projecting ourselves onto the natural world, or is there a deeper truth there? The more we learn about animals, the more like us they turn out to be.

Maybe the selkies tell stories about us, too.


An absolutely enchanting post, thank you Su.  And congratulations on the wonderful praise you have received so far.  I’ve seen many bloggers say that Sealskin is one of their books of 2017.  What a fantastic way to start the year.

Sealskin Blog tour AMENDED .jpg

Early Praise for Sealskin…

Sealskin is an accomplished and intelligent novel, a fine piece of craftsmanship and a pleasure to read’ Allan Massie

‘Bristow has taken a known myth, and created an enthralling, human love story.  A profound achievement, and a stunning debut’ Richard Bean

‘An extraordinary book: original, vivid, tender and atmospheric. Su Bristow’s writing is fluid and flawless, and this is a story so deeply immersive that you emerge at the end, gasping for air’ Iona Grey

‘I love books in which magic takes on a gritty reality, and Sealskin is just such a book. Dark and brooding and half-familiar, the tale steals over you till you’re half-in, half-out of a dream’ Jane Johnson

‘An evocative story, told with skill and beauty, that held me spellbound until the very last page’ Amanda Jennings

‘On the face of it, Sealskin is a gentle tale, a lovely reworking of the selkie legend many of us have known and loved since childhood. Do not be fooled, dear reader; beneath this simple re-imagining lies a story as deep as the ocean the selkie comes from. I was captivated from the first page to the poignant last one, by the sympathetically drawn characters and a mesmerising sense of place. In between are moments of tragedy, moments of grace and redemption; the whole wrapped in Su Bristow’s charismatic writing. This is a story that catches on the edge of your heart, leaving tiny scars; reminders of a journey into a beloved legend, the human lives caught up in it and the consequences of the choices they make. It is, quite simply, exceptional’ Carole Lovekin

‘In this achingly beautiful retelling of the classic Scottish folk tale, Su Bristow brings psychological depth and great warmth to the characters, making the ending all the more heart-breaking. It’s a story about the tensions of life in a tiny fishing community, about bullying and violence as well as the healing magic of nature. It’s written smoothly and skilfully with not a word too many or a word too few. I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough’ Gill Paul

‘A beautiful and bewitching read that haunted my thoughts for days. The sense of the sea, of this small community, of guilt is palpable. This is one of those books you place reverentially on your bookcase and envy those who are yet to dive in’ Michael J. Malone

Sealskin is the most exquisite tale of love, forgiveness and magic. Inspired by the legends of the selkies, this gorgeous novel is a dark fairy tale, an ode to traditional storytelling, a tribute to the stories we loved hearing as children. But be warned – this is no happy-ever-after tale. The language is just glorious, poetic and rich but precise. And her characters – oh, they will remain in your heart long after you’ve closed the last page. Mairhi – especially since she never really “speaks” – is a beautiful mystery, but one who haunted me when I was between chapters. If this is her first, then I can’t wait to read whatever Su Bristow bestows upon the literary world next’ Louise Beech

‘Ms Bristow’s skill in weaving a centuries-old tale into a current-day fiction novel and binding the two together is simply superbly done. Sealskin is boldly written, brilliantly told and a tale of legendary proportions’ JM Hewitt

Sealskin is a magical and moral tale woven with a deft hand’ Sara MacDonald

‘With its beautiful language and magical storytelling, Sealskin is a clear winner for me’ Sophie Duffy

Sealskin is exquisitely written with haunting prose and evocative descriptions of the Scottish landscape. It’s filled with beauty, surprises and subtle twists and turns. There’s a mesmerising love story at its heart.  I really didn’t want the story to end, and felt bereft when it did, surrounded by boxes of tissues. I’m sure I’ll be reading this book several times to feel that magic again and again. It’s no surprise that Su Bristow is an Exeter Novel Prize winner. Her writing is beautiful and this book is stunning. Sealskin is destined to go far’ Off-the-Shelf Books

Sealskin really is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read … a flowing tale of love, friendship, acceptance and coming of age for the varying characters.  Set against the ruggedly beautiful Scottish backdrop, the vivid descriptions draw us in, detail oozing from the pages and giving the reader a chance to feel the coastal winds whipping at their faces, taste the salt in the air, feel the uneven terrain underfoot as they clamber through the heather and over rocks. There’s a magic in these pages … poetic and hauntingly beautiful’ The Quiet Knitter

‘A compelling and beautifully written book. At one level Sealskin is a delightful re-working of the selkie myth. But it is also a great deal more than that … The fishing village is a close knit community wary of incomers, the suspicion with which they greet Maihri is typical of how they behave. Strangers, especially ones who are a little out of the ordinary, are not made entirely welcome. It is a story of how relationships develop and grow. Sealskin is a quite delightful and extraordinarily well-written book. Highly recommended’ Trip Fiction

‘A sensuous and beautifully written retelling of the Selkie legend which captivated me’ Margaret James, Creative Writing Matters

’I knew this was special, right from the first paragraph. A beautiful book written with a deceptive simplicity. But Su Bristow does not shy away from asking some very big questions. How can a man atone for violence? Will he ever be forgiven? Will he ever forgive himself? Utterly spellbinding’ Cathie Hartigan


Su Photo.jpegSu Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her forthcoming novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

Author Links: Blog | Twitter |


#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Watcher by Netta Newbound (@nettanewbound) @BloodhoundBook

the watcher cover.jpg“Life couldn’t get much better for Hannah. She accepts her dream job in Manchester, and easily makes friends with her new neighbours.

