Monthly Archives: May 2017

Author Influences With Paul Harrison

I’m delighted to be joined by Paul Harrison, author of Revenge of the Malakim – Volume 1 of The Grooming Parlour Trilogy, today to talk about the books and authors that have had an influence on him.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I was an avid Famous Five reader. Enid Blyton could write an awesome tale. I also liked to read about real life mysteries, those I mainly read about in American comics.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was a bit of a rebel at school. I held the record for the cane, mainly for not listening and being cheeky. However, there were two subjects I excelled in, History and English. I loved both subjects, and still do I guess.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
Being an ex-copper, I used to read a lot of true crime. I was influenced by Jonathan Goodman, an excellent writer of the genre. My first books and most of the thirty plus I’ve written are true crime. My police career and those books helped me to write my first crime fiction novel Revenge of the Malakim.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Much of my life has been spent within the criminal justice system, (the lawful end I hasten to add), so I know it inside out. I like to research and write mysteries, and once wrote a book about the Loch Ness Monster, which was great fun.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Yes, the late Jonathan Goodman became my writing mentor. I read one of his books and was so impressed, I wrote to him. He replied, and our friendship was formed. Jon was able to articulate any situation perfectly and make it a compelling read.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Mark Billingham, I really enjoy his books, and he’s a decent bloke as well.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Jonathan Goodman – The Burning of Evelyn Foster. I found it difficult to put down. He painted a picture with words.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Some of the events detailed in Revenge of the Malakim (Williams & Whiting) are loosely based about real life incidents within my police career. I am perhaps fortunate, that I’ve interviewed dozens of serial killers. As daft as it sounds, the interviews become boring after a time, the killers all say similar things. So I decided to create my own serial killers, based on those interviews and character/personality traits.

 

Paul’s debut crime novel Revenge of the Malakim is out now, published by Williams & Whiting. Here is the synopsis:

It’s high summer and the streets of Bridlington East Yorkshire are awash with tourists. A serial killer is on the loose. DCI Will Scott and his team embark upon a fast paced investigation to catch a killer with a unique agenda. As the body count rises the killer randomly moves location and the police are unwittingly drawn into a dark and sinister world where cover-ups and corruption reigns. A place where no one can truly be trusted and nothing is ever what it seems.

Purchase a copy from Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Find out more about Paul on the Williams & Whiting website.

A huge thank you Paul for taking part!

 

Review – You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

The Blurb

An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.
He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.
There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:
Did he do it?

My Thoughts

I like a good legal drama/thriller so You Don’t Know Me was always going to be a book I just had to read, and I was very intrigued by the premise of the reader being a member of the jury. On trial for murder, the unknown defendant sacks his barrister just before the closing speeches and closes the trial himself. His reason for doing this … his barrister had told him to omit the truth.

I loved the unique way You Don’t Know Me is narrated. Mahmood uses the second person throughout so you really get the sense of being a member of the jury as the main character addresses you throughout. Not an easy style to pull off but Mahmood manages it with ease. As the defendant describes his life on the periphery of gang culture, his voice comes across as authentic and genuine with the use of gang slang words. It is clear that Mahmood has undertaken a lot of research in order to make You Don’t Know Me believable.

We do not find out the name or age of the defendant and omitting these details from the book is something I really liked. It makes the narrator enigmatic and intriguing, allowing your imagination to rule, and your ideas and feelings towards them constantly change as the story is unveiled. It also serves to ensure you are guided completely by the story that the narrator is telling and not caught up in any assumptions about the narrator that may occur if these details and descriptions were made available. You are completely reliant on the points of evidence the prosecution team have put forward and the defendant’s explanation for them. Of course, it also fits in perfectly with the title.

Mahmood’s experience as a barrister shines through the pages and many questions are raised in respect of our current justice system. While the jury system represents a fair trial by your peers, can this ever truly be the case? As the narrator describes a life that I am aware of via the media but have no direct experience of, can a jury ever be truly representative of your peers? It therefore begs the question as to whether or not this is really a fair system. The manipulation of evidence by the prosecution and defence is also apparent throughout this book. The defendant fired his barrister as he wanted him to omit parts of the truth and yet we are told to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You Don’t Know Me also raises moral questions in relation to whether murder can ever be justified or understood. Mahmood has written a thought-provoking book as well as a great thriller.

As the defendant’s story progresses you are pulled wholeheartedly into the tale and what the defendant states is the truth about the murder. As all the pieces finally appear to fall into place I was shocked and stunned by the eventual conclusion. But can we believe what we have been told?

You Don’t Know Me is a great debut. Mahmood has written a thought-provoking page-turner that is unique, intriguing, believable and compelling. Guilty or innocent? What will your verdict be?

Published on 4 May 2017 by Michael Joseph.

