#BookReview: Halfway by B.E. Jones @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #Halfway #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

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“Three women. One killer. No turning back.

The Halfway Inn is closed to customers, side-lined by a bypass and hidden deep in inhospitable countryside. One winter’s night, two women end up knocking on the door, seeking refuge as a blizzard takes hold.

But why is the landlord less than pleased to see them? And what is his elderly father trying so hard to tell them?

At the local police station PC Lissa Lloyd is holding the fort while the rest of her team share in the rare excitement of a brutal murder at an isolated farmhouse. A dangerous fugitive is on the run – but how can Lissa make a name for herself if she’s stuck at her desk? When a call comes in saying the local district nurse is missing, she jumps at the chance to investigate her disappearance.

The strangers at Halfway wait out the storm, but soon realise they might have been safer on the road. It seems not all the travellers will make it home for Christmas . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my sixth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Halfway by B.E. Jones. Halfway was published by Constable in November 2018 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Halfway but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog you may be aware that one of my favourite books from last year was the absolutely outstanding Wilderness by B.E. Jones (it’s amazing, you need to get hold of a copy!). Jones has written a number of other books though, all of which look very intriguing, but there was something about Halfway which sang to me. The blurb, the cover, and the idea really appealed. And now, of course, I’m kicking myself that I haven’t read Halfway sooner because once again, it’s another absolutely outstanding novel. I LOVED it!

On a snowy December day near the isolated Welsh town of Pont, hitchhiker Lee is trying to find her way out. She’s cold, the weather is getting worse and she just wants to get as far away from Pont as possible. Desperate times call for desperate measures so she steps out in front of a car, the driver slams on the brakes and Lee invites herself into the warmth of local nurse, Becca’s, vehicle. But the car won’t start and both women know they need to find shelter from the snowstorm. So they head back the way Becca had come from, to a dilapidated pub further down the road. The landlord greets them less than enthusiastically, there’s a strange air about him. And why is his hand bleeding? As the day progresses, it becomes clear to Lee and Becca that not everything is as it seems at The Halfway…

In a similar vein to Wilderness, Halfway is as much about the setting as it is about the characters. The atmospheric descriptions of the vast Welsh countryside, with the added smothering effect of the snowstorm, the knowledge that one wrong turn could have you lost forever, made me feel quite claustrophobic, and I loved it. It’s really beautifully done and Jones is a master of making you feel as though you’re living the story along with the characters.

The characters are well-drawn and I made my mind up about them pretty quickly. But this is a crime thriller and nothing is ever as straight forward as it initially seems. The book has a wonderful darkness to it and I absolutely lapped it up. From start to finish, you know there’s something very wrong here and I found myself on the edge of my seat, loving the ominous feeling Jones’ writing gave me. I did have a few suspicions about where the story was going and despite being able to spot one big twist (because I’m Mrs Super Suspicious!) it didn’t detract from the story at all.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, yes! Without a moment’s hesitation. I loved Halfway and I’m so glad I read it. I loved the entire book but I really enjoyed the ending, which was blood-soaked and so very satisfying. I think one of the most impressive things for me though was how the author managed to completely change my opinion of two of the main characters as the end of the book approached. Beautifully written, utterly compelling and really quite addictive. Highly recommended, one for my top books of the year list and an author to watch.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Halfway. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Halfway by B.E. Jones was published in the UK by Constable on 1st November 2018 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | hive.co.uk | Goodreads |

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photo of Bev

Beverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today.

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e books.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website |

#BookReview: The Proposal by S.E. Lynes @bookouture #TheProposal #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the proposal“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man.

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my first 20 Books of Summer review with you and it’s for a corker of a book – The Proposal by S.E. Lynes. The Proposal was published by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Proposal but that has in no way influenced my review.