When she becomes romantically involved with her boss, she can’t believe her luck. But things are about to take a grisly turn.

As her colleagues and neighbours are killed off one by one, Hannah’s idyllic life starts to fall apart. But when her mother becomes the next victim, the connection to Hannah is all too real.

Who is watching her every move?

Will the police discover the real killer in time?

Hannah is about to learn that appearances can be deceptive.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Watcher blog tour.  The Watcher is written by Netta Newbound and was published by the fantastic Bloodhound Books at the end of last month (January 2017).  I have been wanting to read a novel by Netta Newbound for such a long time now so I am rather pleased to have The Watcher loaded onto the Kindle, ready and waiting.  It’s received some wonderful reviews so far and I can’t wait to make a start!

But today, in order to celebrate The Watcher‘s release, I have a fantastic, informative guest post to share with you (I do love a guest post!).  So without further ado, I’ll hand the blog over to Netta…

13 Things I Wish I Had Known BEFORE I Started Writing
Netta Newbound

1 – Writing the book is the easiest part. Anybody who tells you any different is deluded.

2 – The book, no matter how fabulous, will NOT sell itself. Becoming a successful writer isn’t guaranteed. Being a talented writer with a unique voice will NOT automatically launch you onto the New York Times best seller list. It will take weeks, and even months, of self-promotion on social media to sell just one or two copies. You must at all times consider your books as the most exciting read ever, even if you are totally sick of the heroine, the dog, the plot etc. It takes focus, determination and above all a thick skin.

3 – No amount of studying or array of framed fancy diplomas will help if you haven’t got a natural talent for writing. Of course you can always enhance any natural talent you have by extending your knowledge, but not the other way around. You don’t need to be highly educated—anybody can learn punctuation and grammar and if not, they can invest in a good editor. Often it is the financial outlay that stops a budding author in their tracks, so be prepared to forgo a few cappuccinos and even a holiday. The sacrifices will be worth it in the long run.

4 – Not everybody is going to like your writing style. Prepare yourself for the worst reviews and you won’t be disappointed. I’ve found people can be vicious and cruel whilst anonymously slating you from the comfort of their armchair.

5 – Steer clear of asking family members to read your work, at least until it is the best it can possibly be. Your family are there to love and support you. It’s a given their opinions will be biased. So, no matter how glowing the words they use, take them with a pinch of salt and move on.

6 – Hundreds of book sales do not equate to hundreds of reviews. It’s a fact that less than 10% of readers leave a review, so that means more than 90% of people NEVER leave reviews—and you’re more likely to receive a negative review than a positive one from these people. Why? Who knows—who even cares. Suck it up! Being a published author is bloody hard work.

7 – But, there is still hope. The more you write, the better your writing will become. As with anything, practice makes perfect. Make the time to write something every single day. Carry a small notebook in your bag and never be without a pen. Most people procrastinate—make excuses for not actually getting down to writing, from the lighting not being right, to too many people in the house, too noisy, not sitting on your favourite seat, too many distractions and the list goes on and on. So my advice is not to be too precious about where you actually write. If you force yourself to write in a café, or in the car (as a passenger, of course), on the bus/train, in a waiting room, or in the garden, you will never waste what could easily be valuable writing time.

8 – As I mentioned earlier, investing in a good editor is essential. It’s too late to fix any errors after the fact. Any derogatory reviews will stay with your book forever, no matter how many alterations you make. And, even if you are an editor or a keen wordsmith, it is impossible to edit your own books properly. How often have you considered Spell Check your friend—the only editing companion you need? But there’s a limit to how much magic Spell Check can work when its faced with a feast of typos, misspellings and punctuation or homonyms and homophones (words that sound the same but mean something else, to/two/too, their/there/they’re, accept/except, affect/effect) and so on.

9 – Listen to your readers. My first novel Behind Shadows was meant to be a standalone, but my readers fell in love with the detective who was a secondary character, which is how The Adam Stanley Thriller series came about.

10 – There is no right or wrong way to write. Some people start at the first page and write in sequence until they reach The End, they have no idea where the story will take them—this type of writer is known as a Pantser—they write by the seat of their pants. Others may write down the entire sequence of events before they even begin writing—this type of writer is known as a plotter—they will plan out timelines and research fashion and weather conditions of the time or place. Months of research can go into what a reader might think is just a story. Some will write the ending first and then steer their story towards it. Some write chapters out of sequence and piece them all together afterwards. That is more heuristic in style, and yes, I had to research that word. But whatever your style is, just write.

11 – As a writer you will hear lots of dos and don’ts—never use the dreaded ly words, only use said in dialogue, cut out the metaphors and similes, don’t overdo exclamation marks, clichés are evil. While I suggest you take the advice, don’t be too rigid or your writing might lose its flow and become stilted and wooden. The advice is there as a guide only.