A huge thank you to Imran Mahmood, Michael Joseph and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

Blog Tour – I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland *Review*

I’m delighted to be today’s host on the blog tour for Barbara Bourland’s debut novel I’ll Eat When I’m Dead.

The Blurb

RAGE Fashion Book is the world’s most dynamic, ambitious magazine.
Its editors ­- like Cat Ono – have the power to change minds and the market.
They’re savvy, sisterly and polished to perfection. Even the one found dead in her office.
Everyone thinks Hillary starved to death – but Cat knows her friend’s dieting wasn’t a capital P problem. If beauty kills, it’d take more than that. Hot-headed and fiercely feminist, Cat’s sure she can match the investigating skills of Detective Mark Hutton, solve the case, and achieve sartorial fulfillment.
But going undercover, Cat’s in over her head, and soon becomes snared in a very stylish web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that will change her look – and outlook – forever.
Cat’s about to find out what it really means to be a fashion victim.

My Thoughts

Beauty can be deadly … quite literally in Hillary Whitney’s case. When the editor is found dead in one of the work rooms at Rage Fashion Book, the magazine she works for, a heart attack caused by near starvation is found to be the cause. However, friend and colleague Cat Ono suspects otherwise.

I have mixed feelings about this book, as somebody who doesn’t read magazines and has no interest in fashion and beauty, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead wasn’t an obvious choice of book for me. I was drawn in by the promise of biting humour and the investigation of a death. I did find some of the book amusing with its sardonic look at the fashion and publishing industry but I would have preferred more emphasis on the suspicious death of Hillary.

Cat Ono, the main character, is well constructed and likeable. A feminist at heart, she dislikes the way in which women are used as commodities but sadly finds herself pulled into this position. I loved the tongue-in-cheek humour with the names given to Rage’s photo shoots making me giggle. I’ll Eat When I’m Dead’s underlying theme is that of the murky side of the fashion industry and consumerism and Bourland highlights the impact of globalisation and how we, women particularly, are perceived to be worthy by the products they own, the clothes they wear and the way they look. The issues of bulimia are raised along with cocaine use and fad diets, all issues you would expect to see within the world of fashion.

Bourland has cleverly created a sardonic look at the world of fashion, however I would have liked more focus on the death of Hillary. While she captures the world of fashion and the pressures of working within a magazine environment really well, I did struggle to get into I’ll Eat When I’m Dead. I don’t think this is a reflection on the book or Bourland’s writing, but more about me and my tastes.

If you are interested in fashion and enjoy sardonic humour then give I’ll Eat When I’m Dead a read. The novel has a lot to say about some pertinent issues which I liked and parts of it made me laugh, however I was expecting more about the death and the investigation and the focus being on the fashion industry, sadly, meant it didn’t hold my attention.

Published on 18 May 2017 by Riverrun.

A huge thank you to Barbara Bourland and Alainna at Quercus for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Catch the rest of the tour…

 

Author Influences with Maureen Carter

I’m delighted to be joined by crime writer and creator of the DS Bev Morriss and DI Sarah Quinn series Maureen Carter. Here she tells us about her favourite books and authors.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Like many children, I suspect, I cut my reading teeth on Enid Blyton’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of stories. Such magical worlds and wonderful characters. For me, the Famous Five had the edge on the Secret Seven, but it was a close call. I moved on to Richmal Crompton’s William stories. I so wanted to be in his gang. Then I discovered Agatha Christie’s novels – and was utterly smitten. I don’t think I ever guess ‘whodunit’ and I still feel The Murder of Ackroyd is one of the most fiendishly clever plots ever conceived.

(As an aside, many years later I bought tickets to see The Mousetrap in the West End. Just before the big day, a friend told me the butler did it. I was furious until I found out the play has no butler in it!)

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was, and I loved the subject. I had an enormous advantage in that my father – who sadly died when I was eight years old – taught me to read before I started school. The head-teacher was so impressed that on my first day, she led me by the hand to every class and I had to stand at the front and read out loud to everyone. Fortunately, I was too young to be embarrassed or to realise this might not make me the most popular girl in the school!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read voraciously. If I’m not writing, I’ll almost certainly have my head in another author’s book. I read everything from the classics to contemporary fiction; non-fiction, biographies. Not surprisingly my favourite genre is crime fiction. I love reading it but as I also write crime novels, I think it’s important to keep on top of trends and know what and who is out there.

If you were to write in a different genre what would it be and why?
I’d probably write a biography, or even compile a series of interviews with crime writers and write profiles of some of the top practitioners in the genre. It’s certainly the kind of book I’d like to read and as both crime author and former journalist I’d rather like to write it, too.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Ruth Rendell. A Judgement in Stone. The first sentence reads: Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
In thirteen words, the perpetrator, the crime and the victims are revealed yet I found the compulsion to read on utterly irresistible. The writing’s wonderfully under-stated, the pages packed with tension and suspense – it’s a master-class in story-telling.