Well, this book is a bit bonkers! And by ‘a bit’ I actually mean ‘totally and completely’ — and I loved it! What an intoxicating and unexpected ride the author took me on. I’ll be completely honest, from the design of the cover, I was expecting a fairly run of the mill psychological thriller. But I should have known better! S.E. Lynes is always pushing the boundaries and The Proposal is proof of that. I have loved this author’s work ever since I read her outstanding debut, Valentina, and I continue to do so (although I have fallen a little behind with her books I’m ashamed to say). If you haven’t read an S.E. Lynes book before, then I heartily recommend you remedy that as soon as possible.

Teacher and romance author, Pippa Gates, is uninspired with life. She’s recently divorced, has had a string of depressing Tinder hookups and is facing a deadline from her editor. The clock is ticking and she doesn’t have the foggiest idea of even the basic storyline for her next book, let alone any of the details her editor wants to hear. That’s when the doorbell rings. She’s not expecting company, but reluctantly opens the door and comes face to face with door-to-door salesman, Ryan Marks. Ryan has had a tough life but is trying to find his way back into society. It’s hard to describe, but Pippa feels an odd connection to this man. She wants to hear his story, it could help inspire her writing – the bestseller she’s dreamt of for so long could be stood in front of her – so she makes a proposal. She’s a street-smart and intelligent woman who knows exactly what she’s doing, doesn’t she…?

Oh my flipping goodness! What a compelling novel The Proposal is. There’s such a delicious sense of foreboding from the start and I was hooked instantly. I’m not sure I liked Pippa Gates, Novelist but I was more than happy to spend time with her. There’s ‘something’ about this character that made me want to follow her, I was drawn to her. The story is told in the main by Pippa in the form of diary entries. She speaks directly to the reader, which is only one aspect of the many in this book which I loved. She almost has a conversation with her reader, making judgements about you, your thoughts and your feelings. I loved it. And if you’re not a little intrigued by that first line: The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead… then WTF? There are also blog posts, references to Instagram posts and audio recordings which all put you thoroughly on edge and wanting to know more.

The first half of the book I devoured as I felt nervous as hell for a very reckless woman who seemed intent on putting herself in the most dangerous of situations. Lynes’s writing carried me along and I was lost in Pippa’s world. The second half of the book (it could have been the last third – I’m afraid I was so caught up in the action, I didn’t take note) slowed down a little for me as what I had feared, happened in full technicolour glory. The anticipation dropped a little, although my concern for Pippa certainly didn’t. This is one dark and devilish tale and I still stand by what I said earlier in this review – it’s a little bit bonkers. I was able to guess what one of the big twists was going to be but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. In fact, it made me read faster as I was desperate to have my suspicions confirmed or proven incorrect.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I would, yes. The Proposal is an edgy, no holds barred psychological thriller. There are times when the characters (or Pippa) do some pretty daft things, but just go with it. It’s such an intriguing, captivating, well-written book and goes to prove that Lynes is a ‘must read’ author (but I knew that already). Twisted, twisty and impossible to put down. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Proposal. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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S E Lynes Author PhotoS E Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT and THE PROPOSAL.

After graduating from Leeds University, Susie lived in London before moving to Aberdeen where she worked as a producer at the BBC before moving with her husband, Paul, and two young children to Rome.

In Rome, she began to write, snatching time where she could. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.

She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing. She has also published two children’s books in Italy.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Curator by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #TheCurator #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

the curator“It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, The Curator by M.W. Craven. The Curator is the third book in Craven’s superbly good Washington Poe series (or, as everyone seems to refer to the series, Tilly and Poe) and is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (4th June 2020) by Constable. I received a free eARC of The Curator but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been waiting a whole year (and a bit) for The Curator to arrive on my kindle. And what’s the first thing I do when it does? I simper a little because I finally have a copy – the wait is over! – and then I try to pretend it’s not there. Crazy, right? I was so keen to read this book but at the same time, I was really, really nervous. What if I didn’t enjoy it? What if I rushed in and didn’t savour it (it’s a flipping long wait ’til the next one, that’s for sure!)? And that, I think, is the sign of an incredibly talented author who has built the beginnings of a series into something that, for the reader, is extra special. Reading The Curator, for me, was an event. Something to look forward to. Something to anticipate and savour every minute of. Something to remember. And I loved it. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes.