12 – Read your work aloud. It’s hard to judge the rhythm of your sentences when reading in your head. You may find that the inflection of just one word changes the whole meaning or intent of the sentence.

13 – Only naive writers think their work is fabulous-doesn’t need editing-doesn’t need a second and third draft or even proofreading prior to publishing. Leave your ego behind. Great writers will doubt and second guess themselves all the time. Yay!!!


Thanks so much for the sound advice, Netta.  Some of the points you raise I should take note of myself…such as overdoing exclamation marks!!

The Watcher by Netta Newbound was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 30th January 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook versions | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Bloodhound Books |

watcher blog tour.jpg


netta newbound.jpgNetta Newbound is the author of several best-selling psychological thrillers including An Impossible Dilemma and the Adam Stanley Thriller Series. Originally from Manchester, England, she now lives in New Zealand with her husband Paul and their boxer dog Alfie. She has three grown-up children and three delicious grandchildren.

As a child, Netta was plagued by a wild imagination, often getting in trouble for making up weird and wonderful stories. Yet she didn’t turn her attention to writing until after her children had grown and left home.

Author Links:Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell (@Caimh) @McFori_Ink

The Day That Never Comes cover.jpg“Remember those people that destroyed the economy and then cruised off on their yachts? Well guess what – someone is killing them.

Dublin is in the middle of a heat wave and tempers are running high. The Celtic Tiger is well and truly dead, activists have taken over the headquarters of a failed bank, the trial of three unscrupulous property developers teeters on the brink of collapse, and in the midst of all this, along comes a mysterious organisation hell-bent on exacting bloody vengeance in the name of the little guy. 

Paul Mulchrone doesn’t care about any of this; he has problems of his own. His newly established detective agency is about to be DOA. One of his partners won’t talk to him for very good reasons and the other has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth for no reason at all. Can he hold it together long enough to figure out what Bunny McGarry’s colourful past has to do with his present absence? 

When the law and justice no longer mean the same thing, on which side will you stand?”

The Day That Never Comes is the second book in Caimh McDonnell’s Dublin trilogy, which melds fast-paced action with a distinctly Irish acerbic wit.

Today I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Caimh McDonnell back to damppebbles as part of the blog tour for his second book in the Dublin trilogy, The Day That Never Comes.  Caimh McDonnell is no stranger to damppebbles.  He first popped by the blog back in September 2016 when A Man With One of Those Faces was released, with a brilliant guest post about comedic crime.  Then, as we were approaching the end of the year, I took a break from my blog tour reading and read A Man With One of Those Faces which I LOVED.  Click here to read my five star review if you missed it.  If my review piqued your interest then it’s only fair to mention that A Man With One of Those Faces is currently on offer at 99p/99c until Monday 30th January (Amazon UK | Amazon US) so what are you waiting for…?

So today I have another brilliant guest post from Caimh McDonnell to share with you. Without further ado, I’ll hand over to man himself…

Why Do We Hurt the Ones We Love?
Caimh McDonnell

Someone asked me recently if, as an author, you start to feel about your characters how parents feel about their kids.

My answer to that is very definitely not. Through two books, I’ve dreamt up numerous colourful and brutal ways to put my trio of central characters in harm’s way. I’ve no children myself, but if you’re doing that, I strongly suggest having a cup of tea and a very stern word with yourself.

That’s not to say you don’t develop affection for your characters, of course you do. It’s like on every author’s shoulder there’s an angel and a devil, with the devil placing these poor souls in danger and the angel hoping they pull through.

I do most of my ‘thinking stuff through’ while out on my daily walks, it is a great way to clear the head by getting away from that dreaded keyboard. It is on these epic sojourns that I’ve worked out, not just the plot of those two books, but a whole intricate backstory that might not ever make its way onto the page but is never-the-less, valuable stuff. Characters need to feel real, and every real person has defining incidents, both good and bad, lurking somewhere in their past.

For example, one of my characters is called DS Bunny McGarry. He is a fast-talking and foul-mouthed bundle of violent malevolence mixed with an inexplicably appealing level of uncouth charm. I have spent a great deal of time thinking through his history. At this point, I have such a depth of knowledge about his upbringing and the things that happened earlier in his career that if I ever need to assume a new identity to go into hiding, I’ll just become him. (Note to self: Probably shouldn’t have revealed that on a blog, Mafia hitmen might be able to Google.)

In the middle of one of my walks earlier this year, that little devil on my shoulder informed me of an incident that happened to Bunny eighteen years ago. I was so shocked that I stopped in the middle of the road and swore loudly, as did the bus driver whose way I was blocking. These days I try and keep my thinking to the part of the walk in the park, it is a lot safer.

The little red so’n’so on my shoulder got that pitchfork right under my skin that day. I must have looked like an absolute lunatic. In fact, keep that in mind next time you’re on public transport. The apparent crazy person sitting beside you talking to themselves, might just be a novelist running through how their main character spent the 1980s.

One of the biggest things I’m learning is that as a writer is that I need to always be digging to find those moments that shock and excite me, in the hope that they’ll have a similar effect on the reader. The risk of getting run over by a bus is a small price to pay. Besides, I live in Manchester – I’ve never seen one of our buses moving fast enough that it could bruise you, never mind kill you.