I’d always wanted to be a writer but after reading this book, I knew for the first time that I wanted to write crime.

Are there authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
How long have you got? Seriously, the authors whose new books I really have to get hold of include: Belinda Bauer, Tana French, Denise Mina, Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin, David Mark and Harry Bingham. I also love every novel written by Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill.

Which books have you read that made you think, ‘Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
A Judgement in Stone is definitely a book I wish I’d written and another is Mallory’s Oracle by Carol O’Connell. I read it in proof copy more than twenty years ago and fell in love with the sharp writing and edgy characters. Mallory was – is – a New York detective but I’d never come across a fictional female cop like her. Sassy, kick-ass and feisty Mallory was a maverick who shot from the lip and didn’t give a damn who she crossed. Similar characters are two-a-euro now, but back then O’Connell’s creation stood out strongly in the fictional cop crowd.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people?
Yes, several. I worked as a journalist and producer in BBC TV news and producer for many years and a number of my books are influenced by crime stories I covered and people I interviewed. Increasingly, I found I wanted to explore some issues further and switched to crime fiction to enable me to do that.
Working Girls, my first novel published in 2004, stemmed from what was then a pilot scheme by West Midlands police that treated young prostitutes as victims not criminals. My research involved going out on the streets with vice squad officers and talking to young sex workers.
My characters – I hasten to add – are an imaginative meld of people I meet and those I make up!

Maureen Carter is the author of the Sarah Quinn Mysteries and the Bev Morriss Mysteries. Her latest novels Next Of Kin: A British Police Procedural and book 5 in the Sarah Quinn Mysteries and book 9 in the Bev Morriss Mysteries Death Wish are out now!

About Maureen Carter

Maureen Carter is the creator of two crime series set in Birmingham where she lives. Before writing fiction, she worked for BBC TV news holding various roles as reporter, producer, presenter and editor. Her novels feature the sort of stories that get big news coverage and reflect the impact journalists can have on high-profile police investigations. When not writing she’s probably reading or catching-up with frieds. She loves cats, coffee, crosswords and Cornwall.
Find out more at: www.maureencarter.co.uk
She blogs at: https://macarterblog.wordpress.com/
Is on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/maureen.carter.50
And follow her on Twitter at: @getcarter4

Thank you Maureen for taking part!

 

Blog Tour – Reconciliation For The Dead by Paul E. Hardisty

I am delighted to be one of today’s blogs hosting on the Reconciliation For The Dead blog tour with Lorraine at The Book Review Cafe. Let me tell you this was not an easy review to write and it is an incredibly hard-hitting book but I am so glad I have read it!

The Blurb

Sequel to the critically acclaimed The Abrupt Physics of Dying and The Evolution of Fear.

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

My Thoughts

‘…this neighbourhood so like the one he grew up in, the presumption of superiority as much a part of the place as the large, fenced gardens and the pools and the little backyard shacks for the black help.’

How on earth do you even begin to review a book like Hardisty’s Reconciliation For The Dead? It is a nerve-jangling thriller that is intelligently written with political acuity but it is a difficult read due to its subject matter. It is intensely emotional and hard-hitting. I have always had a mild interest in South Africa as my grandmother was from Cape Town and my mum lived in Rhodesia for a short time as a child. Africa has always struck me as a beautiful country that has sadly been used and raped for it’s resources. Reconciliation For The Dead sadly confirmed my view and made me aware of atrocities I had no idea had happened … and happened so recently.

It has taken me some time to gather my thoughts after finishing this book, so much was its affect on me. So how to start? Reconciliation For The Dead crosses two timelines. We follow Claymore Straker during his time as a young soldier in South Africa in 1981, and in 1996 as a witness in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His time as a witness is told via the transcripts which punctuates throughout the story and it is perfectly constructed. I was completely transported to Africa as Hardisty superbly creates the sense of place. From the descriptions of the landscape to the Africaans colloquialisms, Hardisty ensures that you are fully immersed in the surroundings and, therefore, the novel. And this is not the only thing that stands out about his writing, which I will come on to later.

Claymore Straker is a fantastic protagonist. He is tough and gutsy, yet intelligent and able to consider what is going on around him with an open mind. I really felt for him and the positions he found himself in. This is the third book in the Claymore Straker series but it works incredibly well as a standalone, which is how I read it. If you read this as your first in the series I have no doubt that, like me, you will be buying the first two.

Reconciliation For The Dead is more than a thriller … so much more. Hardisty draws on historical facts and writes about them in such a way that the book becomes all engrossing … you cannot get it out of your head and it consumes you. It is clear that Hardisty has carefully researched his subject matter and every page brims with authenticity. As I said, this is more than a thriller, it is a devastating reminder of the potential barbarity of human beings. Unflinchingly raw in its depictions of genocide, Hardisty captures the brutality and horror of war and the indelible mark it leaves on those who partake in it. This is one of the things that makes Straker such a brilliant and, ultimately, real character.