DS Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw and a heavily pregnant DI Stephanie Flynn of the National Crime Agency are called back to Cumbria to investigate a perplexing case. Severed fingers. What appears to be three pairs from three individuals, left over the Christmas period in the most surprising of places. On further investigation it’s confirmed that one finger in the pair was removed antemortem, the other finger was removed postmortem. But that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle. The female victims were drugged, the male victim wasn’t. And a note was left with each set of fingers with the hashtag #BSC6. The team – even with Tilly’s immense intelligence and analytical brain – are initially baffled. But then through a little supposition and a lot of analysis, a suspect emerges. But what the suspect tells them turns everything upside down. This isn’t any run of the mill serial killer, this is the Curator…

Another absolutely cracking novel from the crime fiction mastermind that is M.W. Craven. I loved this book and savoured every darn second I had with it. I could have easily read this book in a couple of sittings but I slowed down to ensure I enjoyed every twist and turn. Craven appears to be one of those crime writers who doesn’t shy away from digging the depths of the internet to find strange and unusual ideas for his novels, which he then twists and shapes into crime fiction gold. The Curator is solid proof of that. An intriguing and intricate setup, followed by an edge of your seat hunt for the bad guy, culminating in a devilishly dark twist that you won’t see coming.

Even when I had my suspicions about who the killer was, there was another unexpected gut punch just waiting around the corner. Such a clever well-written book that hooks you in from the get-go and doesn’t let go until the shocking finale.

Tilly and Poe are wonderful creations who have been firm favourites of mine since the very first book. I’ve loved watching their friendship and working relationship grow over the last couple of years. The chemistry and the bond they have, makes for compelling reading. The humour and the wit the author includes in the story adds a few lighter moments to what is a brilliantly dark and twisty story. Expertly paced, skilfully written and all in a setting to die for (literally!).

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, categorically, YES! If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet, then that has to change. The Curator can easily be read as a standalone but if you’ve not read any of the books before, why not treat yourself to the entire series?! Be whisked away to deepest, darkest Cumbria and meet two totally unforgettable characters who you will grow to love and admire. I loved this book and I’m counting down the days until Dead Ground is published next year. Another stunning novel from an accomplished writer and I’m really excited to see what the future holds (let’s hope it’s a lot more Tilly and Poe!).

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Curator. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Curator by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 4th June 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

#BookReview: The House Guest by Mark Edwards @AmazonPub #TheHouseGuest #damppebbles

the house guest“A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The House Guest by Mark Edwards. The House Guest is published today (Wednesday 3rd June) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC of The House Guest via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

Mark Edwards is probably the author whose books I have read the most (I think this is number eight). He’s a talented writer who likes to put his very normal characters into very unusual and challenging (often terrifying!) situations and I flipping love what he does! When I know there’s a new Mark Edwards book on the brink of publication, everything else gets pushed to one side so I can read it. I was really excited to read The House Guest and I’m delighted to say, I was not disappointed.

Brits Adam and Ruth have had a stroke of luck and are house-sitting for an American couple they met on a cruise. Ruth is an aspiring actress and has been given the lead role in a Broadway play. Adam is a struggling writer who hasn’t quite made his mark yet, but he’ll keep trying. One stormy Summers day there’s a knock at the door. Standing before the couple, drenched from head to toe, is Eden, a friend of the Cunningham’s who own the luxurious house in Williamsburg. Adam and Ruth don’t feel they can turn the Cunningham’s friend away when the weather is so atrocious. She’s travelled so far and has nowhere else to go. So they invite her in to dry off and to share a glass of wine. But Eden is a stranger. They don’t know what secrets she’s hiding…

It’s very easy to get pulled into a Mark Edwards book from the get-go. He sets up the scene for his reader with such skill that you just have to keep reading to find out where events are going to take you. There’s such a wonderful sense of unease from start to finish in The House Guest which I really enjoyed. However, I think this is the first one of Edwards’ books where I can’t really talk about the plot. There’s a pretty hefty twist in there which, unless you’ve read reviews with spoilers, I don’t think you will see coming. It turns the whole book on its head – but it didn’t really blow me away. For me, there is another twist further on, which I found so exciting. So much so, I think I used four exclamation marks to emphasise my surprise in my notes!!!!

