#BlogTour | #Extract: Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill (@SophieJonasHill) @urbanebooks @LoveBooksGroup #BrokenPonies #CrookedLittleSisters

9781911583707“THE PREY WILL BECOME THE HUNTER

‘Are you scared of him, Rita? Scared he might find you?’
‘No. I’m scared because I want him to find me.’

Ex-soldier Red and the mysterious Rita have been thrown together by a series of deadly events, each relying on the other not simply to survive, but to challenge the hand fate has dealt them. 

Having survived a night under siege in a crumbling house in the steamy bayou, Red and Rita go on the run, desperate to evade
their unknown pursuers. Details of Red’s past and Rita’s childhood are gradually revealed but can they really trust each other?

But the hunters have not given up the chase, and Rita unknowingly becomes the bait in a trap set for Red in a terrifying, storm-damaged fairground….

The second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series, Broken Ponies will thrill fans of dark gothic thrillers and readers of John Connolly, Joe Hill and Holly Seddon.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Broken Ponies blog tour.  Broken Ponies is the second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series written by Sophie Jonas-Hill and was published on 27th September 2018 by Urbane Publications.  I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Nemesister, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I can’t wait to make a start on this latest instalment!

Today though, I have an extract from the book to share with you.

THE SAVANNAH HEIGHTS CASINO did its best. Above the two gaming levels, there were six floors of reasonably priced hotel rooms, which were reasonably clean and reasonably anonymous, a woefully under-used pool deck and a ‘skyline’ bar. This translated to a room that ran the whole length of the building, offering a panoramic sweep of the city, though the view was mostly the back of everything else, as if The Savannah Heights was a short kid come late to the school photograph.

At 3.30 a.m. above the background hum and trill of slots, the click of chips and the dull, subterranean thump of the generators, an angry noise began to rise from table four. I’d seen the guy playing there when I’d come onto the floor after my break and was pretty sure he’d been there long before that, though guys like him were pretty hard to distinguish from one another, or indeed the fixtures and fittings. This one had the same hard, chiseled expression as the faux, carved wooden Tiki heads dotted about the place, until of course he lost, which he just had – big time.

Like Mormons us security operatives are supposed to travel in pairs, but Olaf was still in the bathroom, which meant I alone was the sole representative of Savannah Heights law. With no time to wait for Olaf to wash up, I strode toward table four, nodding to its operative Barbara to let her know I’d seen what was happening.

‘You goddamn’ bitch–’ Tiki man, pot-bellied and crackling with anger, jabbed his finger at her face. ‘I said stick, and you goddamn went an’ hit me. What the hell you go and do a thing like that for? You deaf, well as stupid?’

Somewhere off to his right one of the slots chose that moment to pay out and play the opening chords of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. It didn’t improve anyone’s mood.

‘Sir –’ I began, ‘Sir, is there a problem?’

Tiki man struck the table top, sending cards, chips, beer an’ all skittering to the floor as Barbara, trapped in the table’s central well, arms jammed across her chest, let out a yelp of protest.

‘You heard that then, you stupid bitch!’

The lucky few still awake at this hour turned to get a good look, necks craning out of plaid shirts and sports collars.

‘Sir!’ I tried again. My hand on his shoulder, I was dimly aware of Olaf hurrying through the archipelago of tables while doing up his flies. Then Tiki man swung round to face me. He was wearing a blue shirt crowded with images of pigs dressed in grass skirts and flower garlands – really, I thought, hula pigs? Now, did you buy that, or was it a gift? I mean, seriously, did you actually look at that and think – hey, now that’s the one for me?

‘Sir, you’re gonna have to calm down here …’

One of our boss Jose’s theories was that you need women on staff because men are more reluctant to hit them. As Tiki man threw a punch at me, I made a mental note to question this at our next team meeting.

‘Oh no you didn’t,’ I heard myself say. His blow connected with my left arm; I deflected it but was hit instead by a waft of aftershave and stale sweat. Tiki man didn’t get the hint. Backed into a chair he rounded on me quicker than I’d expected. He didn’t swear either; most start calling you names and threatening legal action, proving they’re more bark than bite. Tiki man said nothing, just went for me, hard and mean.

Time snagged on the bright lights and chatter of voices. The world stuttered to a halt, that god-awful shirt traced blue and pink on the back of my eyes, spreading out like an ink blot. I saw things both as if I were him and as if I watched him; Tiki man, still angry, still in that shirt, but in another place, his knuckles bloodied and broken, standing over someone else, someone smaller, someone weaker – someone Tiki man thought don’t got no right to sass mouth him that way. I was somewhere else for a moment, looking through Tikki Man’s haunted, piggy eyes.

Oh no, I thought, oh no you didn’t!

‘Oh yes he did,’ Margarita said.