Nothing is left out of Reconciliation For The Dead, from the propaganda used by those in their ivory towers to get others to do their bidding, to the motivations behind war (which is sadly far removed from the sense of keeping people safe as in WW2), and the prejudices which sadly still come down to something as rudimentary as the colour of your skin. Throughout Hardisty writes with emotional acuity and his use of language is beautiful despite the subject matter. It has its moments where it is philosophical in tone and it will make you question everything you ever thought or felt about humanity. Yes, it is bleak and distressing, but Hardisty later reminds us that there is still goodness out there and those who are being treated badly continue to have a great capacity for empathy, concern and care.

Although it is undoubtedly gripping, I had to take regular breaks from the book due to the emotional impact it had on me. This is a book to be read slowly in order to be able to gather your thoughts during various points and, quite frankly, pull yourself together again.

Shocking, raw, and devastating; much like Schindler’s List is a film that must be watched, Reconciliation For The Dead is a book that MUST be read to serve as a reminder that, at the end of the day, we are all made the same.

Published on eBook on 22 March 2017 and paperback on 30 May 2017 by Orenda Books.

I am still recovering from this book! A huge thank you to Paul E. Hardisty, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my copy of Reconciliation For The Dead and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the tour…

 

 

Author Guest Post – What Inspired Me To Write ‘Before You Were Mine’ by Em Muslin

Today I am joined by debut author Em Muslin, who has written a wonderful guest post on what inspired her to write her novel, Before You Were Mine. I’m always interested in where authors get their inspiration from and Em has written a wonderful piece. Enjoy!

What Inspired Me To Write Before You Were Mine

Before You Were Mine, my debut novel partly came from a documentary I watched many years ago. It followed a group of people, whether they were mothers searching for their child they had given up for adoption, or children who were given up for adoption, looking for their mothers. It was a painful journey, as not only did you discover the stories behind the women who were placed in a position where they were either forced to give up their baby for adoption, or they felt it would be best for the child, but also it followed some families reuniting for the first-time. The fantasy they had carried in their head for so many years didn’t always live up to the reality. Similarly, Before You Were Mine touches on some of the key human emotions explored in the programme; love, regret, grief and hope.

I could only imagine how it felt for the mothers to give up the baby and the moment when they realise the child is no longer considered theirs. I wanted to explore the concept of absolute pure love, and the grief that follows once a mother and child are separated. Eli, my main character is placed in a position where she is forced to give up her baby for adoption and the book follows her as she tries to come to terms with the fact she may never meet her own daughter. She uses the grief that consumes her to drive her forward. She is determined, no matter what, to one day be reunited with her.

There is a Hebrew word Mizpah that can be interpreted as an emotional bond between people who are separated, either physically by distance or by death – and I think that is the underlying theme of the book. No matter what, the emotional union between Eli and her daughter will always be there. It is what drives her to search for her despite how many knock-backs life throws at her.

As anyone who has suffered grief, deep relentless grief – it is the closest one gets to crazy. It is a fine line that you have every chance of tripping over. Eli tip-toes along that line each day. There is a quote in the book from C.S Lewis (A Grief Observed), which talks about how the ‘same leg is cut off time after time’. Every instant Eli is knocked back, the raw primitive sorrow of losing her child comes back to haunt her. Inside she is screaming. The need, the absolute visceral need to grasp something that somehow seems unfeasible; the possible loss of her daughter forever – someone she feels such profound love for – is simply impossible for her to comprehend.

On the flip side, Eli also demonstrates unrelenting hope. Hope that one day they will finally be reunited. This optimism is what drives us all forward, no matter our goals and it is the key emotion that keeps Eli upright. Although, readers may find the book emotionally challenging at times, it does offer hope. As Eli says ‘Without hope, what have you got?’

She is a character that despite the adversities she has faced demonstrates great strength, grace and drive. She is loved greatly by her husband Tommy, who unbeknownst to her has profound regrets of his own. He battles with his part in her story and he too has hope that Eli and her daughter will one day be reunited.

I dug into my own experience of grief to unearth a little of Eli’s psyche, to see what drove her. The book idea was born before my own encounter with deep personal grief, but it certainly grew up afterwards.

It began as a short story called Regret;

‘Once you’ve done something, ticked the box, nodded your head, raised your hand, picked something up, it’s impossible to turn back the clock. Sure you can lower your hand, cross out the mark you had made, put something down, but forever the smudged mark would remain, your prints all over the moment. If only you had had more time to think, less time to regret. Regret. Regret. Even saying the word makes you shake your head and look down to your scuffed shoes in pity, sorrow resting in the creases on your brow, like crows on the roof ready to swoop.’ (Excerpt Before You Were Mine)

I wanted to explore that feeling of how when an event changes a life forever, we are soon full of regret. That life in retrospect is much clearer. If we knew then, what we now know, how different our lives would or could be.