The House Guest is very entertaining but I have to be honest and say it was a little far fetched for me, which left me shaking my head at certain points. But hey, it’s fiction and if you can’t be a little creative when writing a novel then when can you be? I had to choose between going with the flow and enjoying the ride, or…not. And knowing Edwards has never let me down before, I chose to go with the flow.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved the unease, the sense of impending doom the author makes you feel. I loved the setting (it’s New York, I adore New York!) and could picture with ease the characters making their way through the city. I loved that the twists never really stopped coming which adds to the excitement. It’s a book about needing to belong and I think we all feel that need at times. Another great book from Mark Edwards and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The House Guest. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The House Guest by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 3rd June 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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EDWARDS 7 TS 28

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For (2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home(2015).

He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death(2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle (2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.

When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The White Road by Sarah Lotz @HodderBooks #TheWhiteRoad #damppebbles

the white road.jpg“Adrenaline-junkie Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he’s met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he’s had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he’s faced with an impossible task: he’s got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There’s only on place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.

And Simon’s luck is about to run out.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of my latest #bookhangover and the reason that I’m currently ‘book-less’ (because nothing else at the moment could possibly be as good as this book!), the incredible The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I am a huge fan of Lotz’s writing and have loved both The Three and Day Four. I’m not very good when it comes to Goodreads but both of these books sit proudly on a very exclusive shelf called ‘favourites’. The White Road will definitely be joining them there. I received a free ARC of The White Road but that has in no way influenced my review.

The White Road is sublime. Atmospheric, creepy and I was living the story from the opening paragraphs alongside our protagonist, Simon Newman. Simon and his mate, Thierry have started a website. In probably not the smartest of moves, they decide that filming the scene of a horrific caving accident, where three young lads died, could create the buzz they’re after, show their audience exactly what they’re about and get the site a few extra hits. The Cwm Pot caves are closed off to the general public because of the danger, but that’s OK because Simon has found an odd bloke called Ed on the internet who has offered to take him into the caves for a small fee. Once underground, things start going horribly wrong for the pair and Simon starts to wonder exactly what type of person he has stranded himself hundreds of feet underground with. Simon manages to escape the icy depths of Cwm Pot, frozen and traumatised by the whole experience. And with the camera footage which, of course, goes viral. The thrill of his new found fame and the adoration of the masses pushes Simon and Thierry on further, looking for the next big high and viral video. When Thierry suggests filming the dead on Everest, Simon doesn’t immediately jump at the idea – but he doesn’t refuse either and sets Thierry a challenge to raise the funds for the trip. Before long Simon is heading for base camp on Mount Everest. But this time, he may not be so lucky…

This book is so, so good and I relished every moment I had with it. Simon is a chancer, a bit of a lad and his morals are a little on the dubious side but I really liked him. As the book progressed I started to feel sorry for him and wished he had a little more backbone to stand up to Thierry and his astonishingly bad ideas. But Thierry had made his own, somewhat incomparable, sacrifices and Simon was committed. Taking on Mt. Everest without some form of knowledge or training seems like the most barmy of ideas but off the reader heads with Simon to Base Camp. I felt nervous for him, apprehensive, and the sense of impending doom gave me palpitations. The White Road really gets under your skin and it’s going to be impossible to forget this one!

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, without a moment’s hesitation. I loved this book because the characters felt so very real to me. I loved this book because it’s like nothing I’ve read before. I loved this book because I think this is my first (literary) trip to Mt. Everest and I find it fascinating the need some people have to conquer the mountain, to risk life and limb, to push your body to it’s absolute limits. It’s chilling, it’s atmospheric and it’s totally involving. Impossible to put down, impossible to forget. An outstanding piece of fiction.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The White Road. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The White Road by Sarah Lotz was published in the UK by Hodder Books on 18th October 2018 and is available in hardcover, audio, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstonesFoyles | BookDepositoryGoodreads |

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sarah lotz.jpgSarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist with a fondness for the macabre and fake names. Incapable of holding down a ‘proper’ job, over the years she’s painted outrageous frescos for dubious casinos, written scripts for South Africa’s first full-length sci-fi cartoon show and lived homeless on the streets of Paris as a teenage runaway.