Reality snapped back fast enough to flinch me away from Tiki man’s fist. I caught his punch with both hands letting the force of his blow carry him off balance. He was face down on the table before he’d time to catch his breath, arm all twisted up behind his back. That should have been it; I should have been calling him ‘Sir’ and warning him that the authorities had been called, only the hot-black, heartbeat moment twisted inside me and wouldn’t let him go.

There was the dull thud of impact, then the ricochet as its force crunched back through me. I lost Tiki man and the casino and everything as memory swelled up, molasses dark and rich, bringing the taste of river water, blood and the itch of fire. When Olaf ’s arms closed around me, it took everything I had not to slam my fist into his face.

‘Rita!’ he yelled from the edge of the void. ‘Rita, what the fuck?’ I made myself go limp, gasping for air as if I were breaking the surface again. Around me the casino hissed with exclamations, all those yellow white faces tutting and sniggering at the show. Barbara was jabbering that Tiki man ‘…deserved everything he got comin’ to him. Hell, I’d have slapped him myself, if I hadn’t been stuck inside this goddamn doughnut!’

‘Rita?’ Olaf, hands on my shoulders, steered me away as two other security guys darted in behind us, one to pick up Tiki man, now mewling like a stuck kitten, and one to try and calm Barbara.

‘It’s always me what gets shit like this, all the goddamn time. Hell, only the other week some bitch sprayed me with her Christian Dior. I hate that crap too, had to get my wig dry cleaned and who’s gonna pay for that?’

‘Rita?’ I slid my gaze back to Olaf. Margarita jubilant, her smile on my lips. I pulled from his grasp. ‘What the hell was that?’ he demanded, but I was already walking away.

I strode into the locker room and kicked door number seven. The boom it made did nothing to stop the roar echoing around my head. I threw myself down onto the bench and jammed my head into my hands.

‘Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it,’ Margarita said. ‘You were lovin’ it, just the same as me.’

‘Shut up,’ I told her. ‘You’re gonna get us both fired.’

‘Oh hush now,’ she laughed. ‘You think they’d can your ass over a piece of shit like that? I know what he did, I could smell it on him and so could you.’

‘No I couldn’t,’ I said, but I was lying.

‘Oh really?’ she said. ‘You keep on tellin’ yourself that.’

‘Rita?’ It was Jose, who really didn’t seem to have a home to go to. I glanced sideways at him and saw he’d crossed his arms across his chest in the same way Barbara had at Tiki man. Which probably meant he wanted to give me a goddamn slap as well.

‘Aren’t you supposed to provide single sex locker rooms?’ I said.

‘What the fuck?’ he replied, his forehead creased in furious lines.

‘I know,’ I said, sitting back, hands held out in front of me. ‘I crossed the line.’

‘Crossed it?’ Jose’s eyebrows pitched a tent. ‘You gone an’ pissed all over the fuckin’ line, that’s what you done.’

‘He went for me,’ I said. ‘Check the tape.’ I got up and opened my locker, already knowing my shift was over.

‘Tape?’ Jose sniffed. ‘What tape would that be?’ Half way through yanking my rucksack out I stopped to look at him. He shrugged. ‘We don’t got no camera covering that table tonight, and you don’t know any different.’ He pointed at me. ‘Never again, you understand? Whatever shit you got going on here–’ he tapped the side of his head, ‘don’t bring it to work, alright?’

‘He means me,’ Margarita sniggered.

‘You want this job, you don’t want this job, all the same to me,’ he said. I got my bag free and pulled off my uniform jacket to hang in its place. ‘But you don’t go making work for me. That piece of shit you put down’s not gonna make no trouble, but the next time?’

‘There won’t be one,’ I lied.

‘Smart,’ he said, flicking his hand toward my locker. ‘You’re done. Go home, don’t come in tomorrow–’ he raised his finger before I could protest. ‘Don’t come in tomorrow, don’t come in till Thursday. Go sleep, go get fucked, whatever, but don’t bring your shit again. Jesus, what? You get your hair done and it rots your brain or something?’

‘I thought you liked me blonde,’ I said and yanked my sweat top free of my bag. He watched me pull it on, the hand that had been pointing at me now gripping the back of his neck, where the hair was longer and bushier than it had any right to be.

‘Where the hell you learn shit like that anyway?’ he asked. I shouldered my bag.

‘I was home schooled,’ I said.

I can’t wait to get reacquainted with Rita and Red once again.  Look out for a review coming to the blog soon.

Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 27th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook 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 | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

Sophie-Jonas-HillBW-200x300

I’ve always written and told stories, for as long as I can remember. My first self published work at the age of seven, fully illustrated in felt pen and crayon. I continued with a series of insightful ‘When I grow up I want to be an author’, essays, and an attempt at a ‘Bonk-buster’ series of supernatural thrillers written from a position of utter ignorance on all topics, until I was distracted by Art college. A never ending, or never finished, fantasy epic kept me going through my twenties, but it was motherhood in my thirties which concentrated my mind enough to actually finish a novel. It’s amazing what a bit of life experience and the sudden curtailing of your free time can do to concentrate the mind.