Absolutely brilliant, thanks again Caimh for writing such an interesting piece for damppebbles.  It must be strange for authors when a random reader declares their undying love for one of the their characters.  I haven’t quite got to that point yet but I do tend to get a little overexcited when writing my reviews.  As readers we all enjoy different elements of a book.  For me it’s always about the characters, closely followed by excessive amounts of blood, guts and gore!

The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell was published in the UK by McFori Ink on 23rd January 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |



caimh_press_pic2-1Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and now calls Manchester his home.

His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

Follow Caimh’s witterings on @Caimh

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Games People Play by Owen Mullen (@OwenMullen6) @BloodhoundBook

51fe2drwqul“Thirteen-month-old Lily Hamilton is abducted from Ayr beach in Scotland while her parents are just yards away.

Three days later the distraught father turns up at private investigator Charlie Cameron’s office. Mark Hamilton believes he knows who has stolen his daughter. And why.

Against his better judgment Charlie gets involved in the case and when more bodies are discovered the awful truth dawns: there is a serial killer whose work has gone undetected for decades.

Is baby Lily the latest victim of a madman?

For Charlie it’s too late, he can’t let go.

His demons won’t let him.”

I am absolutely delighted to be today’s stop on the Games People Play blog tour.  Games People Play is the first book in the Charlie Cameron series written by author Owen Mullen and published by the incredible Bloodhound Books.  I’m excited to have Games People Play  on my TBR and can’t wait to read it.  Between you and I, I’m hoping to add book 2 in the series, Old Friends and New Enemies to the list soon too.

But there’s no point talking about book 2 when we haven’t celebrated the release of the first book in the series.  So today I have a treat for you, and it’s something that I don’t feel I’ve had enough of on damppebbles recently…it’s a guest post (I do love a guest post!  For new visitors to the blog my husband thinks I should coin the phrase, ‘I do love a guest post’ as my catchphrase.  He’s probably right…)  So without further ado I will hand the floor over to Owen Mullen who is going to tell you about the best and worst things about being an author.

The Best And Worst Things About Being an Author

I started writing with two objectives in mind. First, to join the great cannon of literature, and stand shoulder to shoulder with Dickens and Steinbeck; Mark Twain and Evelyn Waugh. My dream was to see my books on a shelf next to these awesome talents.

And second, I wanted to crack a few bob out of it.

Like anything else there are pros and cons. Taking an idea and developing it into a story with characters that almost become friends and a plot that keeps me interested, never mind anybody else, is a thrill. Getting the result published is another deal entirely.

Often the solitary aspect of writing is described as a down-side. Not for me. I am at my happiest in the worlds I have created; much more comfortable than the real one. And when the story comes together, the hundreds of hours spent creating it is time well spent. In the early days I would print out the final manuscript, with my name neatly typed on the cover, and sit it on the dining-room table. The feeling of satisfaction is hard to understand. I tend not to do that now although there is always a sense of achievement when the work is completed.

These and other pleasures come with writing, but, without doubt, the best experience is when someone – usually a stranger – tells me they have read my book, loved it, and can’t wait for the next one. People have been very kind to me along the way; it is appreciated, and I don’t forget it. I write to be read; otherwise, why bother?

I haven’t had a bestseller – yet – but can imagine that will be another high.

On the other hand, a book doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment, patience and belief, and even then an author might not reach the finish line. I have a routine. I write every morning for five hours, five days a week. No surprise the pages mount up. But I don’t always feel like it. Occasionally I baulk at the discipline required. Some days are more productive than others and the feeling of not quite producing enough isn’t pleasant: like a pain that has to be worked through. At times I would rather squander my time in any way that didn’t involve writing.

And now and then I do just that.

But I always return because this is who I am.

The parts of the process I don’t enjoy are mostly not connected directly with writing stories. The book business is a cruel and impersonal place. Rejection has to be borne because it comes with the territory and until a writer is a commercial success they don’t rate. The realisation that it is a business can be a rude awakening. Not just a business; one steeped in subjectivity. It can be hard to accept that your book is rejected because ‘We have just signed a Scottish author’ or ‘We tried a Scottish author last year and got our fingers burned.’

And unbelievable but true: ‘This book has everything. I know I’m going to regret turning it down.’

Every author I know has a collection of horror tales about how casually their work has been dismissed – often without even being read. I will put my experiences of that on paper when I’m sufficiently detached from the memories. Rejection hurts. And you never get used to it. At least I didn’t. But I kept going.

Though on balance, it’s no contest: the pleasure outweighs the pain. Then there is the knowledge that the longer you do it, the better you become. I feel privileged to be able to entertain folk I’ve never met, and the fact that someone somewhere may be reading an Owen Mullen book at this minute is a unique feeling.

No wonder I love it.


Many thanks Owen for such a personal post.  I must say, you are truly committed to your art; writing for five hours a day, five days a week.  Wow!  As for the rejection, that is exactly why I’ve never tried to write my own novel, I just couldn’t take the rejection.  That and the fact that it would be no good!