Among other things, she writes horror/thriller novels under the name S.L. Grey with author Louis Greenberg, a YA pulp-fiction zombie series with her daughter, Savannah, under the pseudonym Lily Herne, and quirky erotica novels with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick under the name Helena S. Paige.

Stephen King said her solo novel The Three was ‘really wonderful’ (which made her cry in a very very good way) and Day Four was published in the U.K by Hodder & Stoughton in May, 2015.

She likes cake, scruffy dogs, fast cars and sitting in her attic making stuff up.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #RulesForPerfectMurders #damppebbles

rules for perfect murders.jpgIf you want to get away with murder, play by the rules

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to my stop on the Rules for Perfect Murders blog tour. Rules for Perfect Murders is the latest release from one of my very favourite authors and it’s available to purchase in hardcover, digital and audio formats from TODAY! Happy publication day to Peter Swanson and the team at Faber Books. I received a free ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders but that has in no way influenced my review. Huge thanks to Josh at Faber Books for asking me to join the tour.

If you haven’t picked up a Peter Swanson novel yet then that has to change. Sharpish! I’m a huge fan of this author and I look forward to every new book hitting the shelves. I can’t let a Swanson review grace the blog though without mentioning the incredible The Kind Worth Killing which is one of the best books I have ever read. But I think The Kind Worth Killing has a new buddy at the top of my favourite ever books list, and it’s Rules for Perfect Murders.

Having read Rules for Perfect Murders, I should probably reconsider having a list of any kind, ever, on my blog (top ten books of the year, the top five best detectives, eight perfect murders…). After all, a list of eight perfect murders in mystery novels is exactly what leads FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to Malcolm Kershaw’s door. But let’s be specific about this door. It’s the door to Old Devils Bookstore in Boston. A bookshop which specialises in mystery fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be starting to see why I have fallen head over heels in love with this book. There are many, many reasons to love Rules for Perfect Murders but the plainly obvious one (apart from the fact it’s expertly written) is that it’s a book about books. And not any old books but classic mystery and crime novels. I devoured this book. Swanson has created something incredibly special in Rules for Perfect Murders and I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m not a re-reader of books (unlike our lead character, Malcolm) but I would happily while away a day reading this book again…and again…and again.

Social media is starting to get its groove on and blogs are becoming a ‘thing’. Their creators are becoming rich and famous so Old Devils Bookstore wants in. Malcolm Kershaw is tasked with writing a list of eight perfect murders for the store’s brand new blog. He spends hours agonising over his choices, getting the wording ‘just right’ and hits the publish button. But fame and fortune ignore the post and life for Malcolm carries on without glitz and glitter, only tragedy. He takes over ownership of the shop, along with author Brian Murray, and business is good with a number of regular customers. Until one day, in the midst of a snowstorm, Agent Mulvey arrives on his doorstep to discuss his blog post from years ago. She’s the only person who has noticed a connection between unsolved murders and Mal’s list of eight perfect murders. It seems highly unlikely there’s a connection and it’s just a crazy coincidence. That is until Malcolm recognises one of the names on the list…