After that I began giving myself permission to take my writing seriously enough to spend time on it and actually listen to critiques. The writing festival in York proved invaluable, and time and disappointment got me to the point of producing something readable, which I was lucky enough to have read by Urbane publications.

If you make or write anything, the number one question you get asked is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ In answer to that question, it’s an easy process which combines working on your craft every hour you can for as long as possible – hard graft – reading as much as you can of everyone else’s work – stealing – and inspiration, which is just one of those things that just happens. The inspiration for ‘Nemesister’ comes from a dark episode of family history, and a moment from a dream; an image of a man standing in the doorway of what I knew was an abandoned shack, which was gone as soon as it came and yet lingered, the way some dreams do.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Links:Twitter | Website | Blog |

 

Fade To Dead by Tara Moore

51fLCDE9GpL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_“A serial killer, The Director, is on the loose in South London. He’s snatching young women off the street to ‘act’ in his movies. He’s got a type: barely legal, blonde and beautiful.

Newly promoted DI Jessica Wideacre is tasked with heading up the investigation. But with few clues to go on and a rising body count, Jessica begins to fear she isn’t up to the job. Her boss is breathing down her neck. Her marriage is in jeopardy and the pressure is driving her to drink.

Meanwhile, The Director has another victim in his sights. He’s rolled out the red carpet, he s got a killer script, and now he s got his star. It’s a dream role, but not for her.”

When I first read the synopsis of this book I was hooked.  Simple as that.  I had to read it, there were no other options. And I’m so glad I did as this is a totally absorbing serial killer thriller with shed loads of punch.  It’s my kind of book.

Thanks to a killer who calls himself ‘The Director’ the body count in South London is on the rise.  Young girls with a very specific look are being targeted, only to meet a horrific death at the hands of a deranged killer.  Ballsy, newly promoted DI, Jessica Wideacre, is in charge but the clues are few and far between and progress is slow.  The situation is not helped by her DCI keeping a very close eye on her progress and thinking her not up to the job (a man would be much more suited). But Jessica has her own problems; her marriage is on the rocks and her family are THE family from hell!  Can Wideacre and her team piece together the flimsy evidence and stop The Director before the end credits roll on his leading lady..?  (Sorry, cheesy pun. I couldn’t help myself!).

DI Wideacre is a mess.  She’s aggressive, she’s unpopular  and the way she treats her team puts her on the cusp of a disciplinary hearing.  But she’s also driven and determined to get results.  If that makes her even more unpopular then so be it, she doesn’t give a rat’s bottom!  Wideacre is the type of character that I normally adore but for some (still unknown) reason, I didn’t really warm to her.  Saying that, I didn’t dislike her.  It’s just that there were other characters in the book I liked more than our heroine.

Having pondered on this conundrum it for a few minutes, I have come to the conclusion that I liked Wideacre more towards the end of the book when her relationship with arch nemesis and superior officer, DCI Beckwith, started to mellow.  I think throughout the book I was more a part of #TeamBeckwith than #TeamWideacre.

The investigation is slow and the body count is high.  There are lots of red herrings along the way to keep you guessing and I didn’t see the twist coming (that always gets extra points from me).

I enjoyed Tara Moore’s style of writing. The plot progressed well and at a enjoyable pace. Would I recommend this book?  Heck yes.  Even though my relationship with DI Wideacre has started off a little on the tentative side, I hope to read more about Jessica and team in the future.  This is a brilliant start to a great new series.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to Matthew at Urbane Publications for providing me with a copy of Fade To Dead in exchange for an honest review.

Fade To Dead by Tara Moore was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 11th May in eBook format and 19th May in paperback format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

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Born into a military family in Co. Kildare, Ireland, Tara spent much of her childhood moving around the country, as well as spending a period in the Middle East. During that time, she lived in Damascus and Jerusalem, where the family had a house on the Mount of Olives. For a short while she attended school there, learning rudimentary Arabic. After that, the family moved to Israel, where she attended a convent run by French nuns. At the commencement of the Six Day War, they returned to Ireland and settled in Dublin. She is one of six children. In 1985 she left Dublin for the brighter lights of London and within a year met and married her first husband, a fiery Spanish Moroccan. The marriage produced two sons, but ended in 1999. She relocated to the pretty harbour town of Ramsgate on the East Kent coast in 2005 and, within months, met her second husband, Dr David Moore. They married in Sorrento on 2008.

Although previously published under the pseudonyms Tara Manning and Emily Sage, she did not commence writing full time until 2010, working ‘for her sins’ in a series boring but stable jobs, including insurance, banking, accountancy and law.  Connect with Tara on Twitter via @TaraMoore2.