Games People Play by Owen Mullen was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 16th January 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Bloodhound Books |



14949607When he was ten, Owen Mullen won a short story competition and didn’t write anything else for almost forty years. In between he graduated from Strathclyde University with a Masters in Tourism and a degree in Marketing, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; on occasion he still performs. He returned to Scotland to run a management consultancy and a marketing agency. He is an Arsenal supporter and a serious foodie. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow – where the Charlie Cameron books are set – and their villa in the Greek Islands.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson (@ragnarjo) @OrendaBooks #Rupture

41qs39koyul-_sx323_bo1204203200_“1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…

In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.

Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.”

Better late than never, isn’t that what they say…

I am delighted to be part of the Rupture blog tour today.  Rupture is written by the incredibly talented Ragnar Jónasson and is the fourth book in the Dark Iceland series.  I’m a little behind with this series as I’ve only read the fantastically claustrophobic Blackout which I loved. If you missed my review please click here for a recap.

Today I have a fascinating post from Ragnar about his favourite thrillers on the big screen.  So without further ado, over to Ragnar…

Classic Thrillers on Screen

In addition to reading classic crime fiction, I’m quite a fan of good films. I’d like to share with you some of my favourite classic thrillers and mysteries (using classic rather freely, referring to movies from the last century).

  1. Seven (1995) – Excellent David Fincher thriller starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow. Fincher has hardly hit a wrong note since then.
  2. Pulp Fiction (1994) – The Quentin Tarantino epic, his best movie to date, almost every scene a classic.
  3. Die Hard I & II (1988 / 1990) – The ultimate action films, both of them excellent in their own right.
  4. Rear Window (1954) – I am a great fan of Alfred Hitchcock and this is one of hist all time best movie, based on a crime story (short story) by Cornell Woolrich, starring the amazing James Stewart and Grace Kelly.
  5. Rope (1948) – Another classic Hitchcock, based on an excellent crime play by Patrick Hamilton.
  6. The Godfather I & II (1972 / 1974) – Perfect, epic crime stories.
  7. The Thin Man series (1934-1947) – A series of six wonderful mysteries starring classic golden age stars William Powell & Myrna Loy. The first one was based on Dashiell Hammett’s classic novel. Also look out for the interesting 2012 publication of “novellas” which became films in the series.
  8. Rebecca (1940) – Yet another excellent Hitchcock film.
  9. Dr. No (1962) – No list is complete without James Bond, and the first one in the series is one of the best.
  10. The Game (1997) – Another incredibly good David Fincher mystery.


Thank you for this interesting post Ragnar.  I think I’ve only managed to watch ‘Seven’ as I’m horribly squeamish and a bit of a wimp!  Following your recommendations however, I will endeavour to watch one or two more!

Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th January 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook editions | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |



32b9843or-768x512Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavik in 1976, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavik University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavik, and is co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir, selected by the Guardian as one of the ‘best crime-writing festivals around the world’. Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, and he is currently working on his sixth. He lives in Reykjavik with his wife and two daughters.

Author Links: Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour: The Mine by Antti Tuomainen (@antti_tuomainen) @OrendaBooks #TheFinnishInvasion

the-mine-cover“A hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. Can he uncover the truth before it’s too late?

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life.

A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results … The Mine is a gripping, beautifully written, terrifying and explosive thriller by the King of Helsinki Noir.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on The Mine blog tour and day two of my stint on the Finnish Invasion blog tour (if you missed it I featured a brilliant Q&A with Orenda author Kati Hiekkapelto yesterday, which you can read if you click here).

Regular visitors to damppebbles will know how much I love a guest post (I love a guest post!) so today I have a fabulous post from The Mine author Antti Tuomainen to share with you. Without further ado I’ll hand over to Antti…

Family Matters by Antti Tuomainen

I have just published my third novel in the UK called THE MINE. (It is my fifth novel altogether.) THE MINE is a crime novel, of course, but it is also a family story. It tells the story of a father and a son, a journalist and a hitman. In the beginning of the novel, the father returns to Helsinki, his and his son’s hometown, after having been gone for thirty years.

That set up – the father and the son – was really how THE MINE got its start. It is also something that is common in all my novels. Close relationships, I mean. Looking back, I’ve always written about close human interaction in one way or another – husband and wife torn apart in The Healer, brothers on different side of the law, mother and son in Dark As My Heart, and so forth –  and I’ve always began building my novels through characters and their dilemmas. And of course, the secrets they keep from each other.

And this is where family comes in. Who are we closest to? Who do we most remind? Who do we most love or most hate or both? To make a story as dramatic as possible, the stakes have to be high. THE MINE, then, presents two men, sharing the same blood, from different stages of life. One is young, one is older. One is on the side of ‘good’, one on the side of ‘evil’. Of course, the further along we get in the novel, the more the lines blur.

(They are, in a way, brought together by a mine. It should be said that the actual mine in the novel, while fictional, was indeed modeled after a very real and very catastrophic actual mine in northern Finland. There was a sort of a mining boom in Finland a few years ago and at this time a huge nickel mine in the north was opened. It was, and continues to be, an utter disaster from the beginning. When it was revealed how the business got its start, how it involved politicians and business people in a highly questionable manner and how phenomenally huge was, and continues to be, the tax-payers’ bill I felt I had to ask a few questions.)