I absolutely adored this book and I was completely smitten from the very first pages. Malcolm fascinated me. He’s one of those characters where you scratch the surface and discover more than you bargained for. Definitely a character I will remember for a long time to come. I loved how the murders were linked to the eight books (**cough** seven books, and one play!) on the list and found the ways they were adapted to be very clever. I waited with bated breath to discover what the next murder/book was going to be! Swanson has created layer upon layer of suspense and tension and I was hooked.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. This one is going on the list (whoops, there’s that list again!) of favourite books of all time. You don’t have to be a crime fiction aficionado to enjoy this tense and intoxicating read (I’m certainly not). I will say though, that if you’re planning on reading any of the books which feature on Malcolm’s list, then you might want to do that first as there are a few spoilers and an outline of each is given by the author for those who haven’t read them. This book is so much more than you expect and I savoured every moment of it. I urge you to pick up a copy of Rules for Perfect Murders, whether you consider yourself to be bookish or not. It’s a wonderful, thoroughly entertaining homage to the crime and mystery genre and I couldn’t put it down. Nor did I want to. Tightly plotted and packed full of delicious suspense with a character I fell head over heels in love with. Highly, highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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peter-swansonPeter Swanson is the author of six novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Eight Perfect Murders (Rules For Perfect Murders in the UK). His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Here To Stay by Mark Edwards @AmazonPub @midaspr #HereToStay #damppebbles

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“A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for.

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are the scars on his wife’s body that she won’t talk about . . .

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in his home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear that they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

From the two million copy bestselling author comes a tale about the chilling consequences of welcoming strangers into your home.”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop on the Here To Stay blog tour. I am delighted to be one of two blogs kicking off the tour for this brilliant psychological thriller. Here To Stay is the latest standalone release from one of my ‘must read’ authors, Mark Edwards, and will be published in all formats by Thomas & Mercer on 1st September. I received a free ARC of the book but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of Mark Edwards’ books. He’s a favourite author of mine and someone I always mention when asked for reading recommendations. You can’t really go wrong with his novels – they’re all rather brilliant (In Her Shadow, The Retreat, The Lucky Ones, The Devil’s Work, Follow You Home). And this latest release is another stonking addition to this author’s body of work. I would even go as far as saying it’s bordering on my favourite!

I loved the main character, Elliot. He’s a really decent bloke who enjoys his quiet, ordered life. He has a beautiful home which, after years of gruelling refurbishment, is exactly how he wants it. But there’s no escaping the fact that he’s lonely. A chance encounter one day leads him to meet Gemma. There’s no denying the chemistry that’s bubbling away between them. And when Gemma saves his life Elliot decides it’s time to be spontaneous and ask Gemma out. The couple become inseparable and in a second attempt to keep the spontaneity flowing, Elliot proposes to Gemma after a couple of months. Before long they’re married and life couldn’t be better. That is until one day when Gemma receives word from her parents that they’re leaving France and returning to the UK with nowhere to stay. Gemma asks her new husband if her parents can move in briefly whilst they look for somewhere new to live. Elliot instantly agrees, wanting to keep his new wife and in-laws happy. But he has no idea who he is welcoming into his home and the devastating secrets they’re hiding…

What a page-turner! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Edwards’ brilliant characters really leap off the page at the reader and oh my gosh, some of them made my blood boil. The frustration I felt at their behaviour and the empathy I felt for Elliot was palpable at times. I was completely in the story with Elliot and the Robinsons, living each and every moment with them. Watching Elliot attempt to regain control of the situation only for his plans to be dashed by the dastardly in-laws. If you’re looking for a book to get under your skin then you must grab a copy of Here To Stay and meet the Robinsons.

I spent a fair amount of time wondering where Edwards would take the story. The in-laws from hell made great reading but I couldn’t foresee how the story would end and every option I came up with was completely unsatisfying to me. But that’s why Mark Edwards is a bestselling author and I’m not! Oh, the ending of this book is GLORIOUS! It takes the kind of turn which I love in my fiction. It’s a great book but as you approach the end it becomes something SUPERB. I loved it.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all of Mark Edwards’ books but this one is something quite special. I did manage to guess one of the whodunnits along the way but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all because the author made me doubt myself often. Another great read from Mark Edwards which I recommend. I lived the rage, the frustration and the fear with Elliot and I loved it!

I chose to read and review an ARC of Here To Stay. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Here To Stay by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st September 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For (2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home(2015).

He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death(2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle (2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.

When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Black Summer by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #damppebbles #BlackSummer

black summer.jpg“After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.”