The book is set in a hot dusty town. Her life at times can seem suffocating and I wanted very much to the use the climate of the setting to layer the book. Eli talks and dreams of snow. It is the opposite of her reality.

‘Often I’d lie awake in the dead of night, whilst he lay sleeping next to me, and I would think of you. I would think of you and me. I’d imagine us feeling snowflakes against our skin. The cold tiptoe of a snowflake on our rosy cheeks. Tiptoeing, tap dancing on our skin. Melting. No one else would be around and only our footprints could be seen in the snow. I’d place my footprints in yours and yours in mine, and we’d become one. I would press my cheek against yours and I’d hold you, and this time, in the dead of night, this time, I promise I would never let you go.’ (Excerpt Before You Were Mine)
The fantasy she constructs is so far removed from her actual life. It is a place she escapes to, where she feels closest to her daughter.

Readers of course will have to read the book to discover whether or not she is finally reunited with her child. However, I hope as they travel along the journey with Eli, they too feel that anything, no matter how impossible it seems, can be with determination and strength, attainable.

A huge thank you to Em for the gorgeous guest post. Before You Were Mine is published on 26 May 2017 by HQ Digital.

 

Here is the all-important blurb:

Sometimes hope has a way of changing everything…
Just hours after giving birth, Eli Bell is forced to give up her newborn baby daughter for adoption. Devastated, she tries desperately to rebuild her shattered life.
Then, over thirty years later, Eli catches sight of her daughter. And she knows that she must do everything to find a way back into her life. Even if it means lying…
While her husband Tommy must grow to accept his own part in the events of her early life, he can only try to save her before her obsession with the young woman ruins them both.
Don’t miss the breathtaking debut Before You Were Mine by Em Muslin! Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Alice Peterson and Lucy Dillon.

You can pre-order you copy HERE.

 

ONE YEAR OLD TODAY!!!!!

This time last year my very first blog post went out to the world! It was my review of Play Dead by Angela Marsons (you can read it here if you want while I cringe at the thought of one of my very early reviews) and if I’m honest I didn’t know what to expect from setting up my blog. I’m not particularly tech savvy and I was clueless about Twitter (I still am and tend to wing it!). I thought it would while away some hours but that nobody would ever actually look at it.

The blog came about following a difficult period in my life. After years of weird and wonderful symptoms, blood test after blood test, numerous visits to less than helpful neurologists, I was finally diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, a name I hate as this illness goes way beyond being tired!). With years of not knowing what was wrong with me and, therefore, not knowing how to deal with it, my illness got steadily worse culminating in seizures and periodic loss of vision. Following diagnosis, my employers of 12 years dismissed me on medical grounds. My whole life had turned upside down, I had lost my health, my way of life, my identity and with it my confidence.

The last thing I want is any kind of pity party or sympathy but I suddenly realised I had set the blog up in May which is ME Awareness Month. This now, with hindsight, seems a bit of a weird coincidence as the blog has been such a positive thing for me and would, in all honesty, not have come about if I didn’t have ME. It was really born out of me wanting to find something I could get into as the things I previously enjoyed doing had become pretty much impossible. I guess that’s why I’m telling you this stuff.

I have been astounded by the friendliness, generosity and support offered by fellow book bloggers, authors and publishers. A huge thank you for the support, sharing of posts and advice over the past year. You guys really do rock! Without this turning into something resembling an Oscars’ acceptance speech I want to give a huge thank you to Noelle at crimebookjunkie, Joseph at Relax and Read Reviews, Emma at damppebbles, Lorraine at The Book Review Café, Mairead at Swirl and Thread and last, but most certainly not least, my blogging buddy Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews. You have all been such a support, sharing my reviews, offering advice and being an ear at times. It really is appreciated. There are so many others I want to thank and feel bad for missing out so many wonderful people but I want you all to know how much you are appreciated.

I guess when I started Bloomin’ Brilliant Books my hope was that at least one person may read one of my reviews and go on to read and enjoy that book. It has gone beyond my expectations! I never thought for one minute that part of my reviews would be used in actual physical books, and I still feel as thrilled when it happens as I did the first time. I also found out on Thursday that I have been nominated for Best Newcomer in the Blogger’s Bash Awards! I am still shocked and I’m honoured to be included in a list of really great bloggers. A huge thank you to anyone who nominated me. What really means the most, however, is when I am told that people have read a book based on my review and really enjoyed them.

So the future for Bloomin’ Brilliant Books? I hope at some point this year to have a month solely dedicated to indie authors and publishers but I haven’t yet got this fully organised in my thoughts. And basically to continue to share my love of books.

 

I also have some news I haven’t told anyone (I’m quite shy… until you get to know me!). The reviewing has slowed down a little, and the number of blog tours I take part in has reduced as I’m currently training to be a proofreader with the help of the wonderful Karen Sullivan and West Camel of Orenda Books…and I LOVE it! Karen has given me the opportunity to help out with some proofreading which has allowed me to see how it works in practice, ascertain if it is something I could do properly in the future and fit around managing my illness. I am incredibly grateful for the chances that Karen has given me to try it out ‘for real’ and I can’t possibly thank her enough! I’m not sure I could ever express just how much this has meant to me. It’s steady steps and hopefully something that will come firmly to fruition in the future.  A huge thank you to West too for his guidance and feedback, if I ever become half as good as he is I will be a happy bunny. I know it can be a bit of a pain when you are busy and you have a novice’s stuff to look over, so I want to let you know how much I appreciate this. I am super proud to be part of the amazing Orenda family.

 

I guess what this post shows is that when one door closes another one opens, and the seemingly negative aspects in your life can suddenly turn into something beyond your wildest dreams. I could probably run off a whole load of other clichés at this point, but it’s not really me so I won’t!

I hope you will join me in my second year of blogging. As a thank you for the support over the past year I have a one hell of a giveaway…

One lucky person could win a copy of A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone (it has been read by me

 but is in great nick), Sealskin by Su Bristow, Exquisite by Sarah Stovell, Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson and … wait for it … A SIGNED HARDBACK COPY OF RUPTURE BY RAGNAR JONASSON!!!!!

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour – Murder at Mystery Bay Hotel by Marcia Spillers *Guest Post*

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Marcia Spillars’ Murder at Mystery Bay Hotel with a brilliant guest post by Marcia on Five Pieces Of Useful Advice For New Writers, but first a little bit about the book…

Genre: Cozy/Amateur Sleuth Mystery
Series: Mystery Bay Series #1
Release Date: January 18, 2017

Can Delphie Beauchamp, a Texas born research librarian fresh from a break-up with her two-timing boyfriend, help best friend and newly elected Chief of Police Em Landry, solve a double homicide in the old Mystery Bay Cemetery? Chief Landry needs Delphie’s help in solving the murders, along with determining why specific graves from the early eighteen-hundreds have been vandalized. Her canine best friend in tow, a twenty-two-pound dachshund named Huckleberry, Delphie heads for the tropical island of Mystery Bay, Florida where she begins a journey that includes a pinch of gold, a touch or romance, and a wallop of ghosts, in a race to solve the mystery, of the Mystery Bay Hotel.

EXCERPT
The smell of the ocean, crisp and briny like a jar of pickles, held just a hint of murder in the air. I picked up my luggage from the small carousel inside the terminal and opened the glass door of the Mystery Bay International Airport. The sultry, mid-October sunshine hit me all at once, along with the sweet fragrance of the red, frangipani trees that bordered the edges of the sidewalk. Amazing how paradise was just a plane ride away.
“God, what a beautiful day.” I dropped my suitcase on the pink-hued coral sidewalk and pulled out my sunglasses. Before I could slip them on, Huckleberry, my twenty-two pound, red Dachshund whined for me to take off his winter sweater. Poor little guy. The outfit worked great for the chilly October weather in central Texas but not the south Florida humidity.
“Sorry, Huck.” I unhooked his leash and pulled off the sweater. Stretching out his long body, Huckleberry trotted over to the nearest hibiscus bush and hunched over. Seconds later he sighed in relief.
I coughed and fanned the air. Guess he wasn’t that hot in his sweater after all.

Five Pieces of Useful Advice for New Writers

Each time I begin a new book, an essay, a blog, I feel like a novice writer still learning the craft. At first I’m full of self-confidence, new ideas, creativity; certain this will be the project that makes a difference in the world. Then I sit down in front of the computer and stare at the screen, wondering what in the world made me think I could ever be a writer.

After several minutes of self-examination, I shrug it off and force myself to write a few sentences. Nothing fancy, nothing earth-shattering- just something to get my fingers moving on the keyboard. And then the magic happens. I get into the groove and begin to write. As I write, I grow interested in what I’m writing, and sentence after sentence shows up on the page.

I said this to introduce you to my first piece of writing advice, which is, above all, be interested in what you write. Maybe it sounds simplistic, but it rings true with every project you begin. And to be interested in what you write, means selecting the correct genre or project. Let’s face it-you’ll be spending many long hours with your manuscript so you better make sure you enjoy each other’s company. My first book, “Murder at the Mystery Bay Hotel”, took me three years. I rewrote the manuscript five times before it was published. The saving grace was that I enjoy humor, which is evident in the book, and of course, South Florida where the book is set. The fact that I’m in love with the mystery genre didn’t hurt either. Those three key elements allowed me to read the manuscript over and over until my eyes burned, to edit each word, each line for all those elements that turn an idea into a book.

The second thing, and I don’t say this lightly, is to learn the craft of writing. Go to workshops and conferences, take classes, chat up other writers to see how they go about this business of writing. Not only will you learn how to write, but you’ll form a network of people for support and encouragement. As weeks turn into months, this encouragement will be crucial to keep you focused on your project.

The third piece of advice, one that I wish I’d known about before I began writing, is to learn the guidelines of your genre if you’re writing fiction.

Genres have specific guidelines that you might want to become familiar with before you begin your project. “Murder at the Mystery Bay Hotel” is marketed as a cozy mystery, but it contains elements of romance, paranormal, and suspense, so it crosses genres. It’s considered to be an “out of the box” type of cozy mystery. My reader’s either love it completely, or don’t like it because it doesn’t follow the traditional lines of what they’re used to reading. One of the main complaints I received concerned a ghostly Sea Captain who is pivotal to the story line. As a general rule, ghosts don’t normally appear in cozy mysteries. Fortunately I’ve had many more positive reviews then negative, and if I had to do it again, I’d still write it the same way. However, for future books I plan to stay a little closer to standard guidelines.

Something I learned along this journey, just recently in fact, was to prepare for the unexpected while writing. I began this post in anticipation, researching a few facts, stretching my fingers as I settled down with the keyboard, prepared to share my thoughts. Around the second day of this journey I noticed a slight headache coming on. I shrugged it off, and continued to pound the keyboard. By that evening, however, the slight headache had morphed into a hand clutching my forehead accompanied by a sore throat and sniffles. Long story short, after the doctor’s visit, I was now the proud owner of a healthy case of the flu and the writing had to take a back seat while I recovered.
The moral of the story is this. The best intentions can be sidelined by the unexpected. If it occurs, take the time you need to deal with whatever is happening, and then begin afresh with your writing. Writing reflects your state of health, mind, personal life, and other factors, so, try to be at your best when you sit down to write. And please, no regrets, no beating yourself up because your writing has taken a temporary back seat. We’re all human-problems come and go. You will write again. Just be sure to stock up on the tissue of your choice in case you get the flu.

My final piece of writing advice is something I’m still working on myself, which is, learn from your mistakes, stay balanced, and move on when the book is finished.

After my first book, “Murder at the Mystery Bay Hotel” was published, I rejoiced in all the good reviews, and sort of squirmed at the couple of not so good reviews. I pondered what I could have done differently, and should I have done anything differently. What I came to realize, is that no matter what mistakes I’d made, the book was completed and I’d accomplished a lifelong dream. I was now a published author and no one could take that from me. It was time to celebrate, to give the book a chance to find a life on its own, and began the second in the series. In other words, plan carefully, keep the highs and lows you’ll experience throughout this journey on an even keel, and turn your focus, your passion, onto your next project. Life will continue as it always does, and you want to make sure you’re moving with it and not standing at the sidelines.

Happy writing and until next time!

About Marcia Spillars

Marcia Spillers has been a Librarian/Archivist for more than twenty years. Currently a school librarian, she lives in Austin, Texas with her two chows, Bella and Susie Bear. Marcia spent seventeen years in south Florida perfecting her writing skills, along with completing the Writer’s Program at UCLA.
Blog: http://www.marciaspillers.com/blog/
Website: www.Marcia Spillers.com
@mysterywriter2
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marcia.spillers.7

BUY LINKS
AMAZON US
AMAZON UK

A huge thank you to Marcia for the fab guest post (how cute are her Chows?) and Brook Cottage Blog Tours for the invite to take part in this tour.

Author Influences With Alice May

Alice May joins me today to talk books in Author Influences. Alice’s debut novel Accidental Damage is out now and I will tell you more about it later. Right now I’m going to hand over to Alice…

 

Which Authors/books did you like as a child?
As a child I would read anything I could get my hands on. I wasn’t particularly fussy. I read so fast that my parents had trouble keeping up with my need to read, even with a local library membership. I was always to be found curled up in a corner reading and re-reading books, often with several different ones on the go at once.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I wasn’t outstandingly good at English at school but I really enjoyed the literature classes. I eventually followed a science and maths route but never stopped reading.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I enjoy a wide variety of genres from science fiction to murder mysteries to romance. I wouldn’t say any one has influenced the genre I write but I have learned a great deal about the different styles of story-telling from every book I have ever read.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I think reading work from authors like Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde and Jenny Colgan has definitely encouraged me to write. I love Trisha Ashley’s quirky but very believable characters and I really enjoy how approachable the heroines are in both Katie Fforde and Jenny Colgan’s books.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
All of the authors mentioned above of course and also H. T. King who writes the Victoria Institute Series ‘Undercover Thief’ and ‘Thief Underground’. These are teen fiction but the main character is so sassy and go-get-em that I absolutely adore her. Can’t wait for the next in the series!

Which books have you read that have made you think ‘Wow, I wish I had written that?’
I frequently come across books that make me think ‘Wow, I wish I had written that!’ I feel so lucky that there are so many talented authors out there who can transport you into another world for a little while.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people?
Yes, my first novel ‘Accidental Damage – Tales from the house that sat down!’ was inspired by true life events. It is the tale of a family of six (mum, dad and four kids) who suddenly find themselves homeless after their old cottage falls down completely out of the blue one day. With nowhere to go they are forced to move into a tent in the garden.
Told retrospectively from the mother’s point of view, ‘Accidental Damage’ is packed with both humorous anecdotes and brutally honest emotional reactions to what it is like to live in your garden whilst working out how you are going to rebuild your home. It is a tale of family love and loyalty, proving that if you pull together as a team and look after each other you can survive anything.
The characters of the family in ‘Accidental Damage’ are based (loosely) on my own family. I wanted to convey to the reader the complex interactions of a large family under such uniquely stressful circumstances. (Don’t worry my husband and kids have all read the book and approve.)
No other characters in the book are actually based on real people.

Alice’s debut novel Accidental Damage is out now and here is the blurb:

If you think the normal school run on a Monday is entertaining you should try doing it from a tent in your back garden surrounded by the jumbled up contents of your entire home. It is vastly more diverting.

Our heroine has survived the sudden collapse of her home – or has she?

Certain events two and a half years ago led her to deliberately destroy an important piece of herself, hiding away all remaining evidence that it ever existed. What happens when she decides to go looking for it?

Does she really deserve to be whole again?

Inspired by a true story, this is an account of one woman’s secret guilt and her journey in search of forgiveness!

Published on 3 August 2016 you can purchase a copy HERE.

About Alice May

Alice May is a multi-tasking mother with four not-so-small children and she is fortunate enough to be married to (probably) the most patient man on the planet. They live in, what used to be, a ramshackle old cottage in the country. Her conservatory is always festooned with wet washing and her kitchen full of cake.

Following many years exhibiting as a mixed media artist, Alice decided that 2016 was the year she would write her first fictional novel. ‘Accidental Damage – Tales from the house that sat down’ simply wouldn’t leave her alone until it was written.

Connect With Alice

Website: www.alicemay.weebly.com

Twitter: @AliceMay_Author

Facebook: @AliceMayAuthor

Review – The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite

The Blurb

Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.

Nothing can shake her happiness – until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.

Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk? 

As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…

A completely gripping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister and Before I Let You In will be captivated.

My Thoughts

Melanie and Jacob Oak along with their teenage daughter, Beth, appear to be the perfect family. Happily married and living in a small Lincolnshire village, the life they knew comes crashing down when Beth goes missing. The discovery that Melanie didn’t know her daughter as well as she thought she did makes The Darkest Lies an absorbing read.

Copperthwaite tells the story through Melanie, Beth and a third voice. Copperthwaite pulls off the multi-points of view brilliantly, Melanie’s anguish comes through and as she addresses her daughter via second person narrative throughout, you really get the sense of her loss, the despair she feels and her guilt for not protecting her daughter. I did go through a mix of emotions about Melanie, swinging from feeling deep empathy for her to wanting to shake her, but under similar circumstances we never know how we would react. Copperthwaite clearly distinguishes between Melanie and Beth’s voices, capturing teenage thoughts and expressions really well. And then there is the malevolent voice, speaker unknown, that sends a shiver down your spine!

I adored the sense of space in The Darkest Lies. The marshlands and flatness of Lincolnshire add atmosphere amongst the pages with Copperthwaite using them to maximum impact. The prologue blew me away with prose that is both dark and beautiful. It sets the tone of the book perfectly and I found myself reading it several times to savour the words on the page.

The Darkest Lies is an absorbing and compelling thriller that careens through the web of lies held by almost everyone in the village, as Melanie seeks to discover the truth about what happened to her daughter. This is also a novel about the unravelling of a mother in a desperate situation and is, at times, heartbreaking. There is a rawness to the emotions contained within and the reader is involved every step of the way. Copperthwaite’s descriptions of grief are eloquently and beautifully written.

Engrossing, moving, wonderfully written and with twists you don’t see coming, The Darkest Lies is a wonderful read.

Published on 12 May 2017 by Bookouture.

Thanks to Barbara Copperthwite, Bookouture and Netgalley for my copy in exchange of my review.


#AroundTheUKIn144Books Challenge Book 5:  County – Lincolnshire