The son in THE MINE is a journalist. A question I have many times heard is that if I see myself in him since I did some journalism between being a copywriter and a full time writer of novels. (I do see a slight resemblance in some things, yes, at least when relating to the business of writing.) But for some reason I’ve never heard the question: “Do you see yourself in the father, the sixty-year-old lonely hitman?” I find this strange. Because, obviously, I do.

This doesn’t mean that I approve of what the father is doing: going to work means, to him, killing folks. I don’t think that’s an acceptable way to spend your days. But he is in a very recognizable human situation with the people he feels closest to. They both are. And THE MINE shows these men at crossroads. They are more alike than they would like to admit. They are obsessed. They take pride in their work, and how good they are at it. They stop at nothing, and it costs them. They try to do good, but in trying, they hurt other people. They miscalculate, misbehave, misunderstand. They try their best, they really do. Finally, they are willing to do whatever it takes in behalf of each other. They’re family. I can relate to that. I can understand how their family matters to them, as mine matters to me.


Thank you very much for such a wonderful guest post, Antti.  I have a copy of The Mine on my TBR and I can’t wait to read it.  I find your description of the father, the sixty year old lonely hitman very intriguing. And, of course, I adore translated crime fiction!  Watch this space for a review coming your way soon.

The Mine by Antti Tuomainen was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 10th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |



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antii-tuomainen-225x300Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula. Antti Tuomainen’s latest novel The Mine will be published by Orenda Books in 2016/17.

Author LinksTwitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: What Remains of Me by A.L. Gaylin (@alisongaylin) @arrowpublishing

what-remains-of-me-cover“People don’t need to know you’re a murderer.
They just have to think you could be…

June 1980: 17-year-old Kelly Lund is jailed for killing Hollywood film director, John McFadden

Thirty years later, Kelly is a free woman. Yet speculation still swirls over what really happened that night.

And when her father-in law, and close friend of McFadden is found dead – shot through the head at point-blank range – there can only be one suspect.

But this time Kelly has some high-profile friends who believe she’s innocent of both crimes.

But is she?

I am absolutely delighted to be closing the fantastic What Remains of Me blog tour today and it’s publication day too!  A very happy book birthday to A.L. Gaylin and the folk at Arrow Publishing.  I have something very special to share with you to mark the occasion; a character profile of the main protagonist, Kelly Lund.  I don’t think I’ve hosted a character profile before and this one is going to be hard to top as I absolutely adored Kelly!  Over to A.L. Gaylin…

Character Profile; Kelly Lund

Kelly Michelle Lund

Age: 17 and 47

High school student;  “Creative Consultant,” Sarabelle.com

Shown in 1980 and 2010, Kelly Lund is the daughter of Rose and Jimmy Lund and the twin sister of the late Catherine Lund, who died at 15 of an apparent suicide. The defining event of her life is the 1980 murder of Hollywood director John McFadden, of which she is ultimately convicted, spending 25 years in prison for the crime.

Kelly Lund in 1980:

Still mourning the untimely death of her glamorous fraternal twin, whose broken body was found at the bottom of a canyon two years earlier, Kelly is a lonely high school outcast at 17. She lives in Hollywood with her divorced mother, Rose, a former B-movie makeup artist who now works behind the cosmetics counter at I Magnin — and who desperately tries to keep Kelly away from the fast crowd of movie star children  her doomed twin used to spend time with. Rose’s worst nightmares come true when Bellamy Marshall – daughter of movie legend Sterling Marshall – befriends Kelly, introducing her to John McFadden’s son, teen actor Vincent “Vee” Vales, as well as a world of glamour, drugs and danger.

Over the next few months, Kelly becomes immersed in this new world, while discovering the many dark secrets that lurk beneath its glittering surface. After a falling out with Rose, Kelly goes to live with her father, Jimmy, an injured stuntman who is addicted to alcohol and painkillers.  The many things Kelly learns during this time, and the changes she goes through because of them, result in the death of McFadden.

After she is convicted of the crime, Kelly makes the mistake of smiling, ever-so-slightly, outside the courtroom. Captured on film, the chilling expression is dubbed the Mona Lisa Death Smile in the press, and Kelly becomes a near-mythic villain, covered as a dead-eyed teen killer with a chilling smile.

Kelly Lund in 2010:

Five years after her release from prison, Kelly is living in the wilds of Joshua Tree desert with her husband, Shane Marshall. Shane is Bellamy’s younger brother. He was only 10 years old when John McFadden was murdered, but was the only member of his family to correspond with Kelly while she was in prison. They had a prison wedding, which was covered in the press. Shane is a photographer and Hollywood photo archivist, while Kelly writes fake profiles for a hook-up website for would-be adulterers. She maintains a close, secret relationship with a local eccentric – a chainsaw artist who goes by the name of Rocky Three.

Estranged from Bellamy, who has made a career as an artist based on a shockingly negative depiction of herself, Kelly witnesses yet another sea-change in her life when Sterling Marshall is killed, in a similar way to his dear friend John McFadden. A suspect once again, cryptic, closed-off Kelly is now forced to unravel the mystery of both murders as she learns the truth behind her relationships, myriad family secrets – and herself.