So weirdly, I don’t actually want to write this review.  I don’t want to write this review because once I do, that’s it.  My time with Black Summer has come to an end and I have to live with the fact that it’s going to be another year (I mean, c’mon!  A year??) before I can get my mitts on book 3 in the series, The Curator.  A whole YEAR without Tilly and Poe.

Anyway, I digress.  Black Summer is the second book in M.W. Craven’s Washington Poe series and it’s published in hardcover and eBook today.  Wishing the author and Constable, the publisher, a very happy publication day!  I received a free eARC of Black Summer but this has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Goodness.  I have been waiting some time (…a year, maybe?) for this second Washington Poe novel and it was absolutely outstanding!  I would even go as far as saying it’s better than the brilliant The Puppet Show, which is no mean feat!  I couldn’t put it down, nor did I want to.  Every spare moment, no matter how small, was dedicated to reading this utterly marvellous book.  I am addicted to Tilly and Poe.  You’d be crazy to not get yourself a copy of this book, which can be read as a standalone, but why would you buy just one when you can also immerse yourself in the superb The Puppet Show as well!

The first standout thing about Black Summer is that it’s set within the culinary world and features a notorious three-Michelin starred celebrity chef, Jared Keaton.  I could be completely wrong but this felt like a fresh, new approach to me.  Something a bit different from the norm, which I loved. Keaton was found guilty of murdering his 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth after Poe took the original investigation in a different direction.  With no body, very little evidence and a hastily washed away puddle of blood which was deemed ‘incompatible with life’ in the Bullace & Sloe kitchens, it came down to Poe’s testimony to put Keaton away for the murder.  But now Keaton’s ‘dead’ daughter has walked into Cumbria’s Alston library and sought out the local police officer.  With the evidence confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that the woman is Elizabeth and an irrefutable chain of evidence, it’s down to Poe to prove against all odds that his gut was right all those years ago. Jared Keaton is a psychopath.

I love, love, loved Black Summer!  Can’t fault it.  This is exactly the type of crime fiction I want to read; clever, addictive and completely memorable.  Something that sucks you in from start to finish and then leaves you in mourning because it’s over and you want more!  I savoured every single word of this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  So much so that it is destined to be part of my ‘top books of 2019’ list and certainly a strong contender for the top spot!

Tilly and Poe go from strength to strength and their relationship (in the platonic sense – thank goodness!) has moved on since The Puppet Show.  They’re getting comfortable in each others company and it shows.  Tilly is less socially awkward but still a bright shining star in these wonderful books.  Poe is still, well…Poe – which I’m very glad about!  There are lots of brilliantly funny moments in Black Summer which I relished.  Little unexpected comments here and there which really added to my enjoyment of the novel.  Personally, I couldn’t see how Tilly and Poe were going to dig themselves out of this one (and I’m not saying they do, by the way) but it helps to have an uber-intelligent geek at the helm, right?

Would I recommend this book? Ha! You have to ask? Absolutely.  This and The Puppet Show.  Both are absolutely brilliant pieces of crime fiction which readers of the genre cannot afford to miss!  Thrilling from start to finish, I am still suffering from a book hangover a couple of weeks after finishing this one.  Believe the hype, people.  It really is THAT good.  Impossible to put down, totally unmissable and head and shoulders above nearly everything else in the same genre.  Craven has created something incredibly special here and I cannot wait for more from Tilly and Poe.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Black Summer.  The above review is my own, very enthusiastic, unbiased opinion.

Black Summer by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable (Little, Brown) on 20th June 2019 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although Mike Craven was born in Cumbria in 1968, he grew up in the North East, going to the same school as Newcastle and England centre-forward, Alan Shearer, before running away to join the army. He believes, but has no proof, that his little sister moved into his bedroom before the train had even left the station. He trained for two years as an armourer (that’s gunsmith to you and I) before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and will be out on 11th June, published by Caffeine Nights. His collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything, is out now.

In March 2017 Mike signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown for his new Washington Poe series. The first book, The Puppet Show, was released under his new name, M .W. Craven, in June 2018.

