Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

513n3hd4btlMonday’s Child by Linda Finlay (ref blog review – 23/11/16)
My first pick is a historical saga. The first of the ‘Ragged School’ series, ‘Monday’s Child is set in Torquay on the Torbay coast an area I often visit. Now, thanks to Linda Finlay’s descriptions and lively characters I can image what life would have been like for those children at the Red Cliffs Ragged School and their sassy teacher Sarah. Number two of the series is out in May 2017.

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Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney – (ref blog review – 25/6/16)
From a story about children to one of old age. I was sent this book to review by publisher Legend Press and was so glad they had as otherwise I might not have come across it. Short-listed for Amazon’s Rising Star Award of 2016, this lyrical, poignant and funny story about guest house landlady Maeve coming to terms with getting older and opportunities lost takes you back the 1950’s through Maeve’s memories of when she was young. With beautiful descriptions of an era that failed to understand disability or being different, this lovely book makes you realise life in the twenty first century isn’t as bad as we sometimes think.

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Off the Rails by Karen Taylor – (ref blog review – 3/2/16)
I really enjoyed this edgy young adult thriller from my publisher Endeavour Press. With beautifully drawn characters surviving in a London where affluent ‘suits’ collide with and exploit disaffected homeless young people in the subterranean world of London’s disused underground passages.

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Before the Poison – Peter Robinson (ref blog review – 21/4/16)
I’m grateful to Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group for suggesting we devote one of our meetings last year to the crime novels of Peter Robinson. Before that I’d only watched DCI Banks on the television. I particularly liked this stand alone mystery novel about a retired musician who becomes obsessed with proving the previous owner of his house was innocent of the crime she was hanged for. The rambling old home on the North Yorkshire Moors becomes a character in its own right.

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The Outcast Dead by Ellie Griffiths – (ref blog review – 28/1/16)
This was the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group’s first book of the year and a welcome return to Dr Ruth Galloway’s adventures. We love her every day struggle with single parenting, controlling her weight, trying not to be jealous of her glamorous friends and her passion for Radio 4’s Archers. Number eight in the series is out on Kindle on the 23rd of February and if you can’t wait there is a lovely free short story ‘Ruth’s First Christmas Tree’ to get you in the mood.

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Monday’s Child is the first of Linda Finlay’s new Ragged School series. This time the story takes place in a turn of the century Torquay already attracting its share of wealthy tourists.

 

All the ingredients of Linda Finlay’s deft storytelling are there: an atmospheric sense of history, a setting that jumps off the page and fully formed characters that develop during the story to keep you turning the page to find out how they fare through all that life throws their way. The Red Cliffs Ragged School comes to life on the page as new owner Sarah and school master Harry strive to keep it open and the children in their care safe.

With plenty of references to social change, especially with regard to womens’ role in society, the girls in the Ragged School are treated as well as the boys and given prospects, whilst adult characters support the sufferage movement. I loved the gentle sense of humour pervading the narrative either through the minor characters like Mrs Snooper and Miss Middle or the amusing dialogue between the Ragged School children or Sarah and Harry.

Monday’s Child is great read for the winter days leading up to Christmas. And I am delighted this novel is the first in a series because I can’t wait to find out what will happen to Sarah, Harry and the lovely Mrs Dawes and the children of Red Cliffs Ragged School next.

Today is my stop on the ‘Beneath the Ashes’ blog tour and I’m delighted to be able to share not only my review of the book but also a some insights into Jane Isaac’s writing in an author Q & A.

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

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

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

Review
‘Beneath the Ashes’ opens with a prologue which sets the tone for the story to come. A woman is frantically running towards a graveyard. We have no idea who she is or what she will do next but it draws you in.

We go back a week and follow the story through the voices of DI Will Jackman, a likeable well balanced police officer with a family life restricted somewhat by his disabled wife, and Nancy a young shop assistant who wakes up on her boyfriend’s kitchen floor covered in blood but with no idea of how she got there. There is a good working relationship between DI Jackman and his Sergeant Annie Davies and together they go down a series of blind alleys to try and find out the mystery behind Nancy’s attack and the murder of her boyfriend. I particularly liked Nancy. She is feisty and independent and doesn’t always do the right thing. As the three characters delve more deeply, things are not what they seem. Surprising new themes emerge as Nancy struggles to stay safe and make sense of what is happening to her.

The pace quickens towards an unmissable dramatic crescendo when the truth about what has really happened to Nancy’s boyfriend starts to emerge and you are compelled to read to the end to find out why.

This is the second book in the DI Will Jackman series but ‘Beneath the Ashes’ sets the scene and introduces the main characters with clarity and enough background information to create  a satisfying and enjoyable read whether you are meeting DI Will Jackman for the first time or as an old friend.

Many thanks to Lucy at Legend Press who sent me a copy to review

Q & A with Jane
Who was your favourite character to write in ‘Beneath the Ashes’?

I really like Jackman’s sidekick, DS Annie Davies. She’s sharp, intelligent and witty, and has the ability to find the humour in almost any situation, but balances this with bucketloads of compassion. Some of her thoughts and comments made me laugh out loud as the story progressed.

‘Beneath the Ashes’ is a whistle stop read, how long did it take you to write it?
Thank you. The story had been in my head for a quite a while, so it didn’t take too long to write a detailed plan of how I expected the narrative to unfold. Once that was done, I concentrated on the first 10,000 words which really set the foundations in place. The rest of it flowed well, only broken by bouts of research, as I went along. It was about a year from recording the initial idea to actually typing ‘The End’.

Who did you prefer writing, DCI Helen Lavery from your first novel or DI Jackman, and why?

Ooh, that’s a toughie. I enjoy working with them both, for different reasons!

How important is the setting of Stratford upon Avon to ‘Beneath the Ashes and what made you base your novel there?

When I decided to embark on the Will Jackman series, I wanted to set it somewhere that people might know even if they haven’t visited themselves. Stratford upon Avon is known the world over, and also a very beautiful place to visit for research purposes (my family and I have spent many a happy weekend there during the past two years), so it ticked all the boxes!

Whose novels do you read and do you read while you’re working on a novel?
As I’m constantly planning, writing or researching, I do read throughout the process. I tend to read a lot of different novels, mostly crime and psychological thrillers, but I also like travel memoirs too.

Most recently, I’ve been discovering a lot of new writers. There’s something special about debuts that draws me to them. The last book I read was Rubicon by Ian Patrick, a finely crafted debut which is now out for submission and I have everything crossed for him for a book deal. That book really deserves to be published!

How much do you plan your narrative in advance?

I write a detailed outline, usually 4-5 pages, before I start. Things do change as the story unfolds, but I change my outline too so that when I finish my first draft and do my initial read through, I can check back and ensure that everything weaves together.

Where and when do you write?

As I still have a day job, a family and a very demanding Labrador, I tend to fit my writing into the gaps in my day. I can often be seen writing notes on my phone while standing in the supermarket queue, or typing on my laptop at the side of the pool while my daughter is swimming. I have notebooks all over the house, so if an idea comes to me I can record it before I forget!
I suppose my favourite time to write is sitting up in bed with my laptop, late at night when the house is quiet.

How do you get under the skin of your characters?
For me, it’s essential to get to know a character, especially a lead, so that they come to life on the page. Writing through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery in my first two novels was like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that and build her character on that basis.

Creating the male lead of DI Will Jackman for my new series was much more challenging and took me back to basics. I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brothers, my husband and my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got him somewhere near.

What was your first job and has it influenced your writing?

Ironically, my first job (apart from delivering newspapers in my early teens) was as a receptionist for a small marketing newspaper. At the time, I had no inclination to become a writer and was in awe of the journalists there. I was in my forties before I discovered my own love of the pen!

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m just starting the edits for The Lies Within, the third book in the DI Will Jackman series, which is scheduled to be released on 2nd May 2017.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a crime author?
Read voraciously in and around the genre you intend to work with and try to write something every day, no matter how short. When your script is complete, send it to people you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback, then rework until it is the best you can do before you submit.

It can be difficult to find a home for a novel and publishers reject submissions for many reasons which are not necessarily anything to do with your writing: It may not fit with a publisher’s list, they may have something similar, they may not be looking for submissions in your genre at this time. So, if you receive a rejection, don’t give up; take heed of any advice, rework your script if necessary, and submit elsewhere.

Thank you so much for interviewing me Chris. I really enjoyed answering your questions!

Follow the blog tour

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'Alma' collecting money on the Esplanade, Sidmouth

‘Alma’ collecting money on the Esplanade, Sidmouth

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Fresh Air followed by Cakes!

Join me at 2.30 pm today, 15th of November for a short walk round the locations in Sidmouth that inspired ‘Revenge Ritual’ – followed at 3 pm by tea and cakes at the library and a talk about my novel.

Part of Devon Libraries Active Life, Active Minds programme. Tickets are available from Sidmouth Library, which is where we will start.
For the whole programme see http://www.devon.gov.uk/print/alam16-brochure.pdf

On Saturday, 19th of November I will be posting a review of Jane Isaac’s latest crime novel,as part of the ‘Beneath the Ashes’ Blog Tour and asking Jane some questions about her writing. Don’t miss it!

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

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

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

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

Follow Jane on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor
Follow Legend Press on Twitter @legend_press

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Overall I was a bit disappointed. I loved Sarah Hilary’s first two Marnie Rome novels. They are so powerful and moving with terrific pace and suspense. So I guess I was expecting more. ‘Taste of Fear’ is still an intriguing story beautifully told, but it didn’t have the pace and moments of sheer terror that the first two Marnie Rome novels had. Thinking of Noah shackled to that radiator still makes me shudder.

This narration takes alternating points of view. Those of Detectives Marnie Rome and Noah Jake with some of the missing street girls. I found this detracted from the story and would have preferred more of Marnie and Noah’s POV’s, they are such brilliantly strong characters and I found myself rushing through the other parts to get back to their viewpoint chapters.

In conclusion I agree with another review who stated that Sarah Hilary’s writing is the literary equivalent of ‘A Big Mac’ – you know what you are getting. And what you get is a great plot skilfully told with lots of blind alleys and twists. A lovely sense of place around the streets and luxury new builds around Battersea Power Station, which almost becomes a character in its own right. There is plenty of strong characterisation, not just the leads but the minor characters too, and having said I would have preferred less of the street girl’s viewpoint, I felt immersed in the world of teenage rough sleepers. The opening description of Christie feeling invisible to the people walking past her prompted me to give money to the next beggar that I encountered.

Here’s some information about the novels I enjoyed on my recent holiday in Spain:

‘Under my Skin’ by Sabine Durrantc1yr-square-orig.jpg

This debut psychological thriller has been likened to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on a Train’. It is certainly domestic noir and takes the reader straight inside the world of TV presenter Gaby Mortimer as she goes through the horrors of finding a dead woman’s body and then becoming the police’s first in line suspect. I didn’t warm to Gaby as a character but was fascinated to read more about her TV life-style. She was strong enough to carry the plot and I didn’t guess the ending until close to the end. Some of the other characters, especially the police ones like D I Perivale were less convincing. The book takes a while to get going but when it does with the introduction of journalist Jack it rips along. ‘Under my Skin’ was an excellent holiday novel. It was easy to read and interesting with its continuous twists and turns which gave the reader lots to think about under their parasol.

‘Murder at the Lighthouse’ by Frances Evesham – to curl up in comfort with a G & T.murder-at-the-lighthouse

This is the first of the Exham on Sea Cosy Crime Mysteries. It was a very enjoyable light hearted read in the Agatha Christie tradition, bursting with village life idiosyncrasies and implausibility and a litany of very amusing characters. Just right for basking in a temperature of 41 degrees. Libby Forest, the lead character and amateur detective is an endearing and insightful recent divorcee who has moved to Exham on Sea for a fresh start in life. As an incomer she has a refreshing take on the hypocrisy of her fellow residents and the stupidity of the local constabulary. Of course she immediately finds a body by the lighthouse and from then on in refuses to be side tracked until the identity of the victim and then the murderer are discovered. Frances Evesham has invented an array of lively village personalities to get in Libby’s way from her Goth teenage lodger to the pompous chair of the women’s group or the rude but kindly garage proprietor. Fortunately there are two further books in the Exham on Sea Mysteries (based on Burnham on Sea) waiting on my Kindle for my next sunshine break.

‘Cross and Burn’ by Val McDermid9780751551273
Having caught up with all the books in the delicious Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series I am reading them through again enjoying my extra closeness to the main characters and Val McDermid’s masterly plotting. I have reviewed this before but it is worth a second look.

‘Cross and Burn’ is the eighth book in the series of nine. It can be read as a standalone as the plot arc starts with the two lead characters in dark places because of what happened in book seven, something that is deftly revealed without holding up the pace as the book progresses, and ends with a resolution of sorts and a new direction for the future. While Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are sorting out their downfalls a parallel plot with a serial murder unfolds with flashes of scary insights into the mind of the murderer as Paula aided by the few who remain from Carol’s old team try to save the lives of his victims. Like all Val McDermids books the victims are portrayed as real people whose lives you care about, making the whole thing much more suspenseful.

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Ladram Bay, Sidmouth - site of Ladram Heights New Town in Revenge Ritual

Ladram Heights New Town in Revenge Ritual  – another beach where bad things happen

Linda Huber’s is an accomplished author of psychological thrillers whose faultless narrative voice takes you right inside the heads of her characters as she creates stories that keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense. She’s also a lovely person who helped me out when I was researching for a workshop on getting published that I was gave at The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School earlier this month.

‘The Cold, Cold Sea’ is Linda’s second novel. It is set in Cornwall and in a month where the West Country has experienced a number of tragic deaths by drowning on beaches the title drew me in and made me shiver. The story opens with a child going missing from a holiday beach and takes you through a turmoil of emotions as you share the anguish and guilt of the little girl’s parents. The mother, Maggie’s experience is skilfully woven through a parallel story about another family who have lost a child. The multiple viewpoints are written with great skill and finesse as the pace quickens, building up the nail biting tension as you start to realise what has happened to the two families. A novel you have to read in one sitting. Brilliant.

I can’t wait to read her next psychological thriller ‘The Attic Room’.