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There was something about this book that really got under my skin.  I was completely smitten with it; the flashbacks to 1980s Hollywood, experiencing the underbelly of the glitz and glamour, the manipulation and the deceit.  Which was all centred around hapless Kelly Lund, now one of my all time favourite fictional characters.

I love the idea of the good girl turned evil, but does Kelly Lund fall into that category?  I think that’s exactly why she’s so appealing to me.  You just don’t know! From the early chapters you start to ask yourself, did she do it?  There is definitely something ‘not quite right’ about her, but murder?  I spent the entire novel chopping and changing my opinion; yes she did, no she didn’t.  What a rollercoaster of a read!

I found Kelly’s friendship with Bellamy an uncomfortable read at times.  Kelly’s neediness was quite intense but I guess that’s the way many teenage girls are with their friends (maybe it reminded me of my own BFF when I was 17 and that’s what made me uncomfortable!).  Their relationship was very defined with Bellamy as the confident, self-assured leader and Kelly the follower, the wannabe.  Living in the shadow of her deceased, more glamorous twin sister.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I read this book in 24 hours which, for me, is very fast.  I was completely gripped and entranced by Kelly’s story and the detective within me became obsessed with figuring out whether Kelly committed one murder, two murders or none at all!  With great twists and turns along the way, a clever crime novel which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of What Remains of Me.

What Remains of Me by A.L. Gaylin is published in the UK by Arrow Publishing on 1st December 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Goodreads | Arrow Publishing (Penguin Random House) |


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al-gaylinAlison Gaylin’s first job was as a reporter for a celebrity tabloid, which sparked a lifelong interest in writing about people committing despicable acts. More than a decade later, she wrote and published her Edgar-nominated first novel, HIDE YOUR EYES.

She’s since published eight more books, including the USA Today and international bestselling Brenna Spector suspense series, which has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony and Thriller awards and won the Shamus award.

She lives in upstate New York with her husband, daughter, cat and dog.

Author Links:Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Hell is Empty by Conrad Williams (@Salavaria) @TitanBooks

hell-is-empty-1“Private Investigator Joel Sorrell is exhausted and drinking hard, sustained only by a hopeful yet baffling note from his estranged daughter, Sarah.

An SOS from an old flame whose child has been kidnapped gives him welcomed distraction, but the investigation raises more questions than answers.

Then comes the news that his greatest enemy has escaped from prison with a score to settle.

With Joel’s life and the remnants of his family at stake, any chance of peace depends on the silencing of his nemesis once and for all. But an unexpected obstacle stands in his way…”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Hell is Empty blog tour.  Hell is Empty is book three in the excellent PI Joel Sorrell series, written by Conrad Williams.  And it’s publication day today so a very happy book birthday to Conrad Williams and all at Titan Books!

Now I have a confession to make, I’ve only read the first book in this series (that’s Dust and Desire if you haven’t come across Joel Sorrell before).  But I do have Sonata of the Dead and Hell is Empty on my TBR and I can’t wait to read them.  Dust and Desire is such a fabulous book and you can read my review by clicking here.  Dust and Desire also features on my recent top 20 all time favourite crime books post for #TBConFB.  You can see my other nineteen choices by clicking here.  Anyway, enough of my waffling!  I’m delighted to have a guest post from author Conrad Williams to share with you today, the topic of which is anti-heroes.  Over to Conrad…

The anti-hero

We all do and say things that are sometimes cruel and hurtful, perhaps even damaging, even though we perceive ourselves as essentially being good. That means our heroes and villains in literature should too. I don’t believe in evil. Evil acts, sure. But not evil people. I like a knotty, chewy protagonist with layers. Joel Sorrell is vulnerable but also capable. He’s someone who can be pushed only too far before he cracks. He doesn’t react well to stress. And, of course, he’s a potty-mouthed individual who relies on drink a little more than is good for him. In his first outing, Dust and Desire, I wanted to pit him against a ‘baddie’ who is also vulnerable. This person – the Four Year Old (aka Wire) – is driven to find the person who ruined his mother’s life (ironically, by doing what he thought was the right thing). But he is young and wet behind the ears. He has trained his body to look like that of a man much older, but his brain and his behaviour are undernourished things. He has committed violent acts that have also damaged him. No person can kill or maim and not be affected by it, certainly not a teenager. When Joel and the Four Year Old finally meet, I wanted their confrontation flavoured with tragedy. I was very pleased when Publishers Weekly recognised this in their review: ‘The suspenseful face-off between Sorrell and Wire carries an unexpected charge of pathos.’

In Sonata of the Dead I introduced Joel to an amoral writers’ group called the Accelerants who have never really gained any kind of experience. Perhaps they travelled a bit in their gap year. Perhaps they had a summer job. But that’s about it. A cossetted, privileged type who nevertheless recognises their own failings as people who want to write what they know… but know nothing. And so they force experience. They steal cars. They shoplift. They play chicken on the motorway. Idiots, basically, trying to justify their so-called lives and their so-called fiction. When they start getting picked off, one by one, by an unseen and unknown killer they quickly go to pieces despite this obviously being quality grist for the mill. You wonder if a writer from an earlier time –  Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee – might have turned such an experience into gripping material. But not the Accelerants. This kind of pressure can only have one outcome.

In Hell is Empty, Joel finds himself up against a person who he thought was a friend, but is in fact a gun for hire. Joel is also digging into a cold case from the 1980s, concerning a killer who pushed construction workers to their deaths as the skyscrapers they built scratched at the London sky and blocked out the light for those living below. It was interesting to press Joel into situations such as this to see how he reacted, but also for him to have to deal with the fallout of besting people who – but for a moment of greed or bad judgment or desperation – find themselves doing questionable acts with deadly consequences. Capering in the background of the three novels is someone much worse than all of these characters, the kind of cartoon villain readers perhaps feel more comfortable with. He has no redeeming features whatsoever. He commits atrocities. I felt the narrative arc needed this, at the end – a classic good versus bad scrap – white versus black, after so many pages of what I hope is seen as subtle grey shading.


Thanks for such a great post, Conrad.  I’m even more excited about reading Sonata of the Dead and Hell is Empty now.  Sounds like Joel is getting in even more trouble than he did in the first book of the series!  Keep an eye out for reviews of both books coming your way soon.

Hell is Empty was published in the UK by Titan Books on 29th November 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Titan Books |


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Conrad Williams was born in 1969. He is the author of seven novels (HEAD INJURIES, LONDON REVENANT, THE UNBLEMISHED, ONE, DECAY INEVITABLE, LOSS OF SEPARATION and DUST AND DESIRE), four novellas (NEARLY PEOPLE, GAME, THE SCALDING ROOMS and RAIN) and two collections of short stories (USE ONCE THEN DESTROY and BORN WITH TEETH). He has won two major prizes for his novels. ONE was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel, (British Fantasy Awards 2010), while THE UNBLEMISHED won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993. He won another British Fantasy Award, for Best Novella (THE SCALDING ROOMS) in 2008. In 2009 he was Guest of Honour at the World Horror Convention. He edited the anthologies GUTSHOT, which was shortlisted for both the British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards, and DEAD LETTERS (forthcoming from Titan Books). He is an associate lecturer at Edge Hill University.

He lives in Manchester, UK, with his wife, three sons and a monster Maine Coon.

Author Links:Website | Twitter |


#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange by @JCalumCampbell | @Lizzy11268

51OdMmjfv3L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg‘Fox stepped swiftly through the door. There was an audible click. And there came the sound of a bolt sliding into place. What follows is the stuff of nightmares…’ Just when the bereaved and troubled Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange rediscovers his life on the other side of the world, the British authorities track him down. They recruit him on a mission which takes him to the farthest reaches of New Zealand, to Xanadu with all its grotesque gargoyles, chief among them Phineas Fox, the American business tycoon whose baleful eye is on the White House. There s something not quite right about Mr Fox, and Cameron-Strange, with the help of the beautiful Nikki, is determined to find out what it is. He survives six ordeals, but will he survive a seventh?

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange blog tour.  The Seven Trials.. is book two in the Cameron-Strange series written by ‘doctor turned author’, James Calum Campbell.  I would like to wish James and Impress Books a very happy publication day.

I am thrilled to be hosting my very first guest review as well! I thought I would start with blogging royalty (as you do!) so today the incredibly talented and very lovely Liz Barnsley of Liz Loves Books shares her thoughts on this exciting thriller.  If you haven’t already, please do check Liz’s blog out – it’s superb, her passion for books and authors shines through.

Over to the lovely Liz…

This is actually the second novel featuring Dr Cameron -Strange and it was an interesting read for me, a very different feel to the narrative within an imaginative and clever thriller that is pacy and engaging.

I had not read the first book – but that didn’t honestly impact on my reading of this one – and I have to say that our main protagonist here was a fascinatingly compelling character, with an intriguing background and set of idiocies if you like. The novel has a Bond feel only not quite, the subject matter is very topical in a lot of ways and the possible “bad guy”, well, I’ll leave you to find out that for yourself. But Phineas Fox – how perfect is that? Yes I know but sometimes you are just immediately wanting to know the person behind the title…

James Calum Campbell has a great way of writing that draws you in, I liked how the plot played out, with an opening that made you just want to know – then taking us back to see how we got there. This is one of those novels that is gripping but not perhaps in the usual ways.

I loved the medical angle it allowed for some beautiful layers to the story, for me this was a fast and satisfying read and one that would certainly bring me back to this author again.

Solid storytelling here. Recommended if you’d like a thriller with a different angle.


Thank you Liz.  I can’t wait to read this one for myself as it sounds fascinating.

The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange by James Calum Campbell was published in the UK by Impress Books on 1st November 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Impress Books |


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Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling

James Calum Campbell was born in Glasgow.  He read Medicine at Edinburgh, and practised in Papua New Guinea, Queensland, and Auckland, where he was Clinical Head of the busiest emergency department in Australasia.   He now divides his time between Scotland and New Zealand.

Author Links:Twitter |

#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 |


Smith & Sons (11)


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.

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