In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He wanted to call him Gimli but was told to grow up. He lives in Carlisle where he tries to leave the house as little as possible and gets annoyed by people who say “it’s too cold to snow” and “watch that swan, its wings can break your arm”.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards (@mredwards) @AmazonPub @midaspr #InHerShadow

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“Isabel’s life seemed perfect. Successful business, beautiful house, adoring husband. And then she was dead.

For four years Jessica has never doubted that her sister Isabel’s death was an accident. But when Jessica’s young daughter seems to know long-forgotten details about her aunt’s past, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that there’s a more sinister truth behind the tragedy.

As Jessica unearths disturbing revelations about her sister, and about the people she loved and trusted most, it becomes clear Isabel’s life was less than perfect and that Jessica’s might also be at risk.

Did someone murder Isabel? Are they now after Jessica and her family? The key seems to lie in the hands of a child. Can Isabel reveal the truth from beyond the grave, or is the answer closer to home?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the In Her Shadow blog tour. In Her Shadow is the latest release from bestselling author, Mark Edwards, and is set to be published by Thomas & Mercer later this week on 4th October 2018.

When Mark Edwards publishes a book, I read it. It’s that simple really. He’s an author whose writing I am happy to return to again and again. To prove my point, here are my reviews of Mark’s previous books; Follow You Home, The Devil’s Work, The Lucky Ones and The Retreat. I’ve also read ‘The Magpies’ which started it all for me a few years back. All wonderful, immersive pieces of fiction and highly recommended.

Making a start on Mark Edwards’s latest book is a strangely nerve-wracking experience for me. I have loved everything I have read by this author so far. Will this be the first book to disappoint? Will I love it as much as the others? Well, the answer to those two questions is that it did NOT disappoint but I maybe didn’t love it as much as his previous releases. Let me explain. Once again, Edwards has penned a highly readable, family focussed psychological thriller. What he does best in my opinion. However, this book has an overarching paranormal element to it, and the inclusion of any kind of paranormal ‘activity’ in a novel tends to leave this reader feeling cold. But that’s me. Your feelings on the matter may be completely different to mine and that, I find, is one of the joys of reading, and books in general. Saying that, the paranormal elements to the story were extremely well done and at points I felt shivers run down my spine – particularly in the first half of the book. Little Olivia really did freak me out.

Edwards really knows how to write a fully formed, living, breathing character. I was drawn to Jessica and her deceased sister, Isabel. In fact, I would go as far as saying Isabel was my favourite character in the book. There are wonderful flashback sections throughout so what I’m saying isn’t completely crazy (read the blurb if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). I loved her feistiness, her boundless self-confidence and her ambition. Also her strong sense of right and wrong. Jessica very much pales in her sister’s shadow. Olivia was also a firm favourite, despite the fact she did send shivers down my spine at points. I couldn’t get over how authentic Edwards made her voice.

Would I recommend this book? I would but why recommend one when you can recommend them all! I felt there was a stronger lean towards the ‘women’s fiction’ genre in In Her Shadow which I have nothing against but it’s really NOT my thing. It’s also a little sexy which again, I could have done without. However, Mark Edwards is a supremely talented writer and if you haven’t read any of his books yet then we need to have serious words. A strong family driven thriller which I enjoyed. Recommended.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In Her Shadow. The above review is my own honest unbiased opinion.

In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 4th October 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For (2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home(2015).

He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death(2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle (2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.

When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#damppebblestakeover with S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) | #GuestPost: In Praise of Insecurity #TheProposal @bookouture

the proposal.jpg“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man. 

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello bookish friends.  I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah!  I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes.  Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina.  It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes.  The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina.  But things haven’t stopped there.  On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal.  I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later.  But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself.  Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…

The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?

Why don’t you write?

Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’

Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?

Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.

I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.

I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.

In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.

I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.

So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.

But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.

Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie.  Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note.  And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

My reviews of S.E. Lynes’s books: | Mother | The Pact | Valentina |

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |